Nation's Mayors Award Hartford, Waterbury for Work Promoting Youth Jobs, Exercise

The mayors of two of Connecticut’s major cities – and their communities – had moments in the spotlight at the just-concluded annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM)  in Washington, D.C.

Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra won first place for medium/small cities in the organization’s 1st Annual National SummerYouth Jobs Challenge. The award honors the outstanding achievements in innovative partnerships between cities and local business and non-profit communities to help provide youth with meaningful summer job experiences.

Mayor Neil M. O’Leary accepted a first place award for Waterbury’s Kid’s Marathon Program.  The organization gave six awards to mayors of cities with outstanding programs that encourage healthy weight through balanced diet choices and regular physical activity.  As the top selection, Waterbury receives a $120,000 grant that will support the 2014 Kid’s Marathon Program, a partnership between the YMCA, City of Waterbury, Department of Education, Boys and Girls Club, Police Activity League (PAL) and Connecticut Association of Schools, aimed at introducing the sport of running to youth ages 7-12, over a 12-week period and at no charge to the participants.mayors conf

Approximately 250 mayors, USCM business council members, USCM Workforce Development Council members and other workforce development professionals from major cities across the country attended the annual meeting.  The award was presented to Hartford at Thursday morning’s plenary session, which included remarks by Segarra, Louisville Mayor Gwaterburyreg Fischer, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Since taking office in 2010, Segarra has invested regularly in youth employment programming, leverageing state and foundation funds to further expand work opportunities for young people. In 2013, the Mayor secured $1.25 million that put nearly half of the 2,056 youth in the region to work, officials said.  Additionally, in conjunction with four other regional mayors, he spearheaded an “unsubsidized” youth employment campaign, aligned with the Obama administration’s Youth Jobs + effort, which resulted in an additional 208 employer-paid positions.

Segarra was joined at the mayor’s conference by  Capital Workforce Partners President and CEO, Tom Phillips who was the 2012 President of the U. S. Conference of Mayor’s Workforce Development Council, and whose organization is instrumental in finding worksites and providing career competencies for over 2,000 youth in the North Central Connecticut region each summer.

Among the ten Connecticut Mayors registered to attend the conference in addition to Segarra and O’Leary were Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Stratford Mayor John Harkins, West Haven Mayor Edward O’Brien, Trumbull Mayor Tim Herbst, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, Fairfield Mayor Michael Tetreau, and Stamford Mayor David Martin.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.  There are 1,399 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official.

segarraThe Kid’s Marathon Program is designed to target city youth lacking in physical activity and good nutrition habits.  Students run 1-2 miles, two or three times per week, completing a cumulative 26.2 mile marathon over the course of the program.  They also receive positive and practical guidance on nutrition that helps foster long-term healthy eating behaviors.  In 2013, the program’s first year, 438 students participated, with the culminating 1-mile run occurring at Crosby High School before a crowd of family, friends and supporters.

USCM also recognized Eugene Morton, a Hartford resident who participated in employment opportunities created through Segarra’s youth initiatives. A 2007 graduate of Hartford’s Sports and Medical Sciences Academy, Morton is a Marketing major at Central Connecticut State University with a 4.0 average. In 2013, he took advantage of a summer employment opportunity at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and was one of 13 college students who participated in the summer youth employment program offered at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in partnership with the Blue Hills Civic Association.

Mayor O’Leary and Waterbury were recognized with the first place award for their collaborative efforts on launching the Kid’s Marathon Program with the Rod Dixon Kid’s Marathon Foundation. The grant awards were divided into small, medium and large city categories, with first place and second place awards given in each category.  Waterbury placed first in the “medium city” category; the second place finisher was Little Rock, AR. The grant program is the result of a partnership between USCM and the American Beverag06-09-12-kids_05-300x229e Association (ABA), to support and/or enhance mayors’ ongoing childhood obesity prevention programs in their cities.    A total of $445,000 in grants was awarded to support both new and existing programs.  Denver, CO and Dallas, TX (large cities) and York, PA and Monrovia, CA (small cities) were the other recipients.

