Bilingual Teacher Recruitment Programs Face Uncertainty 

HARTFORD—The Paso a Paso and new Caribbean Connection programs at Hartford Public Schools have brought in and retained a total of 25 bilingual teachers for the 2023-2024 school year, amid state-wide teacher shortages.

About nine teachers have been recruited through the brand-new Caribbean Connection initiative—four from the pilot program last winter and an additional five beginning this fall—according to the Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Office.

While about 500 people had attended virtual information sessions on both programs and the Superintendent’s Office had received more than 330 applications in January, limited funding and the complex process of obtaining J1 Visas for hires from Caribbean nations meant that the district could only recruit a certain number of teachers.

“I think in terms of the recruitment and also the retention…that speaks to the support systems that the teams internally here have developed and also that the cohort has developed amongst themselves… So I would say it has been very successful,” shared HPS Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Jesse Sugarman.

However, the Superintendent’s Office shared uncertainty on whether both programs will continue next school year due to a lack of funding. These initiatives have been supported by American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, which expire in September 2024.Â

Connecticut schools saw hundreds of vacancies this past school year—especially in areas such as bilingual education, special education, world languages, math, and science. Large, urban districts including Hartford, New Haven, and Meriden have been experiencing acute shortages

Currently, Hartford’s public school district has 64 classroom vacancies but a spokesperson for Hartford Public Schools said that number is expected to change as new hires and late resignations are still being processed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged teachers and young students in ways most of us have never experienced. Research confirms that educators have felt intense levels of stress and burnout, resulting in waves of retirement and large numbers of resignations across the country.

Amid these shortages, students require robust support from faculty they can trust and relate to, shared Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez of Hartford Public Schools.

About 57 percent of Hartford students identify as Hispanic-Latino and 30 percent of students identify as Black or African American, while 25 percent of instructors identify as people of color. More than one in five Hartford students are also English Language Learners (ELL). 

The Carribean Connection and Paso a Paso programs look to bring more educators that can identify with Hartford’s diverse student population, Torres-Rodriguez told CT Latino News.

“Though we have the highest rate, compared to the state, in terms of educators of color, we still have a significant gap. So, every opportunity that we get to be intentional, as to not only our recruitment but also our retention efforts, we’re going to double down on that.�

Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez

In the 2022-2023 school year, seven teachers from the Paso a Paso program supported about 230 multilingual learners. Research has shown that English Language Learners typically perform better academically when they are first taught in their native language.

“What helped with Paso a Paso, there’s an already thriving Latino, Puerto Rican community here and there’s a West Indian community here,� Torres-Rodriguez told CT Latino News. “So, there are ties and community support networks that have already been flourishing for years, decades.�

Teachers in both programs were expected to fill positions in bilingual elementary education, Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL), English, special education, world language, math, science, music, and art.Â

Recruited from the Paso a Paso Pilot Program, Adriana Beltran-Rodriguez is one of two TESOL teachers at Michael D. Fox Elementary School. (Joe Amon/Connecticut Public)

Aside from recruitment efforts, Connecticut educators have emphasized the importance of retaining faculty to resolve the state-wide and nation-wide shortage.

“We can keep hiring the new folks who are coming out of teacher prep programs, but if we’re losing teachers who are 10 years in, 15 years in, it’s not going to solve the problem,â€�  Leslie Blatteau of the New Haven Federation of Teachers told CT Insider.

During informational sessions for both programs, candidates asked about potential opportunities for further education and professional development. In January, Torres-Rodriguez knew of at least two teachers in the Paso a Paso program who were interested in pursuing doctoral degrees.Â

“These are individuals that are coming here not just because they’re here to serve, and they find a connection to this community, but they also want to continue to grow, and grow the profession, and continue to give back, which is in alignment with our value set,� she said.

Central Connecticut State University had shared a strong interest in partnering with the school district to support Paso a Paso teachers interested in pursuing advanced studies, shared Torres-Rodriguez.

At the same time, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has been working with Hartford Public Schools in reviewing candidates of both programs to determine their eligibility for Connecticut Teacher Certification.

