family

Connecting and Transforming Communities with Rich Mutts

Rich Mutts speaking at a PEP programRich Mutts ’06 (CLAS) graduated from UConn with a bachelor of arts in human development and family sciences. The New Haven school system quickly hired him. As his career progressed, he knew that he wanted to do more to make positive changes in the community. In 2016, Rich had the opportunity to join the Meriden Children First Initiative (CFI) as a program director.

One of his early responsibilities at CFI was recruiting parents to participate in the UConn People Empowering People (UConn PEP) program. CFI regularly hosts a 12-week PEP program for parents and community members. There are 12 to 18 participants in each cohort, and the groups also complete a community project. Over 75 participants have graduated from the UConn PEP programs sponsored by CFI.

UConn PEP is an Extension program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. It is an innovative personal and family development program with a strong community focus. UConn PEP builds on the unique strengths and life experiences of the participants. The program emphasizes the connection between individuals and community action.

Empowering Parents

“I looked at the parents I was recruiting as unpolished diamonds,” Rich says. “The 12-week course changes their lives. They’re back in school and have the opportunity to feel that self-growth again, and it increases their self-worth. I wanted to empower them to use their voices. Watching the parents grow is the most fulfilling part of the PEP program for me.”

Community projects are an important component of the UConn PEP program. They provide participants with an avenue to create a positive change in their community and work collaboratively with their UConn PEP cohort.

Robin Drago-Provencher and Rich Mutts at a PEP program in 2017
Robin Drago-Provencher and Rich Mutts at a PEP program in 2017.

“Connectivity is the one word I would use to describe UConn PEP,” Rich says. “The overall theme of the UConn PEP programming is taking people and letting them know they are already leaders. We are pulling a dormant fire and determination out of them. They often feel overlooked as just parents, but they are great leaders.” The community projects that the groups select prove what great leaders they are and empower the participants to continue making a difference in their communities.

Meriden saw an influx of displaced families after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September of 2017. The PEP class at CFI that fall quickly pivoted their project to create a directory of everything the displaced families would need.

Another cohort from CFI sponsored a book drive. Meriden has a Summer Discovery Program that is free for youth, and 80 children were participating during this cohort year. The summer program lasts for three weeks, and the PEP parents’ goal was for each child to leave with a new book every day of the program. The group set up drop-off points around the city and collected over 2,700 books, then they sorted and distributed them.

“Our participants are so empowered when they finish their UConn PEP projects,” Rich says. “We are there to make connections for them. We encourage our PEP graduates to sit on boards or on the CFI advisory council after they finish classes. CFI also provides an opportunity for them to receive training to become a PEP facilitator.”

Born Rich

Rich is also a musician and video producer. A few years ago, he created the Born Rich documentary about the disconnect between police and the community. The documentary focused on emotions and he wrote and performed the songs for it.

“I’m from Hamden,” he says. “I knew I could do more and make a bigger impact. I wanted to expand who I help.” Rich transitioned to a part-time director of programs role with CFI in January of 2020 when he created the Born Rich Foundation.

The Born Rich Foundation focuses on youth and connecting communities to their municipal leaders. “Rich can mean many things, including our family and health,” he says. “True wealth is our happiness. The documentary and our foundation are all about healing.”

That healing can come in many forms and one is through the personal empowerment that Rich saw with UConn PEP. The Born Rich Foundation offered a 10-week virtual learning series in August and September. Experiences were offered every day from 8 AM until 5 PM. Participants could join whenever they were available to receive multiple levels of learning. These included a health and fitness series on Wednesdays, meditation hours, and seminars on substance abuse led by health clinicians.

The newest project for the Born Rich Foundation is a public service announcement video series on the importance of connecting the community and police officers. Rich is working with Hamden, New Haven, and East Haven on the project. It includes the mayors and municipal leaders from each city and has the support of Senator Chris Murphy. The series is being released in February 2021.

The Future is Bright

PEP will evolve and grow in the future, and Rich expects it will be a hybrid course as we continue recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He stresses that connecting over words and the internet is still a transformative educational experience.

