All posts by Lauren Lustgarten

Fifth Annual Hoops for Homeless

by Lauren Lustgarten

About 50 teams consisting of over 200 players and volunteers from around the state gathered on Main Street in New Britain on Saturday with one common goal in mind: to end homelessness.

In the fifth annual Hoops for Homeless tournament, Main Street got shut down, handmade basketball courts were created with chalk, portable basketball hoops were set up and the young and the old came together to play for a cause.

“I wish we could do it in every town in Connecticut, but at least we started the idea here in New Britain,” said event co-chair, researcher at the Institute of Municipal Policy and Research and Central Connecticut State University assistant professor of teacher education, Jacob Werblow.

“This is the city where our university is, so we’re grateful for the CCSU athletics being involved and the men and women’s basketball players being the referees and being there all day. It is a wonderful event,” said Werblow.

While the specific number is not yet available for how much was made at this years’ event, about $50,000 has been raised since the event started five years ago, according to Werblow.

“We had some of our volunteers, who are students at CCSU, know family and friends who are at risk of losing their homes. I mean, even during the event, there was counseling and some sort of advising going on between some of the providers in the community,” said Werblow.

Werblow explained that citizens have to be honest in realizing that they create and live in these stigmas, in saying one town is worse than another or one town is better.

“This is sort of inherent in our communities from being a child and I think, unfortunately, many students spend four years at CCSU, graduate and never really have spent time downtown, so they just carry those biases with them,” said Werblow. “So, if nothing else, just bringing people with them to our side of the community and to our city can be a very transformative experience, even though it is a very simple thing.”

The local programs that are supported by this year’s Hoops for Homeless tournament are The Boys and Girls Club of New Britain, the Consolidated School District of New Britain, The Friendship Service Center of New Britain and Prudence Crandall Center.

“Not only is the goal of this event to raise money, but it is also humanize the issue of homelessness and to raise awareness,” said Werblow. “It influences more people than many of us think.”

Tensions Rise Due To Alcohol Issues Around CCSU

by Diondra Clements

In light of the incident that took place in early March at the Angry Bull Saloon in Downtown Hartford, underage drinking has a topic of conversation on many occasions.

Central Connecticut State University freshman Taylor Lavoie fell to her death from the roof of the Angry Bull early on March 3. The aftermath has caused bars in the area, students and the school itself to be on close watch of what is going on.

Following the tragic incident, many students have become weary and more careful of what they do. Several bars in the area have said they have always taken serious measures to ensure no one is coming in that is underage or using fake identification.

A popular bar with CCSU students is Elmer’s Place, right down the road from campus. Many students frequently go to Elmer’s because it is easy to get to from their dorms or off-campus houses. It also has a reputation of being “easy” to get into for underage students.

“We’ve always done aggressive carding. When we card, we also video record it to a machine that blows it up and saves it on a hard drive, so this way the guys at the door when they put it in the machine it blows it up on a screen even the customer can see it blown up that way we look for imperfections on if they tried to change the date or anything,” said “Butch,” a manager at Elmer’s Place who wished to remain anonymous.

“When we do have someone with a knowingly fake ID, we pretty much confiscate them and turn them into the police department,” the manager said.

Another bar popular with CCSU students is Los Imperios Restaurant and Lounge in West Hartford. The bar had its liquor license suspended back in September after a shooting incident. The liquor license was reinstated one month later.

“What we do is, we have a scanner to determine and it will tell you if it’s a fake ID or not,” said the manager of Los Imperios, who did not want to be identified.

Some students agree that the bars near the Angry Bull Saloon have taken higher security measures, while bars further away have not changed their practices.

“I would say all bars in Downtown Hartford are a lot more strict. Before the Angry Bull incident, with the right fake, you could definitely get into some of the bars,” said one 20-year-old CCSU student. “However, after the incident, I don’t believe any bars are willing to take the chance and are not allowing anyone knowingly underage in. Although, I think this is mostly due to the proximity because I haven’t had problems with bars elsewhere. Other bars have not changed their ‘quick look and go’ technique. I recently went to Los Imperios and had no problem getting in.”

When it comes to the question of if CCSU students are encouraged more to drink on campus and in their dorm rooms, some students believe nothing has really changed.

21-year-old CCSU student, Kristina Frederick believes that, regardless of the recent situation, CCSU is a dry campus and it will remain that way.

“Drinking isn’t allowed in the dorms anyway, so I think the Resident Assistants follow the rules if they have any suspicions with drinking in the dorms,” said Frederick.

However, Frederick does feel as though bars have tightened up on carding. “They’ve started using a scanning system, where they scan cards and even take pictures for their records,” she said.

