Graduating Leaders Who Want to Make a Difference in Their Communities
By Angela Barbosa
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” said Daryle Dennis, interim chief diversity officer of Western Connecticut State University and PLTI Class of 2016 graduation master of ceremonies, quoting the words of the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams.
June 2 marked the graduation of the 2016 class of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) program at the WCSU Campus Center Ballroom. Twenty-one parents concluded a 20-week class on parent leadership and the study of politics, policy and media that culminated with a community project, covering a range of issues in the areas of health, safety and education, which will allow them to practice their new skills within a community framework.
While parents were focused on learning skills to support their involvement in the community and in schools to improve children’s lives and education, their children participated on-site in the Children’s Leadership Training Initiative (CLTI), a literacy-based curriculum that parallels PLTI’s weekly themes to instill leadership skills and civic knowledge. Each participating child gets a new book each week.
After an interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner by Alexandra Prendergast, Tribuna Editor Emanuela Palmares shared her own experience growing up as a daughter of parents whose community involvement challenged and inspired others to follow into their footsteps.
“I came to this country when I was 10 years old, and a lot of the community involvement that I have today was inspired by watching my parents get involved,” said Palmares, addressing the graduating parents. “My parents told me that no matter where I was in my journey in America as an immigrant, that I had value and had a voice, and that voice needed to be heard.”
Lipsa Panda, PLTI 2016 keynote speaker and graduate, reflected on the importance of the 20-week class and the impact it has made on the lives of participants: “PLTI is an opportunity to find out hidden strengths of people. It is a source of knowledge regarding how government systems work and our rights to contribute in the community and system.”
Panda also highlighted the extraordinary work of PLTI coordinator Katherine Tucker, PLTI facilitators Carlos Reinoso, Carolyn Vermont, Bruce Pinto and Patti Keckeisen, CLTI lead teacher Dr. Karen Muller and assistants Alba Ailton, Debbie Hicks and Krishna Patel, along with all volunteers.
The presentation of the certificates to the 21 graduates was carried out by PLTI facilitators and coordinator Katherine Tucker. Lead teacher Dr. Muller presented the CLTI community project, followed by a speech by 2014 PLTI alumna Sandra Prendergast.
The synergy between parents, children and PLTI staff was contagious and so was their enthusiasm to roll up their sleeves and put their community project into action. One single word can define the impact that the program has in the lives of every participant – empowerment.
“Being a facilitator is one of the three greatest things I have done in my life,” said facilitator Patti Keckeisen, who spoke on behalf of the National PLTI. “The first greatest thing was marrying my husband. The second was having my two amazing children because we were told we could never have children, so it was a true miracle for us. And the third greatest thing was to facilitate PLTI. It is an honor and a privilege beyond measure,” she concluded.
Danbury’s PLTI is made possible through partnership with the Connecticut Commission on Children, Western CT State University, Danbury Children First staff and board of directors, Danbury Public School District, PLTI Civic Design Team Members, Scholastic, Inc. and Sodexo, and through funding from the CT PIRC/Parent Trust Fund, Bedoukian Research, Branson Ultrasonics, United Way of Western CT, the City of Danbury and individual donors.
Parents, teen parents, grandparents and other adults who wish to improve the lives of children, families and communities should apply for PLTI. For more information, visit http://www.danburychildrenfirst.org.
Photos by Alexandra Prendergast