“Getting parents to understand that their voice matters and that it is needed is a challenge,” Rich says. “UConn PEP can continue expanding and growing; there are so many people that need this program. As facilitators we get to see the smiles and tears; and hear the stories. We need to expand UConn PEP to children, city leaders, and teachers.”

“The future is bright,” Rich says. “We’re in uncertain times right now, but it is bright. Everything the Born Rich Foundation is doing is grounded in what I learned in UConn PEP. It’s all based on equity and I’m incorporating that into all of our programming.”

For more information about the Born Rich Foundation you can watch part one of the documentary. Watch the music video HOME and listen to his song ALRIGHT. Learn more about the UConn PEP program at https://pep.extension.uconn.edu/.

Article by Stacey Stearns

UConn PEP: Empowering Communities

The UConn People Empowering People Program is an innovative personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Created by Cheryl Czuba, UConn Extension Educator, and coordinated by Cathleen T. Love, Ph.D, UConn Professor of Extension, The UConn PEP program has graduated over one thousand people in over fifteen years.

The UConn PEP program is for adults and older teens. The program is designed to build on the unique strengths and life experiences of the participants and emphasizes the connection between individual and community action.

Because the UConn PEP program is adaptable to a variety of settings, the program is offered throughout the state at Family Resource Centers, Community Agencies, Discovery Centers, Faith based Communities and Correctional Institutions.

Healthy Family Connecticut

family in front of a houseInterested in more nutrition information for you and your family? The Healthy Family Connecticut
website from the UConn Department of Allied Health Sciences offers many science-based and
nutrition resources for you and your family to stay healthy that are offered in both English and
Spanish. Resources are offered for Parents of Toddlers, Preschool Aged Children, Middle-
School Aged Children, and more!
There are flyers, videos, and even a fun game available for the whole family to enjoy. Some of
the information provided includes:
● Eat the Rainbow
● Sugar Sweetened Beverages and You
● Snack Recipes
● Sippy Cup Use
● Physical Activity
● Reducing Screen Time
● Sleep
● Making Less Waste
The website and resources are made possible through three grants, the Child Health and
Development Institute of Connecticut, Hatch Funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment
Station in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and the SNAP-Ed
Program. The SNAP-Ed Program based in the UConn Department of Allied Health Sciences
reaches thousands of participants through educational nutrition sessions for people of all
different ages. These educational sessions focused on increasing consumption of fruits and
vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains, while decreasing consumption of sugar sweetened
beverages. Other program goals are increasing physical activity, offering cooking
demonstrations, and more. More information on our program can be found on the website:
https://healthyfamilyct.cahnr.uconn.edu/.
The SNAP-Ed program is also part of UConn CAHNR Extension. Extension has more than 100
years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs
address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:
● Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
● Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
● Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
● Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of
Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Learn more at:

https://healthyfamilyct.cahnr.uconn.edu/.

Wethersfield Residents Grow With UConn PEP Program

family poses for a front porch portrait as part of the Wethersfield PEP program
A Wethersfield family poses for their front porch photo.
Photo courtesy of Jeanine Berasi

Around the state, organizations have found a way to continue UConn Extension’s Parent Leadership Training, part of our People Empowering People (UConn PEP) program. With technology, determination and creativity PEP facilitators are keeping their parent leaders connected and informed during this difficult time by offering the UConn PEP program via Zoom.

One such program is being run by the Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative (WECC) and Wethersfield Public Schools. UConn PEP Facilitator Jeanine Berasi is in her 4th year as a PEP facilitator.  Jeanine started by contacting parents one at a time and doing a social check in. Next she practiced using Zoom with each family. Once parents felt comfortable, Jeanine offered Wethersfield’s first UConn PEP Program online via Zoom. Jeanine coordinated with WECC staff to have a local business, Cove Deli, deliver meals to each family (dinner was offered as part of the program when the group met in person).

The class raised funds for their town food bank to help food insecure families in Wethersfield.
“Our Wethersfield PEP 2020 cohort is amazing,” Jeanine says. “In spite of the challenges placed on PEP 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ladies of Wethersfield PEP 2020 set aside their personal community service ideas for later dates to come together and collaborate, bringing the Wethersfield Porch Portraits project to life!”

