By Shaunna Cullen
YWCA New Britain students from the the School Age, STRIVE (Strength, Teamwork, Respect, Individuality, Vision, and Excellence) and HOT (House of Teens) programs were invited to speak at The City of New Britain Commemorates the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. event at Angelico's Restaurant, where prominent representatives of New Britain and Connecticut, such as the New Britain Police Department, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and the Superintendent of New Britain's Consolidated School District Nancy Sarra, all gathered in honor of Dr. King.
After a light breakfast sponsored by Honorable Mayor Erin E. Stewart and the New Britain Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, keynote speaker Nancy Sarra addressed the crowd. She spoke about the district's commitment to invest in New Britain's youth, and the progress that has been made the past few years, despite budget cuts. This created a great transition to introduce the School Age Program YWCA New Britain runs. Two of the youngest YWCA representatives stepped up to the podium with encouraging cheer from the crowd. Roberto Martir, 7 years old, captured the hearts of the group by expressing his dream to become a police officer. “I want to become a police officer because I get to help the good people and arrest the bad ones,” said Martir. A roar of laughter came from the audience followed by a round of applause for the young man. Martir looked over to Mallory Deprey, YWCA New Britain’s School Age Program Coordinator, and she gave him a head nod of encouragement to continue. He ended his speech with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressing that he himself, as a second grader, still has a dream.
Genesis Wilson, a member of the middle school STRIVE program, spoke about the wide range of activities and topics the program covered. “I learned how to become an independent, strong, successful adult, how to stay safe using social media and even how to stay safe for myself. Prudence Crandall came to talk to us about healthy dating relationships. I feel that this will help me in my near future. I am very thankful that they came to speak to us,” said Wilson. Wilson said she is sure when she is done with middle school, she will have learned all that she needs to know to become a successful adult.
Representing the House of Teens, Aniya Johnson said she has learned many practical skills through the program such as applying for college and setting up a bank account. “My dream career is to be an event planner. Attending college will help me further my knowledge and obtain skills pertaining to my future profession. This program has really helped with that,” said Johnson.
Deprey wrapped up the student’s presentations by reminding the crowd that character counts. "The six pillars that you remember seeing in middle school, they actually really do count!”