Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Color of Justice Screening in Middletown

The Color of Justice:

All are welcomed to this forum explaining the role race plays in juvenile justice and exploring solutions.

Hosted by Mayor Daniel T. Drew
The Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC), Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance are partnering together to organize forums around the state to help communities delve into the issue of race in the juvenile justice system. The forums will focus on understanding racial disparity and on finding concrete ways that system stakeholders and citizens can act to promote equality for all Connecticut youth.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 / 6:00-8:00 PM
Community Health Center / 675 Main Street, Middletown, CT
Refreshments will be served at 5:30 PM / Childcare will be provided

Please RSVP (for food purposes) to Katie Kesten at For questions contact Middletown Youth Services Bureau at 860-854-6030.

Co-sponsored by:Community Health Center, Middlesex Coalition for Children, Middletown Mental Health Collaborative & LIST (Juvenile Justice Collaborative), Middletown Public Schools, Middletown Youth Services Bureau, Ministerial Alliance, North End Action Team, Parent Leadership Training Institute, & Wesleyan Center for Prison Education.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Middletown Youth Services Advisory Board is opening the 2013/2014 Educational Incentives Challenge Grant

The Middletown Youth Services Advisory Board is pleased to announce the opening of the Educational Incentives Challenge Grant for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The grant is coordinated by the Youth Services Bureau Advisory Board on behalf of the city of Middletown.
The Educational Incentives Challenge Grant looks to fund program activities for children in Grades K-12 that help support at-risk, under-represented youth who traditionally are not involved in programming outside the regular school day. These activities may be of academic, recreational, cultural, physical, psychological, and/or emotional benefit to the child. 

Agencies must match their potential Challenge grant award at a 2 to 1 ratio (agency : grant). The new minimum grant award is $1,000 (agency match of $2,000) and the maximum is $10,000 (agency match of $20,000). In-kind donations will not count toward the match. The minimum grant amount was lowered to help open up the process to smaller youth programs in the Middletown community.

Additionally, the Middletown Youth Services Bureau utilizes a framework called Developmental Assets which identifies 40 “Assets” that provide the building blocks for children to grow up well. This year grant applicants must place a focus on one of the categories of Assets entitled “Positive Identity”.  This section includes assets:
  • Personal power - a young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me."
  • Self-esteem – young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  • Sense of purpose – young person reports that “my life has purpose”
  • Positive view of personal future – young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.
Applicants must target two of these assets and describe how they will work toward promoting the those assets as well as how they plan to measure their outcomes.

Challenge grant applications are due August 2, 2013 and must be submitted to the Middletown Youth Services Bureau by 4:00pm. Additionally, applicants will be asked to give a short (three minute) presentation to the Youth Services Advisory Board on the evening of August 6, 2013. For full submission details and to download the RFP in a word document, applicants are asked to visit Middletown Youth Services website: and clicking on the “Educational Incentives Challenge Grant” tab on the lower left hand side. For any questions please contact:

            Justin Carbonella
            Phone: 860-854-6030


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hartford Juvenile Justice Forum

I've recently started to #livetweet (or take notes via twitter) certain community events we've attended in order to help inform others of really important conversations that our taking place in or about our community using our @mtownysb twitter page. Last Friday there was a terrific forum around the juvenile justice reforms in Connecticut featuring state and federal legislators, state officials, advocates, and others who have all contributed to these changes. The following are my thoughts throughout the event (and verification that I wasn't playing on my phone the entire time!)...

A Lesson in Asset Building...

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking briefly at the Macdonough Elementary School "SURFS UP Rally". I was joined by my co-chair of the Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council, Felecia Goodwine-Vaughters, to talk about our funding of their school's Running Club. For those that might now know, SURFS is the school's way of communicating expectations, and the assembly was their way of celebrating positive SURFS behavior and successes within the school.

