Gateway Celebrates NewAlliance Foundation Art Gallery Grand Opening with Holocaust Memorial Exhibit

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gateway Community College celebrated April 10 the naming of the NewAlliance Foundation Art Gallery with a new exhibit, “Memory and Legacy,” and program of speakers. The grand opening is the first of many naming ceremonies slated for Gateway’s campus.

The night’s speakers were: Thomas Griggs Jr. (Chair, Gateway Community College Foundation Board); Dorsey L. Kendrick, Ph.D. (President,  Gateway); Robert J. Lyons Jr. (Chair, NewAlliance Foundation Board); Kim Healey (Executive Director, NewAlliance Foundation); Fay Sheppard (Co-Director, Greater New Haven Holocaust Memorial); and Nicholas Halko (Program Coordinator, Gateway Art/Graphic Design Department).

NewAlliance Foundation provides financial support to charitable organizations, addressing diverse community needs in the arts, community development, health and human services, and youth and education. According to Mary Ellen Cody, ‪dean of Development and Community Partnerships, “The College is grateful to the NewAlliance Foundation for its generous support. Its investment not only helps to enrich the lives of Gateway’s students, faculty and staff, but also provides important programmatic enhancements and learning opportunities.”

The exhibit “Memory and Legacy” will be on display until April 25. It is a poignant Holocaust remembrance exhibit that tells the story of the New Haven community (Holocaust survivors, educators, artists, political leaders, architects and landscapers) behind the creation of the New Haven Holocaust Memorial. The exhibit, designed by architect Eric Epstein, features oral histories, drawings and archival photographs. The monument itself was erected more than 30 years ago.

Through the NewAlliance Foundation Art Gallery, GCC will continue to showcase New Haven and its history. Recently, Winchester Factory was highlighted and, coming soon, the artwork of prize-winning high school students.

For Halko, the beautiful new gallery is something he’s been dreaming of for 22 years—and it’s a far cry from the former Long Wharf facility, where “a few students displayed their art on a wall.”


Rockville Public Library Receives Grant To Help Children Be “READy For The Grade”

January 15, 2013
From the Hartford Courant

Rockville Public Library has received one of the first grants made through the “READy for the Grade” program, which is part of the NewAlliance Foundation’s public library summer reading initiative. Grants totaling $420,000 are going to four Connecticut libraries for innovative projects designed to combat “summer reading loss.”

“READy for the Grade” especially addresses findings that many students from low-income families lose ground in their reading skills during summer vacation. Awards of $35,000 per year over three years will support library projects working in partnership with a local school to maintain skills gained during the school year for students in kindergarten through grade three.

The Rockville Public Library will create an intensive summer-long program working with children identified by their partner, Maple Street School. Activities will include visits from professionals acting as Reading Role Models, such as firefighters and veterinarians, who will emphasize the importance of reading in their lives. Members of the Friends of Rockville Public Library will volunteer in the program to give one on one time with the young readers. Specially trained reading dogs will help young readers gain confidence in reading aloud.

The library will also collaborate with the Vernon Community Network for activities and volunteers for the program. Parents will be encouraged to participate in the program. Workshops and family dinners will give them suggestions on ways to strengthen their child’s reading skills.

The Vernon Board of Education has been a partner with the library from the beginning. The grant was written by Sharon Redfern from the library in collaboration with Jerry Griffin from the Board of Education. Mayor George Apel has given his support to the program by allowing town employees to be Reading Role Models.

Ms. Redfern says, “A lot of summer reading programs are designed for quantity. Using reading mentors and more one-on-one time will work to ensure children are understanding what they read and maintaining their skills. The grant will allow us to hire a project manager, reading consultant, interns to work with staff from the children’s department to run the program over the summer of the library. This is going to be a community effort. We hope to include local businesses as well as the board of education, town of Vernon and community networks.”

