Matt Poland

Matt Poland is the chief executive officer of the Library and a social media geek.

We are ecstatic to announce that we were awarded a five-year $646,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Education to support the creation of the Owl Enrichment Center at Hartford Public High School’s (HPHS) Law & Government Academy.

In the spring of 2011, we collaborated with Hartford Public Schools (HPS) to relocate our Mark Twain Branch to Hartford Public High School’s campus. Since then, a really wonderful collaborative relationship has grown among our staff and the educators at the HPHS Law & Government Academy, creating a national model for library-school collaboration. As a result, a reinvigoration of literacy-rich programming, resources, and community supports has become anchored in the learning community, above and beyond what the school was previously able to provide by itself.  Inspired by our early experiences to plan jointly effective and quality high quality programming we sought to deepen our collaboration and extend our collective capacity to benefit to students, parents and the community.

“I want to congratulate and thank the Hartford Public Library for its ongoing commitment to enriching the academic lives of our students beyond the classroom,” Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said. “Students learn better when they know that their whole community is invested in their progress.”school was previously able to provide by itself.  Inspired by our early experiences to plan jointly effective and quality high quality programming we sought to deepen our collaboration and extend our collective capacity to benefit to students, parents and the community.

The Owl Enrichment Center, named in celebration and recognition of the Hartford Public High School’s mascot, will reinvent and reinvigorate after-school programming to provide HPHS students with academic supports and interventions, engaging arts, health and enrichment activities and empowering community programs for parents.  The program will create safe, enriching spaces four days a week after school, on Saturdays and during the months of July and August.  The program will:

  • Serve 80 students in grades 9 through 12
  • Provide 14.5 hours each week of additional support, learning and enrichment time
  • Operate for 38 weeks throughout the school year beginning in late-September and running through August
  • Provide daily support from one program coordinator, two certified teachers, one lead tutors, four tutors, and two enrichment activity leaders which represents a ratio of 1:10
  • Provide students with the necessary resources to demonstrate college-ready skills in reading, writing and math
  • Provide students with the necessary resources to complete a college-ready curriculum, including a Capstone experience
  • Require every student to successfully complete a college application process and attend a financial planning workshop
  • Engage and provide parents and guardians with significant programming tailored to their needs including a Monday “family night” with dinner.

As a result of this program, our students will become stronger readers, writers and critical thinkers who are more engaged in school and are inspired to contribute to society in productive and meaningful ways.

“This grant recognizes the importance of collective impact in our resource-strapped society. Alone, the outcomes can be incremental; but together, we have the capacity for significant impact,” said Matthew K. Poland, chief executive officer at Hartford Public Library.

The Travelers Foundation awarded HPL with a $50,000 grant that will provide continued funding to the Teen Leader Initiative. We began this Initiative to provide teens a basic understanding of what is needed to achieve success in both their academic and working careers. The Initiative has been in existence for nineteen years, funded primarily by Travelers in the past five years. With a strong emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, learning, communication and collaboration, technology and information literacy, life and career, and personal and social responsibility, teens become firmly grounded in 21st century skills.

“Travelers is committed to providing the tools and opportunities young people need to succeed,” said Tara N. Spain, Vice President of the Travelers Foundation. “The Teen Leader Initiative is a great model for building future leaders out of today’s youth.”

This year’s Teen Leader Initiative will have an emphasis on information literacy and technology, preparing ten Hartford teens for education and careers in a digital world.  Activities will align with common core curriculum and quickly evolving digital trends, increasing their ability to navigate a world where mastery of technology skills is essential.

Teens will create information guides for online resources to share with Homework Club students during peer-to-peer tutoring.  As part of their final project, teens will interview local businesses, identify and address a real-life information need, learn the value of accurate information and contribute to economic stability.  “As the teens learn, so will their communities, and both will be enriched” said Matthew K. Poland, chief executive officer at Hartford Public Library.

