In 2001, New Britain was one of 50 communities selected by The William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund for an innovative initiative to promote educational systems change throughout the state called Discovery. New Britain’s Discovery project grew into The New Britain Early Childhood Collaborative and was instrumental in creating and developing a community coalition to improve educational outcomes for New Britain’s children.
Aa a result of the Collaborative there was a marked increase in preschool participation among New Britain’s children. In 2002 just 47% of kindergartners had a preschool experience. Through much hard work that rate has grown to 81% in 2014 on par with most Connecticut communities. This work was spearheaded by the New Britain Early Childhood Collaborative in partnership with the School Readiness Council, area childcare providers and the school district. The Collaborative brought together these partners along with parents, the medical community, social service agencies and philanthropy to work together to address issues of children’s health and early learning. In 2009 the Collaborative completed an 18-month community planning process and published a Blueprint for Improving the Lives of New Britain’s Young Children Birth through Grade 3. The Blueprint identified five citywide indicators of child wellbeing, presented data on current trends and then proposed strategies and action steps to change those trends for the better. It was the basis for countless collaborative efforts throughout the city to address issues that negatively impacted young children, including the successful launch of a children’s mental health initiative and the establishment of a centralized Family Literacy Center.
In 2010, based on the work that had gone into the Blueprint, the Collaborative was invited to launch Connecticut’s first community led campaign for third grade literacy. Since then, a strong relationship has been built with the school district, Central Connecticut State University, local service providers, the mayor’s office, local foundations and the United Way. This advance work building a committee structure, reviewing data and developing strategies positioned New Britain to start implementing its plans right away.
In January 2015, The Coalition for New Britain’s Youth emerged as a merged entity of New Britain’s most influential collaboratives: the New Britain Youth Network, the New Britain School Readiness Council, the School Board’s Health and Wellness Committee, and the Coalition for New Britain Children. Rather than working independently, the partners all agreed to join forces to increase the impact they can collectively have on our youth’s lives. The Coalition for New Britain’s Youth includes parents, educators, government officials, health and social service agencies and others as members. Partners use community data to develop strategies to help ensure local children have the skills they need to be successful in life. The Coalition is now the backbone organization for New Britain’s more than 26,000 youth ages birth-24.
Recently, New Britain has been recognized as a leader in innovative practices to combat the challenges of the achievement gap and summer learning loss. Members of the Summer Enrichment Experience Steering Committee have been invited to national out of school time conferences to speak about the New Britain summer and after school initiatives, and New Britain presented at the National Summer Learning Association and National Afterschool Association. In addition, we are very proud that this past fall the New York Times highlighted our continuing work on Chronic Absenteeism, we won the 2015 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award, and the Grade Level Reading Campaign once again named us as a 2016 Pacesetter community (one of 38 nationally, and one of only seven who were recognized in all four categories). Our work on childhood obesity was also highlighted on the Robert Wood Johnson website. Lastly, in June of 2016, New Britain was named an All American City by the National Civic League in recognition of the important cross sector collaboration happening in the city and the resulting outcomes for children.
Currently the Executive Director of The Fund is the Coalition Chair.
To learn more about The Coalition, please go to http://www.coalition4nbyouth.org/