To the editor,
COVID-19 is having an impact on our community, but it has helped shed some light on another pandemic happening right under our noses. After being enrolled in the Parent Leadership Training Institute program in Naugatuck for only nine weeks, I am finding myself being pulled in a new and unexpected direction.
I am a middle-class white woman with obvious privileges. My experiences have shielded me from understanding what others’ lives are like. This class and the people I have grown to call family are opening my eyes to systemic racism, food insecurities, homelessness, domestic violence and other problems of society.
I joined this group to bring to the table my voice about being a parent of a child with special needs. My hope was to provide more information and programs to our borough to help families like ours. However, using my voice for those who can’t speak for themselves has become my personal mission. I’m realizing there is a significant humanitarian crisis, and I am going to do my best to combat it.
A requirement to be in PLTI is to create a community impact project. I came into this class knowing what I wanted to do. Then, I was bamboozled by new information.
We speak of what it means to be a community. We share our stories and experiences to help guide the other people in the group to a better viewpoint. We each bring something different, but have the common goal of improving our community.
We are going to learn how local governments work, what networking is, how to speak publicly … all to get these projects down on paper, and maybe even to see them carried out.
What an extraordinary opportunity we have been given. That is why I am shifting gears. As much as children with special needs need some love and support, I’m beginning to see there are many more people who need that same warmth and kindness.
My CIP is to make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a priority in Naugatuck.
This seems big, I know, but hear me out. If I am going to put the work in, to make sure my child with special needs feels included in everything he does, why wouldn’t I want the same for a Black, Indigenous or person of color, LGBQT+ individual, or a strong, independent woman? The list is endless, because everyone needs to have representation.
I’m starting with conversations, research and education. I am taking extra courses on DEI, I am attending several ZOOM meetings a week talking to experts on DEI topics. I am hosting meetings to hear what community members have to say. What I am learning the most is that people just want someone to listen and honor them. It also is becoming abundantly clear that we have a deficit. There’s this gross, unspoken hate and aggression toward others that unfortunately is grounded in mistruths and misunderstanding.
Someone has to do the work to bring people together, to showcase the importance of DEI and representation, and to make a change for the better.
The writer is a board member for Connecticut Partnership for Children, member of the Naugatuck Parent School Council and vice president of the Salem Elementary School PTO.