The Teen Leader Initiative can significantly change the lives of a small group of teens while impacting countless Hartford youth under their tutelage.  It supports the goals of Hartford Public Schools, increasing achievement and building college readiness.  The teens are transformed by strong mentorship, skill acquisition, and goal-setting opportunities, yielding an increase in college-bound graduates and a prepared future workforce.

We are thrilled to announce that we have been awarded a $7,500 grant from Bank of America in support of our Teen Leaders Initiative.  We began this initiative to provide Hartford teens a basic understanding of what is needed to achieve success in both their academic and working careers. With a strong emphasis on career education, job readiness skills, workplace expectations, project management, and personal finance, teens are firmly grounded 21st century skills. This grant will provide for the hiring of five teens that will work with library staff for nine weeks at five branches during the summer months.

Teen Leaders will attend a series of educational workshops that will improve their ability to make positive personal, academic and career decisions. They will participate in the Federal Lunch Program, provide daily library service, and help impact the lives of over 20,000 youth every year.

Teens will also assist with the 2013 Summer Reading Program by guiding and mentoring young readers and by coordinating youth programs and workshops.  In this capacity, they will serve as role models and peer tutors.  Furthermore, they learn educational and leadership skills that inspire the youth they serve.  The Summer Reading Program supports and motivates Hartford youth to achieve summer reading gains that decrease summer learning loss and improve grade-level reading proficiency.

“While the Teen Leader Initiative transforms the lives of a small group of teens, these young people impact the lives of many Hartford youth” said Matthew K. Poland, chief executive officer at Hartford Public Library.

We’re having salsa lessons at the library!

Come to the Downtown Library to learn, move, turn and be empowered by the influence of salsa music and dance!
Free and open to the public, but registration is required. You must register for each night separately. All you need is your library card!

Wednesday, July 24, 6-7:30pm
Wednesday, July 31, 6-7:30pm
Wednesday, August 7, 6-7:30pm

Click here to register for any or all of the sessions.

Presented in collaboration with the City of Hartford Health and Human Services Department and Puentes Project by students of Springfield College of Human Services.

For more information or if you have questions, call (860) 695-6300.

If you’d like to share these lessons, please print the flyer!

 

As part of our Adult Summer Reading Program, we’re holding giveaways for people who participate! To sign up for the summer reading program or to learn more about the giveaways, visit any of our branch locations.

July 19 Drawing – Tour Passes to The Mark Twain House & Museum 

Congratulations to the winners!

Customers
Albany Branch – Maritza, Cynthia and Javier
Barbour Branch – Gloria, Sonia and Nietha
Blue Hills Branch – Nicole, Leslie, and  Peta-Ann
Camp Field Branch – Ashley, and Sybill, Joseph
Downtown Branch – Kalveana, Kimberly, Darlene
Dwight Branch – Daisy, Denise, Sasha
Goodwin Branch – Keith, Elyse, Shantay
Mark Twain Branch – Charlene, Iris, Susan
Park Branch – George, Marie and Elba
Ropkins Branch – Darlene, April, Danielle

Staff
Ada, Elena, Iris

August 2 Drawing – Free 1-year subscription to CT Explored 

August 16 Drawing – A journal with pen, and a Hartford Public Library book bag

August 23 Drawing – A photographic keepsake book, Hartford, Photographic Moments of the People, Places and Lives in Our Region OR Sonia Sotomayor’s Mi mundo adorado

GRAND PRIZE DRAWING – August 23 – Kindle Fire (one winner only)

 

 

 

 