The assembly included the entire student body and staff plus well over 75 guests including parents and members of the community. For the entire 60 minutes, it was also a model of how a school can work with developmental assets to build school climate and student achievement. Here were some of the highlights for me:

  • As students and guests entered they played music ("Taking Care of Business" was the song - which was also the theme of the event because they "took care of business" by having a successful school year). This helped provide a really welcoming and positive entrance for all. (related assets: Caring School Climate, Bonding to School)
  • They used one of the 5th graders to be the M.C. for the event (who just so happened to be the same kid that stole the show in "Bigger Than You Think"). (related assets: Youth as Resources)
  • They took time to welcome any new member of the school community since the last assembly and gave them a gift. They also welcomed new partnerships and people who have contributed to the school community, like Coach Jeff McDonald from the Wesleyan Football Team who's been bringing athletes to the school to help with recess and serve as mentors and role models. (related assets: Caring School Climate, Other Adult Relationships)
  • Two kids from each classroom where selected as "SURFS Winners". When each kid was recognized they joined their teacher on stage and for those who were able to have a parent or love one(s) in the crowd they were asked to come up too because as Principal Romeo noted "their good decisions in school started from good decisions at home and the parents and guardians deserve some credit for that." (related assets: Family Support, Parent Involvement in School)
  • Time was take to recognize a group of school staff that volunteered on a neighborhood Habitat for Humanities project. (related assets: Caring Neighborhood, Service to Others)
  • The kindergarten class performed a teacher appreciation rap thanking all the staff of the school (related assets: Creative Activities, Caring)

  • In bringing us in to recognize the grant we got to remind them that people in the community care about what they do at the school and want to support it, as well as giving us the opportunity communicate how drugs and alcohol can damage their developing brains and bodies. (related assets: Community Values Youth, Youth Programs, Restraint)

The assembly also featured a number of other student conducted presentations, pictures of the school community, rewards to classes for modeling the best SURFS behavior in a number of specials (i.e. gym, art, lunch...), and staff wearing surfing related garb to celebrate.

We're really proud of our relationship with Macdonough and happy to be part of the amazing asset building efforts!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MSAPC Scholarship

The Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council is offering a scholarship for the first time to a Middletown Public School senior who has exhibited leadership in a number of ways that related to teen substance use and abuse. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Upcoming Event

Community Conversation between the Men of Middletown and the Invisible Men of Wesleyan

Youth @ Work Program Application

For those looking for summer work opportunities, here is the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce's Youth @ Work application. The program receives funding through the Workforce Alliance and has specific income requirements that decide eligibility. Please be sure to check them out before you begin to fill out the application.

2013 Youth @ Work Application

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Supplement to "Trends in Social Media" Presentation

As we get ready for our presentation to the Middletown Mentor program in a couple minutes, we're posting the information below as a supplement for this discussion. It was compiled by Krista Prince our Special Projects Intern here at Middletown Youth Services. The focus on the conversation is on trends in social media and we geared it toward elementary aged kids. We hope you find it helpful...

Within only a few years, social networking has become a staple in our day to day lives. Facebook for example, once designed to only be used by college students, is now used by Grandma and Little Johnny alike. According to the Pew Research Institute 67% of all internet users are on Facebook. Yet, among middle school and high school aged kids there seems to be a decline in Facebook use. Even Facebook has acknowledged this decline in its annual report stating that it may be losing younger users. While the cause of this decline may be up for debate, the prevailing theme is that the climate of social networking is constantly changing. Programs and apps are in and then out, and then replaced by the new. Facebook seems to be slowly being replaced by Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat which will likely be replaced by other more exciting programs in the future.

With all of this new social media it can be extremely challenging to stay on top of it all and frankly, that effort may prove to be futile. It's more important to teach young people how to use these sites in safe ways so that the skills they've learned can transfer to all of their internet use in general. At Middletown Youth Services we like to focus on “privacy” and “digital identity” with teens as a means of promoting safe usage. For younger students the same notions of “stranger danger” are as equally important on-line. It’s important to note that its not always about “if” a student is presented with a inappropriate encounter online (let’s say a predator or cyberbully) but what resources they are equipped with to deal with the incident to both resolve it quickly and minimize impact.

