The Bridge: Connecting the Community with Hope

2021 November | By Ryan Lash

As the cold weather approaches and the holiday season nears the thought of family, friends, food, and presents is on all our minds. The season should bring all these wonderful things to every family in our community, but sometimes that is not the case. Times are tougher these last couple of years, as is evident in all economic aspects. Covid-19 has caused financial and unstable conditions for many families. Stimulus and unemployment checks have helped stabilize the need for assistance for many, but it is evident that more help is needed. The New York Times reported in an April 2020 that, “demand for food assistance is rising at an extraordinary rate, just as the nation’s food banks are being struck by shortages of both food and volunteer workers.”

Organizations like “The Bridge” seek to help those in need and help make the winter months and holiday season happy for all of those who may need a helping hand or just a little hope in their corner.

Coats available to clients of The Bridge. Photo credit: The Bridge

The Bridge is an outreach ministry of Our Savior Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT. After doing extensive research about the needs of families in South Windsor and its surrounding towns, members from Our Savior Lutheran Church decided to open the facility in the fall of 2016. Located in South Windsor at 400 Chapel Road unit 1J, their mission is to provide food, gently used clothing, and case management services to individuals and families facing a temporary financial crisis. Members of the church and community provide donations so The Bridge can fulfill its mission.

The Bridge receives clothing and non-perishable food items. Due to limited storage space, the Administrative Assistant of The Bridge, Tammy Choleva said, “calling beforehand is always recommended, sometimes too many of a certain item can be overwhelming. By calling ahead, donations can be assessed and appropriately distributed.”

Shoppers call or email to register an appointment. A staff members assist shoppers in finding the products that they will require, determined by the size of the family.

Food aisle at The Bridge. Photo credit: The Bridge.

Healthy food choices are a priority at The Bridge. The food is neatly organized on shelves and conveniently color coded according to sodium, sugar, and nutritional value. Clients are encouraged to select the healthiest foods for their families. The dry goods and household items are systematically organized. Clothing is folded and hung on racks, giving someone the sense of walking through a store.

Recent increased donations have called for people who are dedicated and devoted to helping others to help staff the center. Heather Yoreo and Kathy Pasakarnis are two of the fifteen volunteers and members of Our Savior who dedicate their time at The Bridge. They are considered essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides a few alternative safety precautions made to keep the staff and public safe, they have forged ahead making baskets and pre-packed boxes of donated items ready for pick up.

Heather Yoreo states, “The Bridge is different from other food pantries in the area. Although we are blessed to be able to provide food and clothing, the volunteers at The Bridge most enjoy the opportunity to build relationships with our clients and are happy to share our faith and pray with clients who are often going through very challenging personal, emotional, physical, and financial hardships.”

The Bridge has a case worker that is available for crisis support, housing services, building a resume, or guidance.

Tammy Choleva expressed, “The Bridge is not just a food pantry, we build a relationship and keep the relationship. The Bridge is hope connecting people with Jesus.”

Local businesses and groups also step in to meet the needs of thousands of clients of The Bridge, particularly during the holiday season. Carhartt is collaborating with a “Wish-mas” Tree and food drive. Other local businesses, including Evereve and PetSmart have also provided numerous items.

Neighbors who may need a shoulder to lean on are embraced with open arms by members of The Bridge as they carry out their mission of hope, dedication, and a profound love for God and the community. The staff and volunteers at The Bridge are cheerfully committed to ensuring that all families have the support that they require.

Irish Eyes Are Smiling In Hartford This Fall

2021 October | By Ryan Lash

Hartford has always been recognized for hosting a vast number of cultural events, and this November 18-21 will be no exception. The City of Hartford hosts Irish step dancers from the New England region for the 2021 New England Oireachtas at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Throughout the year, Irish Step Dance instructors have been preparing young competitors for the Oireachtas (oh-rock-tus) by competing in regional competitions known as Feiseanna (fesh-an-na). There is a lot of traveling, over-night stays, expenses, and the chance of injuries. Although the Oireachtas are a competition and every participant would like a first-place rank, having fun is key.

Christian Cairone, certified Irish Dancing Instructor (TCRG) at Scoil Rince Luimi Dance Academy in South Windsor stated, “believing in yourself is the first step to achieving greatness. In the moment, competitions and placements seem important, but long term, what matters most is the memories that were created, the lasting friendships and endless stories they have. That’s what’s important.”