“We truly believe that having high-quality educators [who] our students can identify with is a benefit not just for students of color, but for all of our students,â€� Torres-Rodriguez said. “We know that there’s a society that is not a monolithic society—that it’s representative of so many things, whether it’s ethnic and cultural and gender and abilities. And that is what we’re aiming for…that every one of our students feel that they are seen, that they are heard, that they matter.â€�

Connecticut State Library Receives $249K Grant For Digital Inclusion Efforts

HARTFORD—Over the next two years, the Connecticut State Library (CSL) will design and apply a replicable system that shares digital navigation services to underserved communities across the state.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded the CSL’s Division of Library Development a National Leadership Grant of almost $250,000 to run this initiative that will be largely executed in the next year.

Eight public libraries will be collaborating in this effort—including the Bridgeport Public Library, Derby Public Library, Hamden Public Library, Howard Whittemore Memorial Library, Naugatuck, New Haven Free Public Library, Wallingford Public Library, West Haven Public Library, and Woodbridge Town Library.

The National Leadership Grant for Libraries Program looks to support a variety of projects, including those that strengthen library services to address the critical needs of its surrounding communities, according to the IMLS website.

The State Library of Connecticut’s Regional Navigator Sharing Plan includes distributing 400 computers and assisting 2,000 residents in need through the eight libraries collaborating in this initiative, along with creating a toolkit that supports other regions to recreate similar collaborative programs.

This plan focused on digital inclusion builds on the CSL’s ARPA-funded Digital Navigator Pilot Program that ran in several districts.

“Connecticut libraries are increasingly playing a role in the effort to close the digital divide,� said CSL’s Digital Inclusion Consultant Chris Gauvreau, who led the Digital Navigator Pilot. “This project is designed to develop a regional sharing model that will help small and rural libraries contribute without strain.�

SUGGESTION: CT Public Library Initiative Seeks To Close Local Digital Divide

In recent years, Connecticut Libraries have led efforts to address the ongoing digital divide across Connecticut, which largely impacts communities of color and other underserved residents including low-income households, senior citizens, and individuals with disabilities.

“We are proud to continue the work started with the Digital Navigator Pilot,� said State Librarian Deborah Schander. “Thanks to IMLS, we can continue to close the digital divide, both here in Connecticut and across the country.�

The 2020 Digital Divide In Connecticut Report found that about 35 percent of Latino residents and 31 percent of Black residents lacked wireline broadband internet at home, while 36 percent of Latino residents and 31 percent of Black residents did not have computer access at home.

“Libraries are at the forefront of the work closing the digital divide and ending information poverty for our most vulnerable citizens,� said Director Dawn La Valle of the CT State Library’s Division of Library Development. “Recognized as a leader in developing programs to address digital equity, CSL’s model project, will inform the rest of the country and provide a turnkey solution for teaching digital literacy skills.�

Publisher’s Notes: CTLN produces stories on the state’s ongoing digital divide to raise awareness on this equity issue that disproportionately impacts historically underserved communities. CTLN is a proud partner of the Connecticut State Public Libraries in serving Connecticut’s diverse Hispanic/Latino communities.

Is Outdoor Recreation And Education Enough To Prevent Childhood Obesity In Communities Of Color?

A version of this story, Can getting kids to exercise fight obesity in communities of color?, was originally published online by the Center for Health Journalism (CHJ) at the University of Southern California.

Written by CT Latino News Reporter and Editor Belen Dumont, the column introduces her project for the CHJ’s 2023 National Fellowship.

Obesity rates across the United States have risen steadily over the past several decades, and nowhere is the trend more apparent than in communities of color in Connecticut. Black, Hispanic, and Native American residents of the state have some of the highest rates of obesity on the East Coast. Intervention and prevention are urgently needed, and many experts agree that targeting youth should be a main focus.

Although the prevalence of obesity is lower among children than adults, a 2014 report in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society noted that children should be the priority for obesity intervention and prevention, as reducing excessive weight gain is usually more difficult when it has become established. Left unchecked, obesity raises the risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other chronic, costly health issues.

Many factors are fueling the obesity epidemic, including neighborhood design; lack of access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages; and limited access to safe, convenient places for physical activity, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control. Effective obesity prevention means that everyone has access to good nutrition and safe places for active recreation, the CDC days. The racial and ethnic disparities in obesity emphasize the need to address poverty, education, housing, and other social determinants of health.

Through a solutions-journalism approach, my project for the USC Center for Health Journalism 2023 National Fellowship will evaluate a variety of local and national initiatives to engage youth of color in outdoor recreation and education. I’ll look at how successful initiatives can be replicated in Hartford County—home to some of Connecticut’s largest communities of color.


