Youth in Waterbury continued benefitting from the 4-H Mentoring project during the pandemic. The 4-H Mentoring Project is a prevention program where youth gain knowledge, build character, and develop life skills. It is a fun learning environment that helps them become self-directing, productive members of society.
Approximately 45 youth ages nine through 14 participate annually. Mentoring is a proven strategy for helping at-risk youth achieve a better future. They are more likely to succeed with the extra support of a caring, consistent adult mentor.
The program increases their interpersonal skills and strengthens family bonds through the 12-month mentoring program. The three project components, mentoring, 4-H activities, and family nights, all contribute to positive impacts.
The 4-H Mentoring Project provides youth and their families opportunities to broaden their horizons with positive involvement in all that UConn 4-H offers. It’s a win–win for both agencies we partner with, and for youth and their families.
Waterbury’s 4-H program is going strong! As we all know the past two years have been far from ordinary. While Waterbury Youth Services, Inc. (WYS) has been facilitating 4-H programing for 30 years, we have had to face new challenges and with them, new joys. While in person programming was not an option, our team of mentors put together bi-monthly activities which we mailed to our 4-H families. Just like if we were in person, our activities were seasonally themed and encouraged members to get outside, collaborate with their families and communities, and hopefully learn a thing or two while having fun. We sent out monthly challenges, in which youth would send back evidence of a completed “challenge” such as a scavenger hunt or science experiment, each submission an entry to a gift card drawing.
This summer, our summer camp had a blast integrating 4-H Healthy Living activities into our camp day. We ate food from every color of the rainbow, reminded each other to drink plenty of water, and even prepared “go-bags” that members were able to take home and discuss emergency plans with their families. They were so excited to receive achievement awards from our UConn Extension collaborators (Ms. Peggy and Ms. Maryellen) at the end of summer.
Our dance program is back in full swing with our new dance coach Ms. Tatiana. Their first performance was at Waterbury Youth Services annual Back to School Rally in August, a citywide event where families can get free backpacks, school supplies, and resources for their students. The 4-H dance team’s debut was a huge success, with an original performance followed by the team leading the crowd in line dances like the cha-cha, slide and cupid shuffle. They also put together an original dance for our Halloween family night as well as our Winter Holiday family night.
Creative arts has been working on seasonal decorations for our WYS hallway now that people are back in the building. From paper crafts to painting to sculpture, there is no limit to this group’s creativity. This spring they will be taking on photography, and we cannot wait to see what the capture.
Our new Coding group is thriving. We are balancing computer activities with “unplugged” computer science, such as coding your own name, designing and troubleshooting a maze, and finding the computer science skill of error detection to be quite helpful in magic tricks.
Waterbury Youth Services is proud of our 4-H groups and look forward to many more years of collaboration!
Article and Photos: Amanda Augeri, 4-H Mentoring Coordinator
Hugh Bailey, urban planner, columnist for the Connecticut Post, and member of UConn class of 1999, will be speaking on the issue of the post-industrial challenges posed by the numerous abandoned buildings in Connecticut’s urban areas. His presentation, “Ruins Reborn: Revitalizing Post-industrial Cities”, was in October at the Waterbury campus of the University of Connecticut, tackled this issue in a fashion which would integrate historical preservation and community economic development. The harsh realities of the post-industrial decline hit Connecticut’s cities in the 1970s. Many communities have never fully recovered. The legacies of our reliance on heavy industry have included fiscal insolvency and environmental degradation. While underutilized, polluted buildings and land abound, it is important to remember that the scale of the problems we currently face are lesser than they once were.
I was born in Waterbury in 1973. My first inkling of the post-industrial decline came with my father’s layoff in 1980. Food stamps soon supplemented our meager income. We bounced back somewhat during the Reagan years, but another recession was around the corner. I left high school in the thick of it, with no concrete plans for my future. I became a college student only recently, after a lengthy odyssey that included Job Corps, an apprenticeship, and many low-paying service jobs. My memories of post-industrial Waterbury are vivid and my experiences in this landscape shaped my environmental attitudes, in this case meaning my enduring orientations to the physical environment. I remember riding in my parent’s minivan along Silver Street, en route to the Naugatuck Valley Mall on Wolcott Street. I looked out the window in awe at the derelict Scovill Brass buildings. This massive complex covered nearly 200 acres. I remember some ten years later, walking down East Main Street, still in the shadow of the Scovill buildings.
Waterbury’s landscape has already been greatly altered. The Brass Mill Center currently occupies the former Scovill site. True to my blue-collar roots, I worked as an apprentice electrician, wiring a few of the stores in the new mall which was completed in 1996. Other industrial sites in Waterbury have since been demolished. There are similar instances throughout the Naugatuck Valley. Naugatuck has also been transformed as the former U.S. Rubber complex has largely been razed. Those familiar with the region’s industrial heyday are no doubt surprised to see how much of the built environment has been changed. Mr. Bailey advocates a different sort of approach than widespread demolition, which sometimes results in polluted lots sitting vacant for years, or conversion to retail space, which would further dissipate the area’s limited consumer base. In his article, which has been published in UConn Magazine, Mr. Bailey discusses other ways to deal with the problems posed by abandoned factory buildings.
One of Mr. Bailey’s suggestions is to link the proposed Naugatuck River Greenway with factory complexes restored as industrial heritage sites. As Mr. Bailey reports, this strategy has worked well in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, one of Europe’s most heavily industrialized areas. Mr. Bailey also discusses instances where factory complexes have been converted into successful mixed-use developments. Mr. Bailey believes that these type of developments can help post-industrial cities regain their lost identity by connecting their rich past to their uncertain future. In this sense, these cities can be reborn, as the title of Mr. Bailey’s lecture suggests.
From my experience assisting with the economic impact study of the Naugatuck River Greenway, I understand that these sort of projects can be costly and may not provide the type of economic boost Naugatuck Valley municipalities are looking for. They are long-term solutions to a pervasive problem whose benefits will accrue over time and ultimately create stronger communities. The Naugatuck Valley cities and towns must be made aware of such concepts as amenity value, preservation value, and social capital; intangibles that are often difficult to quantify. That may prove to be as big of a challenge as restoring factory buildings that have been abandoned, in some instances, for nearly 40 years.
A UConn Extension People Empowering People (PEP) class in March 2015. Madre Latina Inc., a Community organization from Waterbury visited. We were happy to have them because their experiences and knowledge help us to continue the process of help others. At another class, students made a game out of active listening and communication through crafts.