The Mulcahy Irish Arts Foundation Feis 2021 that was held in Manchester, CT in early September brought many of the local and regional competitors together for a preview of November’s event.

Step Dancer Irelyn Lash displays her costume for the 2021 competition.
Photo by Ryan Lash

Irelyn Lash, a 14-year-old Irish Step Dancer said after the event,”it’s so exciting going to Feis; it gives me the chance to see my improvements in a competitive setting, where I get to dance against people from other dance schools in the New England states.”

Surprisingly, most Irish Step Dancers attend Feiseannas every weekend, particularly in the months closer to the Oireachtas. There are many elements to the success of an Irish Step Dancer. Preparation, practice, and self-confidence are key factors for success.

Courtney Jay, the Director of the Scoil Rince Luimni Irish Dance Academy explains, “dancers receive scores and written feedback from adjudicators at local feiseanna which helps give the dancers and teachers insight into the highest priority and most impactful corrections to make for improving stage presence and technique.”

This November, thousands of boys, girls, and young adults will attend the 2021 New England Oireachtas prepared to compete for qualifications in the National and World competitions. The Step Dancers put on a spectacular event, showing off their skills on a variety of stages in series of solo and team participation. The competitions are made-up of various types of Irish Step Dances that consist of traditional Irish dances such as the Hornpipe, Reel, Treble Jig, Slip Jig, Traditional and Contemporary Sets which will be done in either hard or soft shoes, depending on the dance.

Although the dances look incredibly arduous, the young Irish Step Dancers gracefully move about the stage with elegant movements of the feet, boundless kicks in the air and dizzying spins that complement the rhythmic sounds of fiddles and accordions to match the clicking of their hard shoes. The breathtaking dancing and music are all done while wearing traditional dresses and suits that are uniquely tied to the roots of Irish Step Dancing. The female Irish Step Dancers wear beautiful wigs and distinctive dresses of every color and combination. The young male dancers are outfitted in tailored suits with dazzling sequins of various colors. The unique designs of all the performers outfits are personally chosen and so unique that no two are ever the same.

The 2021 New England Oireachtas held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford will be the fourth year in a row excluding 2020 due to Covid 19 restriction mandates. The event will welcome the Irish Step Dancers from all over New England to Hartford.

Runners Taking Back the Roads at Fishbein/YMCA Road Race

Racers celebrating a partial return to normalcy as they compete in the annual road race to support their local YMCA program LiveSTRONG®

2021 October | By Jacob Graf

Runners take off at annual Fishbein/YMCA Community Road Race. Photo credit Jacob Graf

WALLINGFORD, Connecticut: − People flocked to 81 S. Elm Street just outside of the YMCA on Sunday, the 19th of September for the annual Fishbein/YMCA Community Road Race which includes a 5K race or a free 1K walkSTRONG course. It was a brisk windy morning as runners arrived. A look around the diverse crowd showed mostly participants, but lots of families standing together, even some pets.

Mayor of Wallingford William W. Dickinson Jr. and Wallingford YMCA Executive Director Sean Doherty co-hosted the opening ceremony. The mayor opened with a trumpet piece followed by Georgia Scott singing the National Anthem.

Mayor Dickinson trumpets the race opener. Photo credit: Jacob Graf

Spectators were having fun and friendly attitudes surrounded the event grounds; laughter and animated voices permeated the air. Volunteers were attentive at their stations, ready to help get participants set up. Many people were wearing the event YMCA shirts, while others had custom running gear on; many of them sporting their running number.

Approximately 134 runners began their 5K race and soon after, the 1K walk. Spectators provided encouragement and clapping as runners strode into the finish line. Early finishers joined into the final stretch motivation of their fellow community members. It was a sunny summer finish as the awards ceremony took place for the top 3 finishers of both the Women’s and Men’s categories. Other medals were awarded to the top finishers by age group.

The top finish times of the 5K race were:

Elizabeth Fengler, age 25 [18:34:0]
H. Vanacour, age 12 [23:09:9]
Kelly Vanacour, age 34 [23:17:8]

Michael Corvekay, age 15 [18:45:2]
Payton Durant, age 16 [19:11:9]
Patrick Miett, age 28: [19:35:7]

Photo credit Jacob Graf

Proceeds for this event support their local YMCA programs and services. One such program is the LiveSTRONG® program for community cancer survivors. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is one of the most common causes of death globally, with a projected 1.8 million new diagnoses in the US alone in 2020. For many years, the healthcare industry has been trying to find better treatments and possible cures for this massive problem in our society. Equally alarming is another estimate that, “approximately 39.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.” The common likelihood of this disease shows that approximately a little less than half of the people we pass on the street every day will deal with this diagnosis. The YMCA offers a free 12-week plan for those that have that are eager to improve their mental and physical health and return to normalcy.