Maryann Ott, associate director of the foundation, points to research showing that students with low reading skills begin to fall dramatically behind after third grade. “The people who work in this field have a saying that has guided our focus on literacy and education,” Ott says. “They keep reminding us, ‘First you learn to read, and then you read to learn.’ If a child isn’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade, then it becomes almost impossible to keep up after that.”

“A lot of our grant making is about targeting the opportunity for improvement,” Ott says. “That’s what makes the ‘READy for the Grade’ projects so exciting. Each of these libraries has a vision for expanding access in innovative ways.”

$105K grant to expand Killingly’s summer reading program

October 13, 2012
From the NorwichBulletin

A new grant will pave the way for an expanded Killingly summer reading program aimed at maintaining elementary students’ skills throughout the school break.

The Town Council on Tuesday accepted a three-year grant from the New Alliance Foundation’s Public Library Summer Reading Initiative. The money, $35,000 each year for the life of the grant, will enable library and school staff to provide lower-income families with elementary students in grades kindergarten through third grade increased reading opportunities, Library Director Peter Ciparelli said.

“A lot of kids aren’t provided with the tools they need for continued reading growth,” he said. “And the skills they have get worse in the summer. Summer ends and they lose a big percentage of what they’ve learned. This is our opportunity to help them keep those reading skills.”

Ciparelli said the money will be funneled into several areas, including programming, staff and supplies. He said staff members will make field visits to targeted areas, such as the town’s Village at Killingly housing complex, while also buttressing the library’s existing summer reading program.

“It’s an ambitious program,” he said.

Allison Whiston, the library’s children and young adult director, said preliminary plans call for sending reading specialists to Killingly Memorial and Killingly Central schools each week during the summer as part of those schools before-and-after programs. She said the “helpers” will be able to identify those children having reading difficulties.

“And it’ll be fun,” Whiston said. “We’ll have weekly themes, educational performers and other activities at the library.”

Money will also be used to bus Killingly Central School students to the library during the school year, a trip Killingly Memorial students can make by just crossing the street. She said the grant funding will help pay for new computers that can track a child’s reading, while also giving them the ability to post online reviews and recommendations for books they like.

Danielson parent Sondra West, the mother of three Killingly students, said she’s been taking her children to the summer reading program for years.

“They really like it and it gets them away from the TV and computer and gets their minds working,” she said. “It would be much harder to get them reading without the program. They have prizes and guessing games that get them in a place where they’re encouraged to read.”

Carol Records, the librarian for Killingly Central and Memorial schools, said her staff, along with the schools’ reading teachers, will work closely with Whiston in the coming months to fine-tune the summer program. She said the program is crucial to keeping comprehension, decoding and fluency skills honed.

“It’s about getting the books into the children’s hands and making them available,” she said. “If you do that, they’re not coming back to school at a deficit. The teachers can move forward instead of going backwards.”

A Surprise Gift Breaks The Language Barrier

May 31, 2012
From the New Haven Independent

“Calabaza” became “zucchini” for Alejandro Algredo thanks to a nighttime class he took on Grand Avenue. As Connecticut cuts back on such classes statewide, other adult immigrants like Algredo will be able to keep learning English on Grand thanks to a timely “Hi-5”.

The “Hi-5” came from the NewAlliance Foundation, which Wednesday presented $25,000 to the Grand Avenue Agency where Algredo takes English as a Second Language classes, Junta For Progressive Action.

Kim Healey, the foundation’s executive director, presented the $25,000 award to students and tutors at the headquarters of the Latino advocacy group. Sandra Treviño, JUNTA’s own executive director, explained the award comes at the right time—as the state government cuts funding for adult education, it threatens JUNTA’s programs and those of similar organizations. 

Healey explained that the Hi-5 Grant does not take applications, but is rather awarded to a not-for-profit organization that has proved it can make a difference.

“It’s like the MacArthur genius award,” she said. “When we became an independent private foundation [after First Niagara bought out NewAlliance Bank], we decided that literacy was going to be one of our areas of focus. JUNTA does amazing work in that field, and so we decided to surprise them with the good news and award them our first-ever Hi-5 grant.”

