March 18, 2005
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
A popular evening program
for teenagers offered at the Trinity College Boys & Girls
Club has been suspended because of a lack of funding.
Families learned of the change
last month when a flier appeared on the front door of the center
saying that it would close at 6 p.m. rather than 10 p.m., and
that teenagers would be transported to another Boys & Girls
Club for similar programming.
The change took some parents by surprise and disappointed some
of the students, said Mayra Esquilin, who hoped her children,
aged 6 and 11, would continue to attend the club on Broad Street
as they got older.
"The kids I've talked to, the older ones, they had a site,
it was their place, and now they can't understand why it's gone," she
said. "It's like standing in front of candy and not being
able to purchase it. Why have a Trinity College Boys & Girls
Club that kids can't go to?"
Although the club building
is owned and maintained by Trinity College, the programming
is, and has always been, overseen and financially supported
by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford,
said clubs President and CEO Ken Darden. Cuts at the Trinity
site are temporary, he said, and are a result of unexpected expenses
created by the agency's new Asylum Hill neighborhood site, which
opened in the fall of 2004.
"The new center and its operation have put a strain on
the Boys & Girls Club," said Darden, who has also decreased
the agency's administrative salaries by 10 percent.
"There is more staff
needed because of the number of kids going there ... about
300 a day, and there's gas and electricity to pay for."
As a solution, teenagers who
attended the Trinity site on Broad Street were offered transportation
to a similar program at Southwest Boys & Girls Club on
Chandler Street, Darden said. He has also agreed, at the request
of the teenagers, to keep the Trinity Club open until 10 p.m.
on Fridays, but without official programs, he said.
Darden is also working with Trinity on fund-raising solutions
and has appealed to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
for support. About $60,000 a year is needed to reinstate teenage
programs at the Trinity site, he said. Parents pay about $3 a
year for their child to participate in club programs, which include
tutoring, computer time, sports and personal growth opportunities.
"I met with the kids being transferred and told them it
would be short term, not long term," Darden said.
Esquilin said only 15 of the 45 teenagers who took part in programs
at the Trinity site have agreed to the transfer.
"What happened to the other 30 kids? What are they doing?" Esquilin
said. "I'm sure they're not just sitting home doing their
homework, and every morning I'm waking up and reading in the
paper that there is another kid in that age bracket that has
been shot or killed."
When she attended community
forums on the Learning Corridor project back in 1990s, Esquilin
said it was her understanding that the Trinity College Boys & Girls
Club and the Aetna Family Learning Center, both located in
or near the corridor, would be perks for neighborhood residents.
So even if her kids were not selected in the lotteries to attend
the Learning Corridor magnet schools, they would still have unrestricted
access to programming at the club, she said.
"They tooted their horn and brought Colin Powell out to
get involved. ... They said it was a state-of-the-art center,
the only one of its kind in the country," Esquilin said.
"For the last couple of years, that program at the Boys & Girls
Club has been operating at full time for the older kids and now
they have consolidated it with the Southwest site."
Hartford resident Brenda Morales
has three children who participate in Trinity and Southwest
Boys & Girls Club activities. Although
she said her 16-year-old, Jonathan Figueroa, isn't too bothered
by switching from one club to another, Morales is upset because
this is not part of the original plan.
"The club was built for these kids to go to, and now, because
of funding, they have to close the club and send staff and children
to the other club," she said. "Where is all the support
they had in the beginning? Where is Trinity College in all of
this? I think they are getting credit for that club being part
of them, but they are not really doing anything."
Jackie Mandyck, director of community relations at Trinity College,
said the college has not reduced its funding to the club since
it opened in 1999. Trinity raised $1.2 million to tear down the
existing building on the site and then raised the funds needed
for the new club building, she said. The college continues to
provide money toward operation expenses, maintains the building
and shares information with the club about grant opportunities,
"Our commitment has not wavered. Our partnership has not
changed. It is very strong," she said. "Ken has made
a commitment to us to find some money to continue the programming.
... It's really back to the Boys & Girls Club at this point."
Esquilin and Morales said
they want a community meeting between local parents and representatives
from the Boys & Girls Club
and Trinity College for some clarification as to who is responsible
for the club and its programs.
"When there is a problem, all the institutions and people
involved figure it out together," Esquilin said.
"If my name is on the door, I'm abreast of what's going
on. You can't just give the building and that's it," she
said of Trinity.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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