The event is a much-welcomed return to normalcy this year as the past two installments have been hampered by the Corona virus pandemic, said YMCA Wallingford Executive Director Sean Doherty. They can now reintroduce their 10K race and reintegrate with celebrate Wallingford. Both are expected to come back next year. When asked about the challenges they have faced in keeping the event running, he stated restrictions, lingering Covid, and the deterrence those things have on potential participants. To keep everyone safe, he said, they have kept the event small, started in “heats,” and excluded food which is a common way for Covid-19 to spread. Physical safety was ensured by law enforcement, the fire department, and an ambulance. They were able to close half the road with staff located at intervals of the course. First aid was available both inside the YMCA and with a staff member driving alongside the course.

Doherty said a special thanks to his wife Theresa, Cassandra Allen, Erik Skinner, Vicky Langrecko, Rob Newton, and Chris Kingston. He also expressed gratitude to the volunteers from Choate Rosemary Hall, Sheehan High School, and the YMCA staff.

Multiple Connecticut YMCAs had races of their own in their respective counties all throughout summer and early fall.

Historical Treasure May Be Closer Than You Think

Historical artifacts can be more valuable than gold to history buffs. One town looks to preserve its history with an archaeological display.

2021 October | By Anthony Costa

The History Place – located on route 87 in Columbia, CT – holds a free event each Sunday for a limited time, showcasing the towns history “Archaeology: Digging the Past.”  Joan Hill, a Columbia native with a strong archaeological background, takes visitors on a trip into the town’s past and shares an interesting story about a couple who stumbled upon what would later be called the Late Archaic Red Ocher Burial Site.

The History Place in Columbia, Connecticut. Photo credit: Anthony Costa

While developing garden beds on their estate, a local Columbia couple discovered stone arrowheads and were surprised at how well intact they were. The couple contacted a member of the Columbia Historical Society and the arrowheads were then shown to state archaeologist who determined that the projectiles were late archaic (ca. 1000 BCE) and that many were made of a type of chert only found in New York state.

The site has been named the Late Archaic Red Ocher Burial Site by archaeologists after red ocher was discovered at the site. This local site continues to excite archaeologist like Mrs. Hill at the potential of new findings in unexpected ways.

As well as interesting stories told at the event, visitors are shown informative displays loaded with interesting facts about archaeology and some of steps archaeologist use in the excavations process. Displays offer hands on activities where one can put new or previous knowledge to the test organizing artifacts from biofacts, and biofacts from features – all explained in great detail on the display. Visitors are also taught about how many sites are actually found unexpectedly. Mrs. Hill stresses the importance of reporting archaeological findings to professionals and that some historical sites could be destroyed if the proper steps are not taken.  The exhibit explains the differences between the many archaeological fields such as Prehistoric, Underwater, and Historical archaeology. Small tablets are placed in sections where visitors can watch short educational videos such as how drones are used in archaeology to help get an aerial view of potential sites and how LiDAR – light detection and ranging – technology is used to used to help examine the surface of the earth. The GPR – ground penetrating radar – is another tool archaeologist use. The GPR sends signals into the ground to detect density and is good at locating graves, wells and cellars.

At the end of the tour, visitors are informed about the states many resources for those who wish to learn more about the many programs offered to the public. One of these organizations is FOSA – Friends of The Office of State Archaeology. This not-for-profit organization was founded in 1997 with a mission to support the Office of State Archaeology at meeting state mandated responsibilities. Guests are encouraged to get involved if they have an interest in archaeology or even if they wish to help in the many efforts to preserve the states historical sites.

The Columbia Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that formed in 1966 by chair members looking to preserve Columbia’s history. The organization acquired an old library situated on Route 87 renaming it The History Place. It remains a popular meeting spot for locals and many events are held at this historic building.