Healey found JUNTA in a festive mood, as the students in its English language program celebrated the end of the term with a game of bingo designed to help them practice grocery-store vocabulary

“Celery!” shouted one of the tutors. “Cabbage! Zucchini!”

“Bingo!” replied one of the students.

One of the bingo players was 34 year-old Algredo, who hails from the state of Tlaxcala in central Mexico. (Read about New Haven’s relationship with Tlaxcala here and here.) Algredo said the English classes at JUNTA have greatly improved his quality of life.

“When I first arrived,” he said in Spanish, “I spoke zero English. Here, I’ve learnt basic things like how to take the bus or ask for things in the store.”

“Now it’s much easier to talk to Americans,” he said. “They take you seriously when you speak the language.”

Treviño (pictured with Healey) echoed Algredo’s statements, saying that language barriers make it difficult for immigrants to defend themselves against violations of their rights. She added that the success of all of JUNTA’s other programs—from legal services to family management—depend on the literacy and English language skills of its participants.

“Our English as a second language and literacy programs are not jus the cornerstone of what we do here,” she said. “They are the doors, the windows, the walls, and the ceiling. Literacy is one of the most important empowerment tools that we have. Once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.”

She cited JUNTA’s recent report on remittance practices as an example of a situation where the lack of English proficiency opens the door for abuses.

“If it costs $25 to send money to Mexico,” she said,“and you tell me that it costs 50, and I can’t read the brochure where it says that it costs 25, then there’s nothing I can do.”

In that same vein, JUNTA tutor Karla Yañez-Cervantes (at left in photo) said that learning English has implications beyond academic skills.

“For me, the most important part is the human aspect,” the 28 year-old from Guanajuato, Mexico, said in Spanish. “My students become more confident in themselves. They begin to feel like they count.”

$$ Challenges

JUNTA does not charge any fees for its services. So it depends on volunteer work and external sources of money to stay open. For the most part, this money comes from the city and state governments. Recently, however, the state has sharply cut money available for adult education.

“Our partners at New Haven Adult Education had to close their evening classes,” said Treviño. “A lot of our students work during the day, so having classes at night is essential.”

Treviño said the New Alliance award will allow JUNTA to stay open through the summer and keep providing instruction. She also said JUNTA will lobby for bigger adult education budgets.

“We are very grateful for the grant,” she said. “What the state government doesn’t realize is that English skills and literacy are absolutely central to community development.”

Maryann Ott, New Alliance’s Associate Director, agreed.

“JUNTA has program for people who can’t even read and write in their own language,” she said. “They teach them how to read and write in Spanish and then move to English as a second language instruction. I can’t even imagine what it must be like, having to learn to read and write from scratch at age 30.”

“That’s why we gave them the grant,” she continued. “We were moved.”

NewAlliance Foundation Announces Transition to an Independent Organization

June 27, 2011

The New Haven-based NewAlliance Foundation announced today that it has made the official changeover to a stand alone independent foundation. The completed acquisition of NewAlliance Bank by First Niagara this past April newly positions the longstanding Foundation as a separate foundation that will continue to serve the community.

“The NewAlliance Foundation has deep roots in Connecticut, stemming from its initial inception under the banner of New Haven Savings Bank. Our changeover to a freestanding organization underscores the Foundation’s pledge to serve and help fund local-area not-for-profit organizations,” said Kim A. Healey, Executive Director of the Foundation.

“Our commitment to effectively assist and meet the needs of local organizations through grants remains strong. We look forward to carrying on this legacy and to continuing to work with local partners to improve the quality of life for community residents,” added Healey.

Since April 1, 2004, when NewAlliance Foundation was first established, through December 2010, the organization distributed over $15 million in support of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts non-profit communities. Programs in the areas of health and human services, the arts, education and community development have received funding from the Foundation.