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3rd Annual Connecticut Civic Summit: A Success

Author: 
Vanessa Williams, Everyday Democracy Intern
November 27, 2019

The 3rd annual Connecticut Civic Summit was held on November 23rd at the Hartford Public Library – an event that launched as a result of the Civic Health Project and Civic Ambassadors initiative that is led by Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, and Everyday Democracy Executive Director, Martha McCoy. The Connecticut Civic Ambassadors Program involve non-partisan agents of change to help build a movement for civic renewal. The program was established to get ambassadors engaged and to engage others by creating opportunities for civic participation.

This year at the Summit, the members of each panel represented individuals from every age group. Then, panel discussions focused on Connecticut U.S Census Complete Count Campaign, CT Civic Ambassadors in Action, and the Youth Civic Engagement. The first panelists, Caprice Taylor Mendez, of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Tina Prakash from CT Secretary of State Denise Merrill’s office, informed the crowd about the importance of every Connecticut resident completing the U.S Census so we can all be accounted for. “We need to eliminate this sense of “I don’t matter, so I won’t fill it out.” Mendez, stated. Her statement followed a reminder that we do not want Connecticut to lose its federal funding. The speakers noted that an accurate census count is vital to Connecticut as it determines federal funding allocations to the state. The data collected every 10 years not only affects government, but also schools, hospitals, non-profits, businesses, among other public and private organizations.

The Connecticut Civic Ambassadors in Action’s panel consisted of individuals who are engaged in major campaigns, civic efforts, and projects they are doing to improve our communities and state. The panel was moderated by Richard Frieder, of Community Capacity Builders and included: Phil Kent of Connecticut’s Clean Slate Campaign, Jackie McKinney from Hartford Votes/Vota Coalition, and Donald Padgett of Hartford Community Leaders Inc. Donald Padgett described his visions for the Greater Hartford community and that he believes working together can help fix the issues that greatly impact the city. “It is a way to communicate with the Greater Hartford and surrounding communities to talk about our need for change,” he stated as he expressed his reasoning for becoming a Civic Ambassador. McKinney sees the program as a way to give back to her community, to be a part of the decision making, and having input in different civic projects. Like Padgett and McKinney, Kent and Frieder also noted that a lack of awareness on issues will be difficult for residents of a community to go forth and make a difference. Each panelists sees the value and importance of the being a civic ambassador as it recognizes the contributions of individuals who are civically engaged make and how it makes you aware of the things going on around the state and that knowledge is power and can be used to grow the overall effort.

The youth panel at the Summit included Trinity College student, Caroline Munn; Enfield High School Seniors: Jackson Lyver and Zachary Zannoni, and Connecticut Kid Governor Cabinet Member, Reilly Bard. Each student highlighted the importance of youth involvement in our local communities. Caroline Munn discussed her history of civic action and impact. Also noting her work on lobbying for the elimination of polystyrene (Styrofoam and plastic) containers from Connecticut through the Zero Waste campaign. Eleven year old, Reilly Bard, talked passionately about her work with kids in foster care, stating that she “wants to ensure they have a positive home and school experience.” Lyver spoke candidly about his work with the Enfield Youth Counsel on substance and abuse and youth engagement and Zannoni on his work with the two major political committees in his town, attempting to get others engaged. This proves that anyone, at any age, can take civic action. The youth on this panel showed the people that working in their communities and outside, can make it better, and that the involvement of youth can help shape the future. As Scott Warren, founder of Generation Citizen, discussed in his keynote address – “the youth have been at the forefront of social justice and political change in our country and in Connecticut.” Scott explored the important role that youth have played in shaping movements for social and racial justice in our country. This is something we can all take to heart regarding the future of our democracy.

There are many opportunities to hear people speak on topics of civic importance. At this Summit, Valeriano Ramos, of Everyday Democracy wanted to make sure that individual would leave the event with actions in mind that they plan to tackle. Here are a few responses to the question” “What do you see yourself doing to improve the civic life in your schools, campuses, and communities in 2020?”

  1.  “Develop youth media and mental health advocacy toolkit.”
  2. “Start an after school program for young Hartford girls to teach them about female empowerment.”
  3.  “Encourage my family and friends to complete the 2020 Census and on the importance of voting.”

A more complete listing of actions is available on request to vramos@everyday-democracy.org. We hope you have actions of your own in mind for 2020 and beyond.

Here is is the video of the event, https://bit.ly/2KYbRx1  along with more photos below.

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