Some CCSU students do not believe much has changed in light of the recent situation, and that bars that used to card aggressively still do.

“Nothing has changed at all honestly. There will always be drinking in the dorms and that hasn’t changed at all,” said 20-year-old CCSU student, Victoria Minervino. “Angry Bull was the only bar that didn’t card aggressively. Every other bar I know of still cards heavily, even if you are of age.”

Making A Difference At CCSU

by Lauren Lustgarten

The beginning of a mission to prove to children that a college degree is worth it and high school does not have to be the end was a success.

On April 17 at Central Connecticut State University, 400 students from the Consolidated School District of New Britain came to campus to get a taste of college. The event, “Love Wins: Finish the Race,” was organized by administrative assistant to the president Courtney McDavid in conjunction with Nelba Márquez-Greene and The Ana Grace Project.

Márquez-Greene, a former CCSU faculty member, founded The Ana Grace project in honor of her daughter, Ana, who was killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

“Everything went so well. We were a little concerned with how we were going to handle going from the 80 kids that we had on campus last year to 400 kids this year,” said McDavid. “We also had eighth graders this year, while last year we only had fifth graders, so I was curious to see how it would work out because they were older, but they ended up having just as much fun as the fifth graders.”

The event has been in the works since September when they had their first planning committee meeting.

“A planning committee was something new this year. It was very helpful because it brought a lot of new ideas to this years event,” said McDavid.

There are about 20 people on the planning committee, which consists of a wide variety of people, including community members, administrators, faculty and administration.

“Planning committee member, Tina Rivera from the Information Technology Department, had a great idea to give these cards to each of the students. So, each of the students got a lanyard with a card in it that had their picture and their name and an inspirational message on the back,” said McDavid. “That is just one example of the ideas that were shared and how we were all able to work together as a team. It was really a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without all of the volunteers.”

They were made aware of a student from Chamberlain who was in a wheelchair, so Physical Education and Human Performance Chair Kimberly Kostelis worked with some of the members and students from the department and had everything planned out for the student so he would not feel excluded.

“In every picture I saw of the student, he was all smiles, so I was happy that it all worked out and really all the kids had such an amazing time,” said McDavid. “I’ve been hearing so many stories from people who had little things that stuck out throughout the day to them and I really think that not only did the children enjoy the day, but CCSU students and members who volunteered also had an amazing time.”

In addition to the planning committee, the presence of a small fundraising committee also made a significant difference.

“We started fundraising in January and went into full-drive in late February, early March,” said McDavid. “We ended up raising over $50,000 and it was announced at the event that we raised enough to create an endowed scholarship. We now have the Ana Grace Marquez-Greene Endowed Scholarship, which will be for a New Britain student.”

McDavid says they are going to work to increase funds so they can continue to make the event successful in the future. McDavid noted that much of this would not be possible without the help and generous donations from the owner of Fleet Feet in West Hartford, Stephanie Blozy.

“Fleet Feet is amazing. They went out into the schools and measured the children’s feet. They provided all the students with their own new pair of athletic shoes. She was here the day of the event with tons of other sizes and she set up a whole station,” said McDavid. “She also provided shoes for all the teachers as well and I think they felt really excited about that. We’re extremely lucky to be working with Stephanie.”

As McDavid hopes to make this an annual event at CCSU, discussion of plans for next year have already begun. They hope to include more schools in the event. After the event ended, the superintendent of New Britain schools said that next year, she hopes CCSU will be able to host about 700 students.

The four schools that attended this year, Chamberlain, Northend, Smith and DiLoreto, all have the “Love Wins” curriculum and that is how they were selected.

There will be a wrap-up meeting for the planning committee this week to discuss how the day went and things to change and add to the event in the years to come. At the meeting, McDavid hopes to identify dates for next year. Come the fall semester, planning will start up again.

“It went really well and I think anyone that you talk to on campus would agree,” said McDavid. “People were so excited about it and you could tell the children really appreciated it.”

Facebook Murderer Found By Police Before He Committed Suicide

by Christie Stelly

Steve Stephens, the perpetrator of a disturbing murder committed in Cleveland, Ohio, killed himself after being pulled over by police last Tuesday afternoon.

On April 16, Stephens shot and killed 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. The murder can be seen in a graphic video uploaded and shared on Facebook.

In the video, Stephens’ states, “Found me somebody I’m going to kill, this guy right here, this old dude.” Stephens then exited his car and began talking to Godwin before shooting him in the head.

The video, shared by millions of Facebook users, sparked a nationwide manhunt. There were billboards and photographs posted all over the country with a photograph of Stephens.