Dumont Selected As Center For Health Journalism 2023 National Fellow

Obesity rates are well known to be correlated with socioeconomic status. Connecticut’s obesity epidemic is not surprising, given the levels of poverty and inequality in the state. Greater Hartford Community Wellbeing Index 2023, conducted by CT DataHaven, states: “Connecticut is highly segregated, particularly by race and income.� Previous research by the group found that the state’s concentrations of wealth and poverty rival some of the most segregated metro areas in the United States. “Even as the state diversifies, inequality has become more pronounced,� the report says.

It is crucial to inform young underserved populations how policy shapes the physical environment, and how the environment, in turn, connects directly to their health.

Our reporting in the coming months will raise awareness of the importance of obesity prevention and early treatment within communities of color, investigate common barriers that Black and Brown youth in Connecticut face when it comes to maintaining healthy diets and regular exercise, and focus on culturally-informed community efforts that look to decrease local childhood obesity rates.

Dumont Selected As Center For Health Journalism 2023 National Fellow 

The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism announced “the selection of 20 talented journalists to participate in its 2023 National Fellowship to report on issues affecting child, youth and family health and well-being in the United States.” Belen Dumont, Editor for the Latino News Network (LNN) – Northeast and Writer for Connecticut Latino News (CTLN) is among them.

The competitive program includes a five-day training that provides insights into how health is shaped by community conditions, systemic racism and opportunity. Through reporting stipends and months of expert mentoring, the Center for Health Journalism supports Fellows as they produce investigative and explanatory projects on challenges affecting child, youth and family well-being.

“I’m proud to welcome this group of reporters to Los Angeles this week. “We look forward to partnering with them (journalists) as they produce stories on health equity and systemic disparities in their communities that aim to make a difference,” said Michelle Levander, founding director of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism and editor-in-chief of its online community.

“I’m incredibly excited and grateful to have been selected to participate in the 2023 Center for Health Journalism National Fellowship,” said Dumont. She will spend the next several months investigating and producing solutions-focused stories on rising rising obesity rates among children and youth of color across Hartford County, CT. “I am honored to be able to cover my hometown community and highlight culturally-informed efforts that aim to combat racially disproportionate childhood obesity rates in Connecticut and support underserved child populations.â€�

“Grants like the Center for Health Journalism, provides dedicated journalists like Belen, and independent newsrooms like CTLN, the resources necessary to produce authentic stories that resonate with communities often invisible in the coverage of mainstream media,� said Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN. LNN oversees six independent digital news outlets in the Northeast and Midwest, including CTLN.

The 2023 National Fellowship is generously funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The National Fellowship also receives support from The California Endowment and the Kristy Hammam Fund for Health Journalism, an initiative of the Social Impact Fund. 

TheaterWorks Hartford Play Comments On Life After Incarceration

Theatergoers adorned Pearl Street in Downtown Hartford on Friday night for TheaterWorks Hartford’s premiere of the Tony-nominated performance, “Clyde’sâ€�.  

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage first opened “Clyde’sâ€� on Broadway at Hayes Theater in 2021. A blend of comedy and social commentary, Hartford’s performance is directed by Chicago-based Director Mikael Burke and runs from July 7–30.  

“Clyde’s is a delicious workplace comedy that reminds us that a great sandwich is so much more than just the sum of its parts,â€� Burke commented. “The play asks: Are we just the products of our mistakes, or is it possible to transcend them to become something more?â€� 

A formerly incarcerated kitchen staff at a truck stop sandwich shop in Pennsylvania is offered a shot at reclaiming their lives. Despite the shop owner’s attempts to keep them under her control and influence, the crew discovers purpose and personal aspirations through their shared quest of creating the perfect sandwich. 

“This funny, touching, and tasty tale shows us that while it’s easy to give up on ourselves when the world tells us we should, we must remember to love ourselves fully—mistakes and all—to free ourselves from our own prisons of self-hate. We, too, are more than just the sum of our parts,� Burke shared.

TheaterWorks Hartford has partnered with Community Partners in Action (CPA) to support its annual fundraiser. On Thursday, July 13, all proceeds from Clyde’s performance that night will be donated to support CPA and the Prison Arts Program. 

With at least 11 productions, “Clyde’s� has been the most-produced play across the country this past season, according to an annual survey by American Theater magazine.