For more information, visit

Digital Photography Students Exhibit “Reflections”

December 2020 | Hartford, Connecticut
“Reflections” is the theme chosen by students in the COM*158 Introduction to Digital Photography course at Capital Community College. Each student approached this theme in their own way – some taking it literally, others going symbolic or abstract. Together they created an online exhibit that shows a dialogue between the photographers and their surroundings, their city, their community and themselves.

“Reflection Endless” by Leroy Morrison

In addition to the shared theme, students explore other themes of their choosing within their individual portfolios.

Throughout the course, the students undertake projects that build skills in seeing, framing, and editing photographs (using Adobe Photoshop software). After shooting their images, they engage in frequent peer-critique sessions which allow them to explain their artistic intent and respond to each other’s work. The photographers share how they see potential photographs in the midst of everyday life like driving, walking out the front door in the morning, or “noticing an interesting reflection” in the kitchen. By sharing these moments, they inspire one another while also learning from the feedback they receive.

Scroll through the class’ shared exhibit below:

Members of the community are also invited to view these individual collections:

Shamar Damas |
Kaleeya Davis |
Chanz Mendes |
Leroy Morrison |
Delina Spencer |

Young CT Entrepreneur Makes Footprint In Sneaker Culture

2020 April | By Daniel Martinez

Dajour Williams is a young well known business man in the sneaker community.  And this is no coincidence.  He is the definition of “hard work pays off.”  Dajour was born and raised in Connecticut.  His love for sneakers started in High School at the Connecticut River Academy.  It was during this time his addiction for shoes started.

Dajour says, “It all started with a pair of Jordans that took me 3 months to save up for.”

When he finally bought the pair of Jordans he has always wanted he took a picture of them and posted them on social media.  After he posted the shoes someone offered him one hundred dollars more than what he paid for them. He was a high school student with no job so he took the deal. He then realized he could make a profit flipping rare Jordans. People didn’t want to wait in long lines during the release of rare shoes so he would wait in those lines and sell them to people for almost double the price.  He continued to do this but he wanted to expand the profit margin and began to think of new ways to get his inventory out to the public.


Dajour with rapper G Herbo at SneakerCon in New York City

He built an Instagram page advertising the shoes he had in stock and the prices.  This made it very easy for him to communicate with customers and expand his business. After doing this for a year, Dajour says, “I made good money but I wanted to be more creative.”

He created the Instagram page called “Kicks by Dajour,” to feature shoes from customers with made-to-order paint designs.  Many people in the sneaker community like unique ways to stand out from the crowd and these custom kicks made it very easy for them to do so. This made him very popular on Instagram and some celebrities began to message him asking for custom shoes.  Among his clients is rapper G Herbo who purchased several custom shoes.

ki2After Graduating High School, Dajour felt as if he wanted to expand his business and have a store front.  He opened in Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester and called it “REMIX.” He added other products from Connecticut-owned fashion brands.  Not only did Dajour accomplish owning a store in the mall but he also was able to collaborate and help show the true talent and skill that Connecticut apparel makers have to offer.

Business was going very steady up until the COVID-19 pandemic.  He had to close the store and think of ways to still maintain his business.  I asked Dajour if he put the business on hold and he responded saying, “I would never let that happen.”

Dajour presently has returned to his roots and selling shoes via his Instagram page since he no longer has the store front.

I asked Dajour if he has any advice for young people looking to start a business and he responded saying, “find something you love to do, and see how you can make money doing that.”

And that is exactly what Dajour does every day.  Not only is he able to profit from his passion but he is able to make people happy along the way supplying them with the rarities that are hard to find in other stores.

New West Hartford Restaurant “Frida” Deals with COVID-19

2020 May | By Stephany Dominquez-Jorge

West Harford, Connecticut. – Frida Mexican Cuisine is a new restaurant in West Hartford serving authentic and fresh Mexican food to its customers. They are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic that paralyzed the world at the beginning of this year. It took the owners Sandy Sanchez and Xiomara Zamudio one year to remodel the location to open in December 2019.  Like other new owners, they could not see the Coronavirus in their future. Consequently, the situation forced them to reduce their employees, earnings, and customers.

These two successful Latinas put all their money, time, and ideas to create a modern environment and innovated traditional Mexican recipes. They named the restaurant after the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who, for them, was a strong woman and artist. With the help of a designer and Sanchez’s husband’s construction company, they achieved the look they wanted. And with Zamudio’s recipes and knowledge, they got the flavor. Once they opened, customers came in non-stop, and Frida became more active in the West Hartford area. They hired bartenders, waiters, hosts, and kitchen personnel, which totaled 25 employees. They have a room capacity of 52 people at a time and around two hundred costumers most days. It started to look like a busy restaurant.

