Puentes al Futuro

(From The Campus Lantern – May 2, 2013)

There is an amazing weekly volunteering program through the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) called Puentes al Futuro, or Bridges to the Future.  Puentes started off as a summer program held on the Eastern campus for Windham Middle School students.  The students took classes in classrooms on campus and ate lunch here.  In the Fall 2012 semester, the program extended into an after-school program for the students.  Eastern students volunteered to tutor the students and help with their homework.  On some days the middle schoolers would come to Eastern and some days they would stay at their school.

In addition to continuing the middle school after-school program, Puentes reached out to Windham High School this semester.  At the 2013 Service Expo held by the CCE on April 18, Puentes won three out of the six awards, including “Best New Program.”  The program is already extremely successful, and is going to become better with each semester.

I started working and volunteering for Puentes this semester.  Every Thursday, I taught the middle school students a literacy class for about one hour, and then another Eastern student taught them math for another hour.  For the remaining hour of the after school program, the tutors helped the students with any homework they had.  It took a few weeks to warm up to the students and for them to warm up to me, but now I feel like I am a positive role model and mentor for them.

About half-way through the semester I came up with the idea to make a recipe book with the students for the literacy class.  Each week, they worked on writing stories about their favorite family recipes.  Most of the recipes were from the countries that their ancestors were from, so the stories helped the students to gain some insight about their cultures.  They also brought in recipes to go with the stories.  By the middle of April, everyone’s story was perfected.  I formatted the book, and the CCE printed them out.  The middle school students are officially published authors.

On Tuesdays, the middle school girls go to a dancing class and the boys go to a drumming class.  On Wednesdays, the students work on paper-mâché masks.  The tutors help them with their dancing, drumming and mask-making, as well as with their homework.  Puentes successfully mixes academics with entertainment and cultural learning.

On Wednesday, May 1, the middle school students had a performance to showcase the dance they learned, their drumming skills, and the masks they made in the art class.  The show was from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM in Shafer Auditorium.  The books that the students created were available for purchase before the show.  The books, which are 40 pages long, were sold for $5 and all the proceeds went to the Puentes program.

If you would like to volunteer for this program next semester, and I advise that you do, contact Kimberly Silcox at silcoxk@easternct.edu or (860) 465-4426.


A Visit to New York’s Harry Potter Exhibition

(From The Campus Lantern – April 18, 2013)

On Sunday, April 7, I went on the CAB trip to the Harry Potter Exhibit in New York City.  We caught the coach bus bright and early at 9:00 AM in the Student Center parking lot.  On the three hour ride to the city, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first movie in the series, was played inside the bus.  Personally, I hadn’t seen the movie in years, and even though it was a Sunday morning, I was getting pumped up to see the exhibit.

Once we arrived in Times Square, we were let inside the Discovery Times Square building, which was where the exhibit was held.  We waited in line for about twenty minutes, and then we took a picture with Hogwarts Houses scarves.  At the end of the exhibit, the picture was available to buy for $20.

Then we were let into a small, dark room in which stood a “wizard” on a stage with the Sorting Hat next to him on a stool.  Once the whole crowd got into the room, he asked if anyone would like to be sorted – everyone in the room raised their hand enthusiastically.  The wizard chose three volunteers, and they all turned out to be brave, chivalrous Gryffindors.

After the sorting, we were let into a bigger, still dark, room that had about six large flat-screen televisions hung on the wall.  In this room, we watched highlights from all eight Harry Potter movies.  The short movie started out showing innocent Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger when they were first-years, and ended with the terrifying, powerful Voldemort from the last film.  Once the short film was over, doors opened to the left and the first sight we saw was the actual front of the Hogwarts Express.  A witch welcomed us into the world of Harry Potter.  Happiness and nostalgia sprung inside me; Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, and I couldn’t believe the magic was coming to life.

For the next hour, we passed through a number of beautifully-decorated rooms dedicated to the wizarding world.  The walls were plastered with paintings, House banners, and common room bulletin boards from the movie sets.  Each room had outfits worn by the actors in the movies – both their robes worn in classes and casual clothes worn outside of Hogwarts.  There were also artifacts from the movies such as Ron and Harry’s four-poster beds from their dormitories, Malfoy’s Nimbus 2001, the real Marauder’s Map, and screaming Mandrakes.  There was even a room called “Hagrid’s Hut” which featured his oversided cauldron, hatching dragon egg from the third film, and huge furniture.

The exhibit ended into the gift shop, which was set up just like another room in the exhibit.  T-shirts with Death-Eater logos on them, Dumbledore’s and Sirius’ wands, and time turners were among the items that were for sale at high prices.

Just like on the bus ride to New York, a Harry Potter movie was played on the ride home.  This time, the last movie was played, and everyone watched intently the whole ride back to Eastern.  I know that I speak for everyone who went on the trip when I say that it was something I’ll never forget, and it reiterated in me something that will always have a special place in my heart: “All was well.”