Wesleyan-led youth program engages children in Middletown housing complex

know about Wesleyan-led youth program engages children in Middletown housing complex

MIDDLETOWN — For the second year, children residing in the Traverse Square housing complex have been keeping busy this summer with an initiative aimed at promoting their physical and mental well-being.

“I’m excited about the babies at T-Square because I really love all of them,” Jewett Center deputy director Diana Martinez posted on Facebook this month.

The financial support, spearheaded by Sen. Matt Lesser, state Rep. Quentin Williams and Wesleyan, paid for a yoga instructor, mats for the kids “and most importantly, a few minutes of reflection, movement and deep breathing,” he said. Martinez, something they might not have had exposure to otherwise.

The program runs Monday through Thursday at 3 pm The hours are designed so kids can participate in other summer programs around town earlier in the day.

The student-led, neighborhood-based program provides a community setting for children to receive academic and social support, according to Martinez. Also known as “The Center,” it is designed to provide children with resources to succeed in all “aspects of life,” she added.

The main effort is focused on helping the children with their homework. They also enjoy academic enrichment, recreational activities, and field trips on Fridays.

“The center exists as a community space in which the children have created a place of their own through their long-standing relationships and friendships with each other, and the Wesleyan student staff, and their commitment to the center and the values ​​it represents,” he said. Martinez. .

Youth staff were provided through a partnership with the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Paid Summer Youth Employment Program, led by Chief of Workforce Programs, Lorenzo Marshall. funding arrives of the Workforce Alliancehe said.

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This year, more than 40 workplaces, including the Greater Middletown Military Museum, the Middletown Recreation Services Division and others, have provided jobs for youth. This year, 150 young people applied for 90 slots, Marshall said.

The work program helps teens develop advanced interpersonal skills, Marshall explained. “It is possible that someone will come in who is more reserved, shy, who is not open to committing. By the end of the program, they evolve and feel a bit more comfortable, sharing their knowledge and experience with some of the younger kids.”

“If they are setting an example as ’employees,’ even if they are young people dealing with another young person with a supervising adult there, it brings them out of their shell and encourages them to [mentees] be more open much sooner rather than later,” Marshall said.

Kids also receive a coupon worth $5 worth of fruits and vegetables during visits to the Middletown Farmers Market on South Green on Fridays.

“Today a small group of us reached out and grabbed corn, nectarines and lots of plums,” Martinez wrote on social media. “We sat on a blanket and listened to live music, got some books from the Book Mobile and painted seashells. … It was a good day.”

Kids can enjoy a bag lunch from the Middletown Public Schools summer lunch site.

The enrichment program began last summer in response to the pandemic, said Precious Price, executive director of MRJC. Wesleyan has provided tutoring and summer tutoring at Traverse Square for years, she added.

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“Caring for the physical and mental well-being of youth of color is a critical part of the job,” he said in a joint statement with Martinez and Traverse Square program coordinator Keith Davis.

“In response to the closure of schools, camps and other summer programs, we knew that community organizations needed to step in to help provide the learning, structure and peer interaction that children need to be well and healthy,” explained Price.

One goal is to provide resources and opportunities for youth living in Traverse Square to “enjoy their community, be with their peers while learning something new, and have a healthy summer,” he said.

The hope is to eventually expand it to include other communities of color in Middletown, Price said.

Additionally, as part of the program, wellness backpacks were offered to 100 youth in Traverse Square and other locations throughout the city. They contain yoga mats, art supplies, games, snacks and more.

Other planned activities include a visit to the horse farm and trips to the movie theater and trampoline park.

Children are also encouraged to discuss broad topics that are likely to resonate throughout their lives, such as what freedom means to them.

“We talked about how developing new skills brings us closer to freedom because it opens up the possibilities of places we can go; and things that we can do, experience and teach others,” Martínez said.