“Wethersfield PEPs Porch Portrait project has exceeded all expectations,” Jeanine continues. “I am so proud of all they have learned and how much they have contributed to brighten a difficult time. The good news and positive impact of this group project has been amazing! Additionally, the ladies also created a gift certificate for people receiving aid from Social Services. We have had three certificates honored to date.”

Residents of Wethersfield can sign up to have a family portrait taken on their porch, from a safe social distance. It’s been very popular with many families signing up from throughout the community.

In a time when so much is uncertain, we are grateful to all of you for finding ways to support each other and stay connected. Stay Safe.

– Robin Drago-Provencher, UConn PEP

4-H Youth Program Offers Virtual Activities and Programs

boy with iPadCalling all youth! UConn 4-H is excited to announce a suite of virtual activities and programs for youth. Our 4-H youth educators have shifted their programming online to help youth adapt to the current situation, and continue their involvement with 4-H.

  • The UConn 4-H Challenges are two separate contests – a food art challenge and an upcycle challenge. All entries are due by April 17th and can be submitted on social media using the contest hashtag or submitted on the contest website. Youth must be a 4-H member to participate, and can join online.
  • The 4-H Virtual Trivia Challenge is an eight-week competition for 4-H members using the online Quizziz platform. Each week, 4-H members will join others in their age group – novice, junior, or senior – to answer the questions. Youth can join online as an independent member if they are not already enrolled in 4-H. The scoreboard will be updated weekly on the website, and youth with the highest scores in each division at the end of the competition on May 27th will receive a prize. Youth must be a 4-H member to participate, and can join online.
  • The UConn 4-H Calendar Photography Contest is open to all 4-H members. Youth who are not enrolled in 4-H but want to participate can become an individual 4-H member by joining online. All photos entered in the contest must be related to the youth’s 4-H project and submitted by June 1st.
  • The 4-H Horse Judging and Hippology (horse science) programs are offering youth online resources to learn and practice their skills. Resources are available for all age groups – novice, junior, and senior. A 4-H horse activity book has activities for youth including puzzles, quizzes, and activities.

Parents and families with children out of school can use the other resources available from our UConn 4-H program to provide new educational activities for youth. Keep youth engaged and learning with new materials. We have resources for a variety of age groups.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

4-H clover

Wethersfield Continues to Offer UConn PEP Program

UConn PEP logo Around the state, organizations have found a way to continue UConn Extension’s Parent Leadership Training, part of our People Empowering People (UConn PEP) program.  With technology, determination and creativity PEP facilitators are keeping their parent leaders connected and informed during this difficult time by offering the UConn PEP program via Zoom.

One such program is being run by the Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative (WECC) and Wethersfield Public Schools. UConn PEP Facilitator Jeanine Berasi is in her 4th year as a PEP facilitator.  Jeanine started by contacting parents one at a time and doing a social check in. Next she practiced using Zoom with each family. Once parents felt comfortable, Jeanine offered Wethersfield’s first UConn PEP Program online via Zoom. Jeanine coordinated with WECC staff to have a local business, Cove Deli, deliver meals to each family (dinner was offered as part of the program when the group met in person). Here is what participants had to say about the program:

“We are living some challenging times where the stress level at home can be elevated.  Our routines have changed and we are now the actual teachers to our children and so much more. Meeting with my PEP 2020 friends through Zoom last week was like taking a breath of fresh air.  Not only was that alleviating to the soul but receiving the dinner delivered was touching to the hearts of my children and myself. I’m so grateful that I’m part of this group not only because of the challenging times we are living but also because of the great friends I’ve made. Thank you so much PEP 2020.”   – Nancy