Now the panorama is different. FridaOn March 16, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont released an executive order restricting all types of recreational gatherings. Bars, restaurants, and other businesses could only serve food and non-alcoholic for takeout and delivery.  After so much money and dedication invested, Frida and other businesses are trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some days we receive thirty orders and others we receive forty. It changes every day”. Said Sanchez.

The co-owner explains that their expectations were the right ones for the restaurant. Their ingredients are fresh, and their bar menu innovative. They want people to be curious about their exotic drinks because they have an all-natural and non-processed ingredient.

“Now everything is Facebook, Instagram, and our website. We cannot have the same menu every day because people are bored with the quarantine, and they want to go out and eat something different. We are working on that now,” explained Sanchez.

Now with Mother’s Day coming, they are preparing to create a visually attractive menu, hoping that will keep their customers and attract new ones.

Frida now has only five employees. Leftover foods are distributed between the employees at the end of the day to avoid unnecessary waste. Frida and other restaurants are struggling with freshness because food distributors, like meat and vegetables, are closing or arriving late.

According to, a Smithfield Foods plant was forced to close in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after nearly 300 of the plant’s 3,700 workers tested positive for the virus produces roughly 5% of the U.S. pork supply each day. Like this one, many other food plants and distributors have been forced to close or massively reduce personal.

One of the measures the owners of Frida took to maintain the restaurant was to change the opening and closing time. They are opening at 3:00 p.m. instead of 11:00 a.m. because that is a clear way to save electricity and gas and use it towards payroll.

“I will keep asking my god to help us. We are working with what we have. We had to lower our prices on the menu and create a family meal, but we will continue doing our best to keep the quality of our food and drinks. We are trying our best to keep our customers happy and not lose more earnings. At this point, we are in a position where we are making enough for gas.”

As part of making sure their customers know, Frida’s social media shows their employees wearing gloves while cooking. Also, they are sharing images of the artist Frida Kahlo wearing face masks as a way to show they care, and to promote the use of masks and social distancing.

Many businesses in Hartford County, old and new, are suffering from the causes and limitations imposed to reduce the spreading of the Coronavirus. Like Frida, other new businesses and companies are doing their best not to close their doors forever. Many are not optimistic due to a possible economy decline, and others are trying to remain positive.

For Some Workers, Masks And Gloves Are Nothing New

2020 April | By Khalif Willis

There are over 1 million confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and over 56,000 deaths in the United States. The U.S currently has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world. This pandemic has caused many business and institutions to shut down putting people out of work – all except for Edwin Harris who finds himself being one of the few people to work during the pandemic and the safety measures he along with his job is taking to protect themselves from this virus.

62-Year-Old U.S. Army Veteran Edwin Harris is a Machine Operator for the company OSF Flavors in Windsor CT. OSF Flavors is a food processing plant that makes flavors into powder or liquid using machines before shipping the flavors to different companies such as food, nutrition, and pharmaceutical companies being their largest clients. This food processing plant has been around for 20 years manufacturing quality flavors for a wide range of food and beverage products.

“We provide raw flavors organic or artificial,” said Harris.

OSF Flavors continues to produce flavors for their customers despite there being over 3 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus and over 200,000 deaths worldwide. Social distancing limits the amount of business and is slowing down production. OSF Flavors is relatively a large food processing plant. On a normal day OSF has 51 employees working. Now with this pandemic only 20 employees can work and only three days a week.

“Day on day off messes up my biological and mental clock,” Harris said.

Overall production is down by 60%. On a regular work schedule OSF Flavors produces 90,000 pounds of powder per day and 60,000 gallons of liquid per week.

“Less people, less production,” said the Machine Operator

Even before the global pandemic, OSF Flavors employees were required to wear a mask and gloves while on the work site because of the fact they deal with flavors in the form of powder and liquid.

Prior to the government’s restrictions on travel and gatherings in public, a French worker from OSF Flavors came from Indonesia and went to work instead of staying home for two-week quarantine. Three other employees went to get tested for Coronavirus and did home quarantine after being tested.

“No positive cases were found,” said Harris via Facebook video chat.