Websites such as the BBC, Forbes, and Mashable have great guides to web use and internet safety that can be found at :

Other articles that you may find interesting:

Social Media Demographics:

Facebook becoming less popular with teens:

Pew Study on Teens and Technology:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

7th Annual White Out Night Tomorrow


Each day in the United States, just under 30 people die as a result of alcohol related car accidents. The Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council (MSAPC) will be holding its 7th annual White Out Night on Friday, December 28th to encourage people to be mindful of the dangers of drinking and driving while celebrating on New Year’s Eve. When the group first started this event seven years ago the number of deaths per day was averaging 48 per day nationally.  
This is a youth led event during which participants will be walking down Main Street, wearing self-made white t-shirts with safe driving messages on them. They will also be handing out flyers to shoppers and diners, promoting a safe New Year’s holiday without drinking and driving.  Rushford's school-based youth leadership programs at Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Keigwin Middle School helped to make posters with safe driving messages for the event, and members of Middletown High School’s youth leadership group, Dragons In Action, decorated the t-shirts. The students feel passionate around the mission to convey how important it is for everyone to use good judgment and remain safe this New Year’s.
The group will meet between 5:30pm and 6:00pm in the board room on the basement level of the Chamber of Commerce at 393 Main St.  From approximately 6:10-7pm, the group will be walking Main St., promoting the message.  Come join these Middletown Youth in raising awareness of a very important issue!
 Participating members of the White Out Night event represent the following organizations:

Rushford Center, Middletown Youth Services Bureau, Middletown Police Department, Middletown Fire Department, Middletown Board of Education, North End Action Team, Woodrow Wilson Middle School’s Rams In Action, Middletown High School's Dragons In Action, Middletown Emblem Club

Monday, December 17, 2012

Asset Message of the Week: What is the lesson from Newtown?

This blog comes with a request and that is 15 minutes of your time. Below is the video of President Obama's remarks from Sunday's Newtown memorial. After honoring the lives of the adults in the building and offering words of condolence to the Newtown community, he begins to talk about what its like to be a parent. This is where your 15 minutes comes in. As President Obama states, "we are left with some hard questions" and hard questions require your full attention. This means you may need to set this aside and watch it later. But give it your best 15 minutes and with not just the people of Newtown in mind, but with us all...

(Please start at the 10:21 mark or skip directly there by accessing the video HERE)

Why was this not the sound byte on the news?

"This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors...with the help of a community and the help of a nation. And in that way we come to realize we bear a responsibility for  every child, because we're counting on everyone else to help look after ours. That we're all parents. That they're all our children. This is our first task...caring for our children. It's our first job. And if we don't get that right, then we don't get anything right. That is how as a society, we will be judged."

This should be our outcome that is lifted from this tragedy. Our emotion (and the media) drives us to find the "how?" and to bring forth a scapegoat that can help explain something that we all know really has no true explanation.  But what if it can be used to bring us together, in unity, around our young people. As Newtown grieves and we all look for ways to help, this could be our greatest tribute to the lives lost. 

We all have something to offer and all young people need those offerings. The Search Institute has outlined 150 Ways to Show You Care. Start with 1 or 2 or 20. And not just with your kids, or the ones in your family, but the kids in your neighborhood (and the ones not in your neighborhood). With the kids who look different than you and the kids who might be hard to approach.

We often like to use the borrowed term "all kids are our kids" and the President reminded us so eloquently that this is the mark, the standard, that we should be judging ourselves on. If what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School has given us anything, is an opportunity to reflect and an opportunity to reform, particularly around how important young people are to a community (and vice versa).

These words from the President, have given me renewed energy to build a community "that is worthy of their memory".