“In a time where we are all being asked to self quarantine, it was truly great to see everyone’s faces while we talked about our trying times. To be able to offer support or an ear to listen about what we are feeling; the Zoom meeting was able to give us a bit of normalcy. Having dinner delivered was as close as we could get to hanging with our group.” – Allison
“Zoom communication is great at this time, especially for me that I’m only home with my daughter. My husband is working in Massachusetts. He is staying there because he doesn’t want to risk our health. It’s very scary, however being able to communicate with PEP is a relief and I know I’m not alone in this. Also food delivery is amazing, it’s such a great gesture when you know someone is thinking about you at this cruel time.  I’m so grateful for PEP especially for Kim and Jeanine! God bless everyone and may we pass this as soon as possible. Thank you 🙏🏻”  – Besa

“So thankful for our PEP leadership…. Jeanine didn’t miss a beat and quickly coordinated virtual classes/meetings via the Zoom app and even provided us with dinner delivery, such a kind and greatly appreciated gesture during these tumultuous and uneasy times.“ – Carolina

In a time when so much is uncertain, we are grateful to all of you for finding ways to support each other and stay connected. Stay Safe.

– Robin Drago-Provencher, UConn PEP

Recipe: Peanut Butter Power Balls

peanut butter power balls

A snack you can make with your children.
(Un bocadillo que puedes hacer con tus hijos.)
Stay home and enjoy
(a quedarse en casa y a disfrutar)

Peanut Butter Power Balls
Ingredients

1- Cup oatmeal
1- Cup peanut butter (any nut butter)
½- cup honey
½- cup nonfat dry milk (optional)
½- cup raisins
½- cup wheat germ or any cereals crush up
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients except wheat germ.
Shape in to one-inch balls and roll in wheat germ or cereal. Yield: 36 balls

Ingredientes

1 taza avena
1 taza mantequilla de maní (cualquier otra nuez)
½ taza miel abeja
½ taza leche en polvo (opcional)
½ taza pasas
½ taza germen de trigo
1 cucharadita de canela

Combine todos los ingredientes excepto germen de trigo. Forme bolitas de una pulgada y enróllelas en el germen de trigo o cereal Rinde: 36 bolitas

Recipe courtesy of Angela Caldera, UConn Extension EFNEP

Managing Stress – You and Your Families

stress spelled out with scrabble piecesIn this challenging time, we need to take care of each other and especially ourselves. Self-care is important to our physical and mental health. We all deserve self-care, especially now. Please consider these resources.

The first is a video on managing stress during a pandemic. It was worth the 17 minutes to hear tips on how to care for ourselves and our children. Maybe you are guiding co-workers or elderly parents. We hope this helps:

https://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/bf0a42f96e874778bf47a8517125f1591d

Related Reading Resources: 

English:

How to Cope with Stress https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4894.pdf

Talking to Your Children https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/pep20-01-01-006_508_0.pdf

Español:

Cómo lidiar con el estrés https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4885spanish.pdf

Cómo hablar con los niños https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4886spanish.pdf

Other Mental Health Resources:

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a list of five things you should know about stress and you can find that valuable information here:https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.

Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line have trained counselors who are ready to listen.  If you would like to talk to someone related to COVID-19, call the National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255, or text the word SHARE to 741741.  Website links can be found here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org | https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Please take care of yourselves and remember that we are here to help.

Sincerely,

The Connecticut Sea Grant staff

Infection Prevention Action Steps

hand washing
Photo: Clemson Extension

Our UConn 4-H team developed the following fact sheet for 4-H youth during public health emergencies. The action steps can be used by any family, group, or organization.

During any public health emergency, it is important that we all take a little extra time to increase sanitary practices at 4H gatherings. Not only will this help pre- vent the spread of illness but is a wonderful opportunity to educate youth and adults about proper healthy hygiene and social responsibility for ourselves and the community around us. Our goal is to provide resources to assist you in reducing the risk of inadvertently spreading disease at your 4H meetings and events.

Download the fact sheet.

February is Heart Health Month

family walking together
February is National Heart Health Month! Did you know that walking is one of the simplest ways to get active and stay active? With each step, you improve your mental and physical health. Research has shown that simply being outdoors can help brighten your mood, and relieve stress. And walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease. So start walking your way to a healthier heart!
 
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of UConn extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.