“Clyde’s’ just hit the sweet spot—it has a multiracial cast, it addresses issues of incarceration and racial tension, it’s a comedy, and it’s really smart, and it’s by a Pulitzer winner,� American Theater Editor-In-Chief Rob Weinert-Kendt told the New York Times. “It’s a comedy, but it’s not turning away from the world.�

TheaterWorks Hartford’s cast includes ​​Ayanna Bria Bakari as Letitia, Michael Chenevert as Montrellous, Samuel María Gómez as Rafael, David T. Patterson as Jason, and Latonia Phipps as Clyde

Tickets are priced from $25 to $65 and can be purchased online or through the phone at (860)527-7838. The show runs for 95 minutes with no intermission. TheaterWorks Hartford no longer requires proof of vaccination, learn more about its COVID policy at 

“Clyde’s has everything that our audiences love: great writing, funny, entertaining, intimate, and relatable, and it encourages important conversations in the community,� remarked Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero.

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in supporting the state’s Arts and Culture. 

New TheaterWorks Hartford Play Celebrates Art

HARTFORD—A tribute to the power and influence of preserved art, THE REMBRANDT, premieres Friday, April 21, at TheaterWorks Hartford in partnership with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. 

“When I was putting together the 22/23 season, this play presented an exciting opportunity to tell an unexpected and moving story – it also created space to partner again with our friends at the Wadsworth,� shared Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero. “Together, we’ve collaborated on some terrific programming that not only brings our audiences together but celebrates a powerful theme: connecting through art.�

THE REMBRANDT—written by award-winning playwright Jessica Dickey— is set in a modern-day art museum, following a journey that explores centuries of human experience when a museum guard decides to touch a famous Rembrandt painting. 

“At its core, I’m looking at this play through the lens of an art maker. A theater maker. And so the idea that one can be provoked, inspired and compelled by a work of art in a meaningful, challenging and life affirming way speaks to me,� Director Maria Mileaf commented. “These characters are all seeking or avoiding something. They are forced to discern what their journey is going to be and they are, by interacting with art, given the chance to make purposeful choices.�

Director Mileaf also shared her excitement working with TheaterWorks Hartford and its talented cast and crew for the first time.

“I am also really buoyed by the opportunity to be in a rehearsal room with this astonishing and bold group of actors and designers,� she said.

The cast includes Ephraim Birney as Dodger/Titus, Bill Buell as Simon/Homer, Michael Chenevert as Henry/Rembrandt, Brandon Espinoza as Jonny/Martin, and Amber Reauchean Williams as Madeline/Henny.

The performance will run from April 21 to May 14 and stream on demand from May 7 to May 14. In-person tickets are priced from $25 to $65 and can be purchased online at or by calling (860)527-7838.  

The show runs for 90 minutes with no intermission. TheaterWorks Hartford no longer requires proof of vaccination, learn more on its COVID policy at

“In this visually stunning tour-de-force, THE REMBRANDT explores the power of creative expression and the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of love and beauty,� reads the TheaterWorks Hartford website.

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in supporting the state’s Arts and Culture. 

Community Conversation Shares Accessible Financial & Technical Business Resources

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits continue to recover—with a disproportionate impact on organizations in historically underserved communities that tend to face more barriers in accessing federal resources.

CT Latino News partnered with the CT Small Business Boost Fund to produce an informational presentation on free resources available to small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

The virtual event was released on Facebook and Youtube Wednesday evening.

Originally planned as a hybrid event at the Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Branch, CTLN transitioned the event to be completely online to accommodate accessibility and health & safety concerns.

CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont moderated the event and briefly spoke on a few local support networks that provide free online resources and offer funding specifically to women and minority-owned organizations.

Sheila Hummel, Director of the Small Business Development Office within the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, shared available financial resources for small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

She highlighted the CT Small Business Boost Fund for its advertised accessible and flexible loans, before answering a few common questions from applicants.

“The focus is really on deploying to small businesses and nonprofits in underserved markets and [to] women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veteran-owned businesses,” she explained.

Hummel also emphasized the importance of technical assistance, explaining where businesses can find this support—for free.

“These organizations will help you build the capacity of your organization,” Hummel said. “[Technical Assistance] kind of provides you with, if you have a development need or a problem in your business, or you need help with your financials…they’re there to help you.”

The online event then featured highlights from Capital For Change Earl Randall’s appearance on CTLN Opinion+.

Director Randall of Small Business Lending explained how his work looks to specifically support businesses in local underserved communities. He also emphasized the role that accessible loan programs play within the state’s economy.