OSF Flavors’ management requires their employees keep their masks and gloves on at all times not only to avoid cross contamination with the flavors but also as one of their safety precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

Another way OSF is avoiding the spread of the virus is prohibiting people who are not employees from entering the building. There is an exception for people who deliver supplies, and they must wear their mask and gloves as well. Under normal circumstances the building would be locked when management and workers are not present, but this pandemic the doors of OSF Flavors are left open so there can be less touching of the door as a prevention method of COVID-19.

Just like his job at OSF Flavors, Harris is taking precautionary measures to protect himself when going to work or stepping out he wears his mask and gloves, also carry around sanitizer that he puts on his hands when it is time to remove the gloves off his hands.

“I’m vulnerable to the virus because I have high blood pressure,” said Harris.

Even though there are over 25,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Connecticut alone. Harris does not mind going to work.

“It keeps me busy; I’ll go crazy sitting in this house 24/7,” he said.

Unsung Heroes During the Coronavirus Pandemic

2020 April | By Ekow Andoh

For the past two months, America had been in a standstill. With the states being on lockdown and everyone staying home, many workers in America are doing their best to make sure the states are clean to maintain the spread of the virus. Many heroes have proven during the dark times, there is a glimpse of hope. Health care workers are a prime example of heroes. They deserve more credit for risking their lives daily to make sure people are being treated with the virus. Another field that deserves credit is custodial and maintenance workers. These workers are putting their lives on the line to help stop the spreading of the virus.

Custodial and maintenance workers are cleaning hospitals, workspaces, schools, transit stations and vehicles. While the government is still on lockdown, these custodians come to work risking their lives to make sure they keep up the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines on killing the virus. Everything must be wiped down from doors, keyboards, and tables, etc.

The majority of custodians have always been downplayed in society as people who have no other options but to get a job like this. What people do not understand is that these workers clean the environment and protect us daily with the knowledge of deep cleaning. The virus has caused a high demand for safety, and these custodians’ safety is in jeopardy daily when they come to work.

“As a supervisor, my number one job is to keep the staff safe, I provide them with a limitless amount of gloves and masks, making sure they follow the guidelines in keeping them safe because without them, who makes the place clean for the places to open,” Daniel  Fichera, employed by a facility that services the town of Glastonbury, CT.

Covid-19 has placed and undoubtedly slowed our everyday life, also exposing the flaws of the system. When it comes to a job like this, the side-eye is given and there is less attention to what these custodians might possibly be going through. While our healthcare workers are important during these times,  custodial staff workers are also part of the solution that is solving this crisis we are encountering. 

Fichera has made sure that workers are well protected. The schedule has been changed and the number of workers that are allowed to work at the same time is reduced. “Our department split the weeks between work, the first group of workers comes to work while others stay home then the following week the second group comes to work the following week, instead of three workers working together at the same time. We create it this way so we can assure safety for the staff.”

It is no secret this virus has caused product shortages. Other places have been demanding supplies from the vendors to provide them with products immediately. Cleaning products that are used in custodial work are strong and kill viruses within minutes. These supplies ran out quickly because every department in the town is required to have a disinfectant in their building.

“I deliver supplies to each building in the town every week. It is required to do inventory on a daily basis. So no, we will not run out of supplies because I order them every other day.” Fichera stated.

There will be a point in time when all of this is will be all over, the question is what changes from here?  While on the frontline every day of their lives, workers reflect on how they have families at home waiting. They think about what might happen when one worker is tested positive for the virus, how will they each be in a position to pay for testing, knowing the custodial job is a low-income job.

It is no surprise the virus has spread and there is no cure, with every day the CDC is informing of the new symptoms we hope those helping us on the front lines and working unimaginable hours. The hope of workers in this field is that custodial workers will always be protected and respected. 

There’s No Place Like Home

2020 March | By Khalif Willis

The USA has a larger immigrant population than any other country with 47 million immigrants as of 2015 which represents 14.4% of the population. Chevelle Kareen Myrie is part of the 14.4% of immigrants in the USA. Myrie is student at Capital Community College located in downtown Hartford. But in order to reach this stage of her life she had to endure the struggle of leaving her home country and migrating to the U.S.


