VIDEO: “Children’s Champion” Senator Toni Boucher Award Presentation [Bethel Patch]

July 31, 2014

Report and Video/Photography by Paula Antolini ©2014

The “Children’s Champion” award of recognition was presented to CT State Senator Toni Boucher by the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, at 10:30 a.m. on July 28, 2014. The event took place at the Danbury YMCA, 57 Grassy Plain Street, in Bethel, CT. This is the fourth time CT State Senator Toni Boucher is receiving this award.

Samantha Dynowski, Director of Advocacy and Outreach for the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, presented the award. She said, “Each year the members of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance develop a policy agenda, kind of a list of items that we would like the legislature to work on during the legislative session that will help insure that young children in Connecticut get the right start to achieve success in school and in life. At the end of each legislative session, we regroup to see how we did, and which legislator stepped forward to help with that agenda. Senator Boucher’s understanding of the importance of a strong start, her support of the establishment of the Office of Early Childhood, her engagement and interaction with advocates for early childhood at the capitol, and her outspoken leadership on this issue in the education committee and on the senate floor, has earned Senator Boucher this recognition. She has impressed advocates with her informed questions, and her focus on positive outcomes for children. And we thank you for all of it. So, on behalf of the Alliance and all of the advocates here in this room, thank you.”

CT State Senator Toni Boucher said, “I can’t thank you enough. I have to tell you that this is something that represents work on many people’s parts, both sides of the political isle. It had been a true privilege for me to be given this opportunity. I have to highlight that this is truly a public private partnership. The YMCA has been amazing and outstanding and particularly in this area, as is the town and municipalities, and our boards of education that recognize that they need students and children coming into their school systems that are better prepared in order for them to do their work well, so they understand the value of that.”

Boucher continued, “The Children’s Alliance has done yeoman’s work as an advocate, I can’t tell you. And I have to thank my leadership, who is here, Senator John McKinney, who allowed me in the senate the ability to work on these issues. He really is in charge. You know, he hands out the assignments and you don’t always get the assignments that you care about, but he understood and has been such a great supporter for myself, and not just this issue, because many people don’t realize I came to this country when I was five from Europe. I did not speak any English. My parents were illiterate essentially. My father had a fifth grade education, my mother did not have one day in school. We were farmers, I was born on a farm. That’s where I would have been if not for coming here and going to a public school system in Naugatuck, Connecticut. I didn’t have the ability to go to pre-school, or parents that could read to you, and I knew how hard it was, those early years. To catch up, it took really to the fourth grade, essentially, and when I raised my children they attended preschool luckily, and now my grandchildren do. But the vast difference in learning between raising my own children and now my grandchildren has been unbelievable. And the Alliance has been so great in educating all of us in the legislature, even those of us that thought we were educated, and to learn how brain development is evolving to such a point that 80% of what we learn from the time we’re born to the age of five. Think of the opportunities there for advancement of learning is such a complex world that we are now all living in, a technological world. a global competitiveness world, and so the work that you do, I feel, is most important in our society, and I can’t thank you for that privilege for me to be able to work in this field, along side so many others that you’ll recognize, again, friends and advocates on both sides of the isle.”

In closing Boucher said, “I’m overwhelmed by the attendance here today. I can’t thank you enough, but particularly I love seeing the kids, it is just great. and is the simple reason why I even tip my foot in the public service arena. So thank you all very much for this much treasured recognition. I think it’s the most important one that I ever get. Thank you.” Applause ensued.

Seven young students of the YMCA then entered the room and presented Boucher with flowers and a poster of the children that said “thank you.” Boucher said, “Oh my goodness! Now you are going to make me cry.”
Earlier, John L. Cattelan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs said, “I’d like to thank Senator Boucher. You know there’s a lot of work we were doing up at the capitol in the last couple of weeks trying to get implementation for the Office of Early Childhood and the Smart Star Program, and obviously she was very instrumental in helping all of the Y’s out and Early Childhood Alliance. I want to thank you again.”

Other speakers were Marie B. Miszewski, President/CEO of the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut, and Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker. Miszewski congratulated Boucher and also said they were very pleased with the relationship between the town of Bethel and the YMCA. Miszewski said, “I would be really remiss if I didn’t thank First Selectman Knickerbocker. He’s a wonderful landlord for us. We lease the building from the town. He’s gotten more stuff done in the few short years that I’ve been around than in the twenty years prior to that. Thank you very much for your support.”

Knickerbocker said, “The Y Children’s Center has been an integral part of our community for over three decades now. My kids went here, who now have their kids. There was a move some time ago that some members of our community thought that this should be privatized. We put an end to that talk. We invested heavily in the building. You have taken the initiative to get grant money and do even more with this, so this is here to stay. This is a tremendous benefit to our community. I want to thank the senator for all of your work to make this gem even better. And thank you to the Alliance for all of your work too. This is a great place.”
The prestigious award was presented by the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance to a total of twenty-four state legislators this session, who have been recognized for making Connecticut’s young children and their families a priority.