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Randall also spoke on Capital For Change’s role within the CT Small Business Boost Program, and how his team looks to support interested applicants.

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Access The Statewide Resources for CT Small Businesses Presentation Below:

Contact Director Sheila Hummel of the Small Business Development Office at

Contact CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont at

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

Home Inspection Business Owner Benefited From Early Days at SCOW

WALLINGFORD — Growing up in Wallingford in the late-1990s through the early 2000s, there weren’t a lot of Latinos like Octavio Dominguez, who’s of Mexican origin.

However, it wasn’t until Dominguez started attending the Spanish Community of Wallingford’s programs that he was able to find his community and build a foundation for his future career endeavors such as his own home inspection business, Grizzly Home Inspections, and his record label, Resalta Records, at only 25 years old.

“Growing up in Wallingford as a Latino, there weren’t a lot of Latinos there,� Domingez said. “All the Latinos that were there, we were pretty united … SCOW helped form the big part of that because there were a lot of people from our same town (in Mexico) that we wouldn’t know and wouldn’t hang out with until SCOW. We started building friendships through them.�

Read the full story by the Record-Journal’s Latino Communities Lab at:

Publisher’s Note: CTLatinoNews partners with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.

Community Conversation: Local Resources for Small Businesses & Nonprofits

Mark your calendars for March 22—Community Conversation: Local Resources for Small Businesses & Nonprofits.

CT Latino News is hosting the informational event in partnership with the CT Small Business Boost Fund on public financial and technical resources for small businesses and nonprofits across Connecticut.

The in-person event will be at the Hartford Public Library, Park Street Branch at The Lyric, and live streamed on Facebook at @CT Latino News. 

Small businesses and nonprofits across Connecticut continue to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, three years after its arrival. Although a few federal programs have been available to CT organizations, those in underserved communities typically have more difficulty accessing these services. 

In CT, Hispanics make up 15.6 percent of the state’s workforce but only nine percent owned businesses, according to a 2021 report by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. 

This event—moderated by CTLN Writer/Editor Belen Dumont—will cover a variety of local resources that look to be more user-friendly and specifically support organizations in underserved communities.

One resource includes the CT Small Business Boost Fund, which is “specifically geared to provide low-interest financing to businesses with the emphasis on small businesses throughout Connecticut,� Earl Randall of Capital for Change told CTLN.

“The general gist is to provide funding to businesses, quite frankly, that have not had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the federal programs,� Randall said. 

Register ahead HERE.

CTLN Opinion+: Earl Randall

Welcome to another episode of CTLN Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Connecticut. 

This week we spoke with Earl Randall from Capital for Change on the pandemic’s continuous impact on local organizations along with resources for small businesses and nonprofits in underserved communities. 

Capital for Change works throughout Connecticut in a variety of areas as the organization is “dedicated to providing flexible, creative, and responsive financial products and services that support an inclusive and sustainable economy,â€� reads its mission statement. 

As the Director of Programs & Small Business Lending, Earl oversees and collaborates on a variety of programs—including MyHomeCT and the Westville Program—that look to support homeowners, landlords, growing organizations, and other residents across Connecticut. 

Randall explained that Capital for Change has previously participated in small business programs, but in 2022 the organization decided to re-enter the small business arena in a new and effective way. 

In August 2022, Capital for Change officially became a lender under the CT Small Business Boost Fund—a private-public partnership between the Department of Economic and Community Development, the National Development Council, and more. 

“The program is specifically geared to provide low-interest financing to businesses with the emphasis on small businesses throughout Connecticut,â€� Randall explained. “The general gist is to provide funding to businesses, quite frankly, that have not had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the federal programs.â€�  

There are two major factors that make the Fund unique and distinctive from other loan programs, Randall said in the interview. 

“The interest rate currently on CT Boost Loans is 4.5 percent, which is tremendous, relative to current interest rates,â€� Randall shared. “The other distinctive feature of the program is that it is not a collaterally designated program. Normally, when businesses apply for loans, the first or second question the lender will say is ‘what is your collateral?’…The objective is to make it as user-friendly as possible.â€� 

Randall’s department first gathers information from interested applicants about their organization and what their specific needs are. His team then coaches and guides the applicant through the application process. 

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Randall also spoke on the various barriers many small businesses and nonprofits face and how accommodating services are crucial to support these growing organizations. 

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Resources mentioned in this video: