When the tragedy in Sandy Hook struck in December of 2012, the students in Ms. Champagne’s Central High School ninth grade social studies class decided to take decisive action. This bold group of young leaders-in-training learned all about the legislative process, advocated for Connecticut’s new gun safety legislation by writing letters to the editor that ran in the Connecticut Post, and visited with officials at the State Capitol. Not only did they help pass the law, they learned a valuable lesson about their own power as young community members to bring about real, lasting change.
A Head Start for Malachi
To understand the difference early childhood education can make, talk to Melanie Rhodes. Melanie’s four-year-old son, Malachi, has attended the Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD) Head Start program since he was nine months old. “He grew up in ABCD. All the staff love him to death,” she says. Malachi, who is autistic, has made steady progress and is learning skills he’ll need in kindergarten. “The main thing is to try to get him to slow down!” laughs Melanie. And now that Malachi is on his way to greater independence, Melanie is preparing to train to become a school bus driver.
Coming Together to End Violence
Bridgeport is rallying to keep its streets and schools safe for children. Over the past two years, BCAC has hosted four events that gathered over 480 people to talk about the impact of violence on education, health, and the community as a whole. At our annual Children’s Issues Dialogue last fall, community members shared their ideas for how each of us can take action to support Project Longevity and Safe Streets Bridgeport, the city’s new programs that bring together law enforcement and the community. What’s emerging is a powerful vision for a city united against violence.
Harvesting Healthy Options
Shopping for a healthy meal can be difficult in Bridgeport, where many neighborhoods are several miles from the nearest grocery store—a phenomenon called “urban food deserts.” So, when several farmers markets opened last year in the city, thousands of people attended. Best of all, low-income families could double their federal nutrition benefits at markets run by the nonprofit Wholesome Wave and the city of Bridgeport. At the St. Vincent’s and East Side markets alone, over $26,000 in federal nutrition benefits were spent. Now for much of the year, fresh, local produce is within reach for low-income families. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to buy so many vegetables,” explains one participant. “They’re too expensive in the store.”
Assistance For The Uninsured
Research shows that when parents are insured, their children are more likely to see a doctor. Unfortunately, Bridgeport has the highest rate of uninsured adults of any city in the state. To help close the gap, a small cadre of trained “Assisters” are helping families here and across Connecticut to understand their health care options on the new state health insurance exchange. The Assisters meet face-to-face with families and offer culturally and linguistically appropriate guidance. Here in Bridgeport, they have been working hard to spread the word and increase the number of insured adults and children.
Working toward Financial Independence
Sugey Valdez relocated to Connecticut several years ago.Shortly after relocating, her daughter got very sick and was hospitalized for 4 days following a tonsillectomy.Without health insurance, Sugey was worried about her daughter’s health and the looming hospital bills.A couple of weeks after her daughter was discharged, the bills began to arrive.
In the meantime, Sugey was able to get a small loan to open a hair salon and work toward financial stability and independence.
After the shop opened, Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition Healthcare Advocate Mory Hernandez walked into the salon and introduced herself and the work that she was doing with small business owners on the East Side.She was screening people to see if they qualified for safety net assistance programs.
Surprisingly enough, Sugey discovered that she was eligible for SNAP (formerly food stamps) and HUSKY insurance, which meant she wouldn’t have to worry about the hospital bills anymore.And since Mory’s help, Sugey and her children have been able to go to the doctor, and one of her daughters got the braces that she needed.These programs have helped reduce Sugey’s financial stress as she grows her business.