There is evidence on Stephens’ Facebook that may provide the motivation behind his anger. In a Facebook post, he blamed the murder on a woman, Joy Lane, who is believed to be his ex-girlfriend. His post read: “three years I spent with this b****… I wish we never met.”

In the disturbing video, he asks Godwin to say his ex-girlfriend’s name before pulling the trigger. “She’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” Stephens said in the chilling video.

Two days later, Pennsylvania police received a tip from a fast-food worker at a McDonalds restaurant, who recognized Stephens in the drive-thru lane. Stephens was told that he had to wait for his french fries, a tactic used by the employees to stall Stephens from leaving the parking lot while they called police.

Stephens was impatient and left the scene in a hurry. Soon after, police spotted him in a White Ford Fusion with temporary license plates and eventually cornered him on Buffalo Road. Once police walked over to the vehicle, Stephens shot himself.

“We’re grateful that this has ended,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said. “We would prefer that it had not ended this way because there are a lot of questions, I’m sure, that not only the family, but the city in general would have had for Steve.”

The graphic video remained on Facebook for approximately two hours before staff took it down. Facebook has been criticized for not removing the video quick enough.

“We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like these from happening,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

In a Facebook post by Stephens, he claimed that he has killed 15 people in total. Police have yet to confirm any of the 14 other supposed murders.

According to the Associated Press, Godwin was killed while he was walking on Cleveland Street, collecting aluminum cans, which was something he did often. “Not because he needed the money, it was just something he did,” said Debbie Godwin, the victim’s daughter. “That’s all he was doing. He wasn’t harming anyone.”

Stephens was working at a behavioral health agency as a counselor for teenagers and young adults. According to sources at NBC News, Stephens’ friends described him as a “good guy.”

It is unclear why Stephens murdered an innocent man in cold blood, and the public and Godwin’s family may never get the answers that they want and need. Stephens is the only one that could have given an explanation for his cruel killing and since he is gone, the public will never know.

A Fresh Approach: Exploring Art In Teacher Preparation

DR. Clark and Dr. French’s diversity leadership course with CCSU leader candidates on the university campus.

by Courtney Leblanc

In a bright room, abstract art is plastered on the walls and scrapbooks and gifts from past students lay scattered along the window sill. Photos fixed to the walls showcase teacher candidates and their participation in the arts, while student-made masks captivate all who enter the unconventional workplace.

The atmosphere of Dr. Barbara Clark’s office reveals her dedication and love of teaching. On March 22, her lifelong hard work had paid off. Clark was notified that she had been chosen as the recipient of The Board of Regents Teaching Award. As an alumnus and professor of 12 years at Central Connecticut State University, Clark was humbled to receive the honor.

“I was really surprised because the chances of getting something like this are, you know, I would say pretty slim because there are so many great professors at CCSU,” said Clark.

The award is given to outstanding faculty who distinguish themselves and have promoted improvements to their educational programs. With that said, Clark has proven that her appreciation of the arts and its integration in education has had an everlasting impact on many.

In Clark’s early years, she had a dream to become an artist and live a romantic life in the city. However, when Clark’s parents suggested that she get into the education field, she respected their opinion. She found that she can take her love for the arts and transform the classroom environment.

“I consider what I create in schools a form of conceptual art,” said Clark. “I created programs for schools to teach the adults how you can change a school environment to improve community, behaviors and friendships.”

As a young teacher, Clark worked in a variety of school districts. She noticed the vast differences between urban and suburban communities.

As a result, she wanted to show that unique and cutting-edge programs can potentially inspire students who are below grade level.

In using her skills and strategies, she is determined to show teacher candidates what they can achieve as an innovative teacher.

“Dr. Clark has had a tremendous impact on the way I practice teaching,” said Allison Tuohy, one of Clark’s past students. “I am currently teaching kindergarten and I often incorporate things I’ve learned from my prior professor. I use music and art to teach my English language learners. I try to unmask the possibilities for each and every student.”

Clark’s pursuit to educate future teachers does not end here. She hopes to further her career by training in-service educators as well.

“I have this dream of having a program for teachers where they would find their imaginative voice and their creative spirit,” said Clark. “Then they would be more likely to know how to use those methods with children.”

As a piece of advice for future teachers, Clark tells her students not to settle for the status quo. She urges them not to simply work out of the curriculum book, but to use ideas that truly inspire them.

With the help of her co-worker, Dr. James French, Clark wrote a book titled, “Hearts and Mind Without Fear: Unmasking the Sacred in Teacher Preparation,” in hopes of extending the teachings of her research to future educators.

As Clark says in her book, “teachers must know how to be social- and eco-justice advocates that teach children love and respect so that they are truly peacemakers as they move throughout their lives.”