From murals and shiny new bulletin boards to power-washed exteriors and flowerbeds, schools around Connecticut will be more welcoming for students and staff this fall, thanks to grants from CEA.
Each spring, the CEA Aspiring Educators (CEA AE) Program typically organizes beautification projects at underresourced Connecticut schools. College students who are pre-service educators take on painting, cleaning, and gardening, among other projects, to give schools a brighter, more welcoming feel for students and staff. (In the 2017 photo above right, CEA AE members work to paint murals, posters, and kindness rocks at Langford Elementary School in East Hartford.) Due to COVID restrictions this spring, the CEA AE decided to instead offer grants to CEA members seeking to improve the look of their schools.
The CEA AE initially offered $3,000 grants to two Connecticut schools in need of sprucing up. When applications came in from CEA members around the state, however, aspiring educators saw that the need was much greater. CEA’s Board of Directors stepped up and authorized additional funding so that two second-place winners could receive grants of $2,500 and 13 third-place winners would receive $1,000 grants.
One of the first-place winners, Anchor School at Harbor Landing in Stamford, is an alternative school moving into a building of its own for the first time this fall. The school had previously rented space in an office building, and teachers were very limited in their ability to decorate classrooms and modify the space to make it feel welcoming to students.
“Now that we have our own space, we want to make it truly our own,” says grant recipient Ryan Perkins, an English teacher at the school. “When I saw the application for the grant from the CEA AE, I saw a unique opportunity to make our environment student-centered.”
Anchor School at Harbor Landing serves middle and high school students who have previously struggled in a traditional school setting. The school offers smaller class sizes and a greater focus on social and emotional needs and community than most traditional secondary schools.
Perkins and the other teachers have not yet had a chance to visit their new space. They plan to get a feel for the building and decide after the first few weeks of school how best to use the grant money to enhance students’ pride in their space. Ideas include new bulletin boards and painting projects, including working with students on creating murals of their own design.
“Our school is very diverse, and I’d love to use some of the money to allow students to culturally develop the school and make sure they feel represented in the space,” Perkins says. “Enhancing their feelings of connectedness to the school will only help them want to come to school and be there every day.”
Also receiving a first-place award was Kelly Shea at Enfield’s Prudence Crandall Elementary School. Second-place grant awards went to Maureen Curran at West Hartford’s Louise Duffy Elementary School and Kevin Arita at Stamford’s Davenport Ridge Elementary School. Third-place awards went to schools in the CREC district, Cromwell, Danbury, East Windsor, Enfield, and Stamford.
Photos and descriptions of completed grant projects will be posted to CEA’s blog.