Contributor: April Adams

Nailah and April
For my first assignment as a Cultural Navigator at Hartford Public Library, I was assigned to help Nailah study for her US Citizenship interview and exam. We worked together twice a week in one hour sessions throughout the months of April, May and June.
Nailah is very sweet, very gentle and was initially very shy around me. For the 4-6 weeks her youngest son Syed would hang around our meeting space at the library, but eventually I saw him less and less. I found Syed to be much more accustomed to the American way of life (I never had a doubt he’d ace his interview and exam) and a respectful young man. Very protected of his mother and very obedient. For example, if mom said wear a jacket today it’s cold, you can believe he was wearing a hoodie! He once asked me why I was helping, was it a mandatory assignment of sorts, to which I replied “No, I am volunteering to help. I’m very blessed and happy to help others.” His 20 year old jaw dropped in disbelief. I sensed from that day forward I had his utmost respect.
Nailah with Nancy Caddigan,
Intercultural Liaison at HPL
I feel blessed to be an United States citizen, to speak a globally recognized language and I know with that comes an innate understanding about American customs. I understand, for the most part, our US customs (I’m from North Carolina and just myself learning the ropes of living in the Northeast). I tease her often that she has five kids (for I have none so I can’t imagine 5!), the courage to move to another country and the guts to learn the language and become an American. The equivalent would be for me to move at my current age to a foreign land and achieve as much in 5 years. I applaud her! Just being around her helps give me perspective for my problems or life challenges seems quite small in comparison.
Nailah recently aced her citizenship interview and exam. She didn’t miss a single question! Even though we’ve accomplished our initial goal, she has asked me to continue helping her with her English. I’m honored to continue working with her. No doubt I’ll walk away from this experience equally as blessed as Nailah. She has touched and enriched my life. Thank you Nailah.

Francis Bacon was to have said, “Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.” I didn’t think this to be true until, as an adult, I had a garden of my own. Every year I plant vegetables for my daughter to pick and my animals to eat. My garden beds are small and manageable, yet still they succeed in exhausting me weekly with a never-ending supply of weeds, all things that keep me busy most Sunday mornings before the sun gets too hot.

rups parents
The Bharatis with seed packets in hand
I am fortunate that, though I live in a city, I have a small yard. Living in a city does not always afford one the benefits of a yard let alone a garden. Hartford residents have access to only a small list of community gardens around the city, so getting a bed can be difficult. At an Asylum Hill neighborhood welcoming event, an older couple, the Bharatis, from Nepal expressed an interest in wanting to garden, but they didn’t know who to talk to nor how to find one. Also, their limited English skills made it difficult for them to communicate (their son Rup served as a liaison for them.) Connecting with the closest community garden, Knox Gardenson Laurel Street was even more of a challenge, so I was asked to help them get a garden plot.
Through talking with the people at Knox, I was happy to learn that many immigrants take advantage of Hartford community gardens. In fact, in the Asylum Hill neighborhood, it is common to see Karen, Vietnamese, and Somali residents walking from their garden plots with an abundance of crops for their own families or to sell or exchange with others. In fact, community gardens can be extremely beneficial to cities with immigrant communities. Not only can immigrants grow traditional crops native to their home countries, they can also take advantage of the cultural exchange between other gardeners. More importantly, gardening allows people from all backgrounds the opportunity to work side by side on common goals without speaking the same language. Imagine! Working collaboratively without the constraints of a language barrier!
So with the help of the Bharati’s son Rup and the diligence of Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association (AHNA) chair Jennifer Cassidy and Knox Gardens Community Outreach Director Charmaine Craig, the Bharatis received not one but two garden beds at Knox. When I called Rup for an update on his parents, he reported that his parents had toured the Knox Gardens with Charmaine, were given seeds to begin planting, and were extremely happy at the promise of a wonderful gardening season. A good friend and avid gardener used to repeat a quote to me, “A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.” Indeed, this is true! I cannot wait to find out how the Bharati’s garden is doing. I hope it is bringing them much joy and happiness!

Contributor: April Adams

Nailah and April
For my first assignment as a Cultural Navigator at Hartford Public Library, I was assigned to help Nailah study for her US Citizenship interview and exam. We worked together twice a week in one hour sessions throughout the months of April, May and June.
 