Last fall, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Partner America awarded Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra their small business advocate of the year award.  The USCM presented Segarra with the award during the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council Expo, at the Connecticut Convention Center.  The organization credited Segarra for launching the iConnect storefront revitalization project, quickening the pace of city permit approvals, investing $500,000 in façade improvements and awarding over $100,000 to 16 local artists and small businesses.  At the time, the mayor's office said the city has gained 134 small business and 200 jobs since 2010.


Charter Oak Cultural Center Sees Opportunity in Dollar-for-Dollar Match

For those familiar with the remarkable work of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, time is running out on a unique opportunity to support the dynamic organization’s exceptional community initiatives.  An anonymous donor has agreed to match contributions made to support the work of Charter Oak, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 - through the end of this month. That means every contribution made by January 31 will be doubled.  For an organization that is brimming with distinctive and impactful programming ideas but often scrambling for sufficient resources, it is a chance to see more dreams become reality.

Charter Oak Cultural Center, a magnificent and historic landmark and vibrant arts center on Charter Oak Avenue just off Main Street in Hartford, contributes to the revitalization of the city by bringing the community together through open and equal COCCaccess to the arts, through a deep commitment to social justice. The three main goals that characterize the organization’s mission are:

  • To provide wide access to the arts for all who wish to engage in them, regardless of income
  • To do the work of social justice through the arts
  • To celebrate the heritage of our historic building and to preserve it in perpetuity.

To realize that mission, Charter Oak provides over 1,000 underserved Hartford children with free, sophisticated arts classes and regularly makes professional performances – dance, theatre, concerts – and film and visual arts exhibits accessible to all.  In addition, Charter Oak recently started Connecticut’s first “street paper,” a newspaper written by people who are or were homeless. They’ve also introduced other educational and employment opportunities for those without homes. Their Youth Art Institute has been selected as a finalist by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, distinguishing it as one of the top arts and humanities-based youth programs in the country.

Charter Oak is seeking public support to allow them to take full advantage of what they’ve described as an “incredible offer” and “huge opportunity.”  Interested individuals can make a secure gift online, or mail a check to Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106.

There is more information about Charter Oak’s programming, which falls into four main categories, on the organization’s website.  The programs areas include:

  • Youth Arts Institute:   Reaches nearly 1,000 of Hartford’s inner-city children, ages 6 through 18, with arts and literacy-based classes held after-school, during-school, and in the summer, as well as evening programs for families.  The classes, along with nutritious meals and snacks, are provided free of charge. The youth programming successfully integrates the arts with academic subjects and assessments show that on average, participating students show a 54% improvement over the course of the semester in their ability to meet the state’s Arts K-12 Goals and Standards.
  • Professional Programming: Charter Oak hosts cutting-edge, thought-provoking visual and performing arts exhibitions and performances. As a matter of policy, they offer as many performances and events as possible for free, keep prices low and never turn anyone away who cannot afford the price of a ticket.  In the course of a year, they present over 100 professional events that include every variety of performing art—dance, film, theatre, concerts and more.  In two on-site galleries, both emerging and established artists from various cultural backgrounds exhibit their work.
  • Social Justice Programming: Charter Oak offers a number of programs that focus on social justice and equality- raising awareness about important issues and/or serving individuals in need- all through the lens of the arts.  For example, Charter Oak Cultural Center developed and launched Connecticut’s first “street paper,” entitled Beat of the Street, designed and sold by individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Historic Preservation: When it was built in 1876, the temple on Charter Oak Avenue became the first building in Connecticut’s history to be constructed specifically as a synagogue.  Today, as the home of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, it is a vibrant hub for the community that provides programming for thousands of Hartford and Greater Hartford students, families and individuals each year.  The historic landmark is maintained and preserved as a vibrant resource for the community.

Learn more at or 860.249.1207.