Myrie on campus of Capital Community College

Myrie grew up in Negril Jamaica a town in the western area of Jamaica that is known for its miles of sandy beaches on shallow bays with calm, turquoise waters. Growing up in Negril she was living on family land with blood relatives as her neighbors. She lived in a household of a blended family that includes mom, dad, and sister in a big two-story wall house with six other siblings from her dad’s side of the family. Myrie is the youngest out of all her siblings. During her elementary school years, she recalls how she would go to the backyard and take fruits from her dad’s tree and sell them.

Myrie then attended Hampton School an all-girls boarding school in Malvern Jamaica from ages 12 through 17.  She joined track and field where she threw the discus and the shotput winning in regional competition. After five years of attending Hampton School, the family’s financial struggles meant that she could no longer attend the boarding school.  Myrie and her family moved to Hanover is where the interest in track and field grew exponentially at Rusea’s High School.

“This school now is co-ed. They take sports really seriously and they have an incredible soccer team, track and field team is awesome, they double in a lot of different sporting activities and they were very competitive,” said Myrie in the comfort of her home during a video chat via WhatsApp due to precautionary reasons of the Coronavirus.

Rusea’s High School was also the place where the current Capital student did her pre-university to attain an Associates in Humanities from Sixth Form for two years that is known as twelfth and thirteenth grade.

“Those two years you don’t just do regular high school, you do college credits”, said the Capital student.

Sixth Form students are taking eight classes in two in order to receive an associate degree. Chevelle’s Associates degree in Humanities required her to take courses in Mass Communication, Caribbean Studies, History 1,2 and Sociology 1,2.

“At that point I was sure that I wanted to be a Psychologist. I love talking to people. I hated the idea of medicating people. I thought that talking to people through their problems is a way of release and I wanted to study human behavior. That’s why I went into humanities and wanted to take those courses because those courses transfer well into a Psychologist,” said Myrie.

In order for her to take these courses in pursuit of an associates Myrie used the money she earned selling cupcakes to pay for these courses. “You are looking at a hustler,” Myrie said with a smile of accomplishment.

In her last year at Rusea’s High School she took the SAT’s, earning a 1400 but despite getting relatively descent score she did not receive any calls from schools to meet with her. The desire to continue her education became an obstacle. Myrie did not receive any scholarship offers, did not receive eligibility to take out any loans, and was unable to find employment after graduating in 2015. mryie2

In the summer of 2016, Myrie came to the U.S as a vacation. She spent about two and half months in the U.S before receiving a phone call from her track and field coach that a representative from a school in Texas asked for her. After this had occurred Myrie flew back to Jamaica to get a student visa as she was getting prepared to finally attend to school in the U.S. Her plan to go to college in the U.S became a reality as she attended Wiley College in Marshall Texas in the fall of 2016 on an academic scholarship along with track and field scholarship. She left her family back home in Jamaica and it wasn’t long before she found herself wanting to go back home.

“I was homesick, and I asked permission to take a semester to do some classes online and just go home for a bit”, said Myrie.

She received approval to take the semester off away from campus and do classes online in homeland of Jamaica. But when Myrie was ready to come back to campus her scholarships had been voided and she lost the opportunity to once again continue her education. It was back to square one and found herself back in Jamaica with no scholarships, no loans, and no job.

In the summer of 2018 Myrie once again came to the U.S as a vacation. This time while on vacation she received a call that one of her friends living in Hartford was pregnant and getting ready to undergo a C section. Chevelle’s mother encouraged to her to find a school in Hartford to continue her education. One of Myrie’s cousins referred her to Capital Community College where she met the head of International Admissions.

“The rest was history” Myrie said.

Myrie begin attending Capital in the fall of 2018 seeking an Associates in Business Management Entrepreneurship. “For me, it was location, not a bad school it’s a good school. Being at Capital I love it more every day because the people here care about the students as a whole and that’s not common.”

Aside from Myrie’s experience with business at an early age when she sold fruit from the tree that her father planted in her backyard, Myrie’s purpose for taking up this major is that she’s tired of family constantly struggling and wants to make sure her family is financially stable in the long run.


Myrie and fellow student at Phi Theta Kappa bake sale

In her first semester at Capital Community College Myrie earned a 4.0 making her eligible to be a part of the honor society known as Phi Theta Kappa and is currently the president. Despite enduring the difficulty of seeing her parents split and leaving family back home to pursuit education, her outlook is positive. “I’m alive, I’m ok,” she says.

Chevelle Karen Myrie is expected to graduate this coming May 2020.