To the editor:
I attended the graduation for College Edge students held at Norwalk City Hall on Monday, May 8. It was refreshing not to hear a long list of political names mentioned before the event began. It was strictly about the children and their success. I saw children I’ve known since they were in preschool preparing to leave for college. The parents were proud. It was strictly a night for them and their children to celebrate their arrival to this juncture. I’d be remiss not to mention Darlene Young, also in attendance, who brought the program to Norwalk via the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program.
The College Edge program is run by Norwalk resident Tristan Fields, through Higher Education Literacy Professional (HELP). Fields founded HELP, a non-profit organization, in 2015 with his close friends and fellow University of New Haven alumni Latif Brown, Jeffery Kennerly, and Jermaine Miller. The program helps youth prepare for college entrance exams, essays, applications, and the like, in addition to helping them with the skills they will need for college success. Fields and company also take the children to visit the colleges they want to attend.
For younger children, Fields, also a Cornell University graduate, runs the Homework HELPers program through HELP to assist students with homework. He employs bright, local, high school students to help the students.
To see the graduates last night did my heart a world of good. I remembered many from my days as a children’s librarian. Some were silly. Some were shy. All were typical, lovely children, and it was nice to reconnect with them and some of their parents.
I ran into a parent of a child with whom my daughter went to preschool last week at the Post Office. I couldn’t remember her name, so I called her Nijah Blue’s mom. I told her a story about her daughter that remains in my mind. I was visiting the preschool, The Children’s Playhouse, while Nijah was trying to write one of the letters of the alphabet. The teacher told her it was OK. She went back to her table to try again. The teacher told her it was better. She did this four more times until the teacher told her it was good. She went back to her table two more times until the teacher told her it was great. I stood in amazement, knowing that that child’s spirit of excellence was going to take her to great places. Who was the speaker during the program? Nijah Blue! She graduated from the College Edge program last year. Her mother and I laughed at seeing each other again so soon. I met Nijah’s father and Nijah was still the kind-hearted, gentle-spirited girl I remembered, just an older version.
Tristan, thank you for what you are doing for Norwalk youth. Thank you for pushing those who need that extra bit of help to make it. Thank you enhancing those who already have the gifts. Thank you for quietly caring and passionately pursuing these children to help them academically. As the saying goes, “I see you.”
Assistant Director, Norwalk Public Library
At-Large Member, Norwalk Board of Education