Nailah is very sweet, very gentle and was initially very shy around me. For the 4-6 weeks her youngest son Syed would hang around our meeting space at the library, but eventually I saw him less and less. I found Syed to be much more accustomed to the American way of life (I never had a doubt he’d ace his interview and exam) and a respectful young man. Very protected of his mother and very obedient. For example, if mom said wear a jacket today it’s cold, you can believe he was wearing a hoodie! He once asked me why I was helping, was it a mandatory assignment of sorts, to which I replied  “No, I am volunteering to help. I’m very blessed and happy to help others.” His 20 year old jaw dropped in disbelief. I sensed from that day forward I had his utmost respect.
 
Nailah with Nancy Caddigan,
Intercultural Liaison at HPL
I feel blessed to be an United States citizen, to speak a globally recognized language and I know with that comes an innate understanding about American customs. I understand, for the most part, our US customs (I’m from North Carolina and just myself learning the ropes of living in the Northeast). I tease her often that she has five kids (for I have none so I can’t imagine 5!), the courage to move to another country and the guts to learn the language and become an American. The equivalent would be for me to move at my current age to a foreign land and achieve as much in 5 years. I applaud her! Just being around her helps give me perspective for my problems or life challenges seems quite small in comparison.
 
Nailah recently aced her citizenship interview and exam. She didn’t miss a single question! Even though we’ve accomplished our initial goal, she has asked me to continue helping her with her English. I’m honored to continue working with her. No doubt I’ll walk away from this experience equally as blessed as Nailah. She has touched and enriched my life. Thank you Nailah.

Francis Bacon was to have said, “Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.” I didn’t think this to be true until, as an adult, I had a garden of my own. Every year I plant vegetables for my daughter to pick and my animals to eat. My garden beds are small and manageable, yet still they succeed in exhausting me weekly with a never-ending supply of weeds, all things that keep me busy most Sunday mornings before the sun gets too hot.

The Bharatis with seed packets in hand
I am fortunate that, though I live in a city, I have a small yard. Living in a city does not always afford one the benefits of a yard let alone a garden. Hartford residents have access to only a small list of community gardens around the city, so getting a bed can be difficult.  At an Asylum Hill neighborhood welcoming event, an older couple, the Bharatis, from Nepal expressed an interest in wanting to garden, but they didn’t know who to talk to nor how to find one.  Also, their limited English skills made it difficult for them to communicate (their son Rup served as a liaison for them.) Connecting with the closest community garden, Knox Gardenson Laurel Street was even more of a challenge, so I was asked to help them get a garden plot.
Through talking with the people at Knox, I was happy to learn that many immigrants take advantage of Hartford community gardens. In fact, in the Asylum Hill neighborhood, it is common to see Karen, Vietnamese, and Somali residents walking from their garden plots with an abundance of crops for their own families or to sell or exchange with others. In fact, community gardens can be extremely beneficial to cities with immigrant communities. Not only can immigrants grow traditional crops native to their home countries, they can also take advantage of the cultural exchange between other gardeners.  More importantly, gardening allows people from all backgrounds the opportunity to work side by side on common goals without speaking the same language. Imagine! Working collaboratively without the constraints of a language barrier!
So with the help of the Bharati’s son Rup and the diligence of Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association (AHNA) chair Jennifer Cassidy and Knox Gardens Community Outreach Director Charmaine Craig, the Bharatis received not one but two garden beds at Knox. When I called Rup for an update on his parents, he reported that his parents had toured the Knox Gardens with Charmaine, were given seeds to begin planting, and were extremely happy at the promise of a wonderful gardening season. A good friend and avid gardener used to repeat a quote to me, “A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.” Indeed, this is true! I cannot wait to find out how the Bharati’s garden is doing. I hope it is bringing them much joy and happiness!

It’s a little before 9 on a Sunday morning. I’ve arranged to video chat with the Misbahs because this week, the whole family will have their citizenship interviews, three tomorrow followed by the remaining four on Tuesday. I’ve grown close to the family over the years, and have followed them through this whole process, so I’m eager talk to them about how they’re feeling. I begin talking with Saqlain, the oldest.
When Saqlain begins talking, I can already sense his confidence. He’s been studying the material endlessly since beginning the citizenship process a few months ago. As the oldest, he’s contended with most of the preparation responsibility, and I can see it has taken a bit of a toll on him. I ask him what the most challenging part of the process has been. Besides collecting and organizing all the data and paperwork, a feat unto itself I’m sure (especially for a family of 8!), he admits he doesn’t like the history part very much. “Why do I have to remember the dates?” he asks. He admits, at first, that he memorized the dates but then actually began learning the information. I ask him how he feels about his interview and he tells me he’s not nervous at all , I’m sure a result of being over prepared. “That’s the Misbah way!” I joke because I’ve seen it many times with this family and we all laugh together. It’s this sort of preparedness that has allowed Saqlain and his family to come so far.

Nimrah, the second oldest is next to talk to me. Like her older brother, she too feels prepared and like him, she has struggled with some of the Constitution questions. I admit to her that they’re not so easy. The two older children did not benefit from going to high school in America so, unlike their younger siblings who went to high school here, the

subject of American government is not as familiar. Despite this, the family has remained close through this process, helping each other to stud, attending citizenship classes at the library together on Saturdays, and quizzing each other relentlessly.

Syed Jr. is next. When he sits down at the computer, I immediately ask him what his name will be once he becomes a citizen. He laughs. He knows this has been a source of confusion for me because I have come to understand there are differences between what a Pakistani uses as a last name versus what an American uses. The family joins in to set me straight and we laugh together as I try to make sense of it all. Ultimately, citizenship will allow the family, including the parents, to use their proper last name, Syed. No longer will they be Misbahs.
The youngest sisters follow their brother. Moni is the first in the family to have her interview. I make a big deal that she is the first one. “You’re the first!” I say, but this doesn’t faze her. She took AP government in high school, so like her brother, she’s comfortable and confident with the material. She smiles when I ask her how she’s feeling about tomorrow, replying that she’s excited. Her sister Mumiza feels the same sort of confidence and excitement too. When I ask her what citizenship will mean for her, she tells me she is looking forward to having more educational opportunities, including access to scholarships and academic programs. She wants to go to pharmacy school. Citizenship may help to make her dream possible.

Nailah, the matriarch of the family, has walked a long road to arrive to today. Knowing her English skills were not at the level of the rest of her family, she began attending English classes at the library earlier in the year. She also connected with April, a Cultural Navigator at the library. Cultural Navigators can help new immigrants learn to adjust into American culture, gain access to city services, or in Nailah’s case, offer English literacy support. I ask her how she has liked working with April and she smiles, telling me that April has been very helpful to her and that she enjoys their relationship very much; she wants to continue working with her on her literacy skills. Nailah has been working persistently with April on the reading and writing section of the citizenship test, an area she felt would be the most difficult for her. In addition to her work with April, her devoted children have drilled her endlessly, giving her advice on how to handle questions. Mumiza explains, “I tell her ‘just don’t rush, listen to the key points’, and I remind her be careful and to make sure she understands the question before answering.” Her children are all committed to making sure their mother passes along with them. I love this about them.

What will citizenship mean for them? How will it change their lives? I ask Nailah those questions and she tells me that her children will have access to scholarships and medical benefits. I ask her what citizenship will mean for her (and I really emphasize “her”.) She smiles broadly and humbly and tells me that she feels good because her children will have all these opportunities. Saqlain is looking forward to voting, to “be a part of the democracy.” His siblings all agree that citizenship will provide them with many opportunities, opportunities which they are grateful and will work hard for.
Unfortunately I do not get to see Syed Sr. today as he has to work this morning. His children tell me their father’s name will change to Misbah Uddin Syed, and I smile when I hear this because I think I’m finally starting to get their names straight. I start to think I’m more nervous about their interviews than they are! I wish them all well and thank them for allowing me to join them on their journey. I can’t wait to hear how it all turns out. More to come later this week! Tune in!

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