I'm here to help and grateful that I can help alongside you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Youth In Government Program

Beginning in 2007, the City of Middletown introduced an exciting opportunity for youth in their community. The Youth in Government initiative, along with being an extremely unique program, relates to the key developmental need for youth to be valued and provided with meaningful roles in their community. Empowering youth in government reinforces this need and provides opportunities that will promote a life-long commitment to civic engagement. It also addresses a key Developmental Asset that is lacking in our community. In a recent survey of Middletown youth, it was brought to the community’s attention that only 17% of Middletown youth feel valued by the community (down from 19% in 2006). The Youth in Government program was put into place in order to purposefully and intentionally address the above issue.

Applications for the program can be found at the bottom of the page HERE. Any questions can be directed to Justin Carbonella (860-854-6030).

The Mayor is authorized to appoint youth representatives who are both Middletown residents in grades 10-12 on boards, committees, and commissions, for one-year terms, beginning on July 1 of each year. All youth members shall be able to and are encouraged to participate in discussion of the issues, however, because of their age they are not permitted to vote.

The Middletown Youth Services Bureau assists the Mayor in recruitment as well as training and support of students throughout their term. The Boards and Commissions which are involved with this program are:

· Board of Health

· Cable Advisory Committee

· Citizens Advisory Committee

· Committee Concerning People with Disabilities

· Design Review and Preservation

· Human Rights Commission

· Long Hill Estate Authority

· Middletown Commission on the Arts

· Middletown School Readiness Council

· Parks and Recreation Commission

· Redevelopment Agency

· Youth Services Advisory Board

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bigger Than You Think is Coming Sooner Than You Think!

Bigger Than You Think, our short play with a big purpose, is coming up next Wednesday, October 17th at Middletown High School from 7pm-9:30pm. Our one act play was written and directed by Community Performance International who have partnered with Youth Services and the Center for the Advancement of Youth, Family, and Community Development to create an opportunity for statistics and story to intersect and help kick off the second phase to our Developmental Assets initiative here in Middletown.

All of the characters and scenes from the play were taken from a story gathering session back in June that brought together nearly 100 youth and adults in Middletown. The play itself will be followed by a community conversation using the World Cafe conversation model and dedicated to organizing a community to support its youth. In addition, we will also begin the process of releasing our newest data set on Middletown youth which details their attitudes and behaviors and is the first follow up to our 2006 survey. Both surveys now represent the voices of over 3,000 youth.

So join us for the conversation or come out to support your local school principal, police lieutenant, BOE member, city treasurer, 3rd grader, teacher, community organizer, junior class president, mayor and superintendent and other members of our great community as they all brave the stage to help remind us that your contribution to our kids is..."Bigger Than You Think".

Friday, September 14, 2012

Volunteer Needs for Bigger Than You Think

And for those that may want to contribut in ways outside of performing here is a list of way people can contribute to the performance/event without being in it. If you have any questions please call me (Justin Carbonella) at 860-854-6030 or email me at


Organize phone tree, call cast members before rehearsals

Child Care

Help supervise children of cast members during rehearsals and at time of play, or audience members on night of play


We need a team of people to either solicite donations of food from local business or providing parts of a pot luck dinner for our weekend (10/13 and 10/14 rehersals) and snacks for additional weeknight rehersal times.

Backstage Crew Leader

Lead and organize backstage crew and setup/ strike teams

Backstage Crew

Set up for the production

Potential to build props/set

Take down set, clean up after production

Move props, displays

Organize/cue actors backstage


Hand out programs

Seat people, manage seating if theatre fills

Candy/ Baked Goods Sellers

Sell candy, baked goods etc. on the night of production


Provide information (maybe a booth?)

Describe Developmental Assets initiative, purpose of the play, etc.

Answer questions

Accept donations at the time of the production

P.R. Team

Advertise/ Publicize the show

Distribute flyers, hang up posters

Taking a lead with a group or organization to promote volunteer needs and/or attendance at the event

Visual Display/ Mural

Schools, Youth Serving Organizations - create a visual display, art project around developmental assets and community. Items are as simple as youth drawing pictures of what a community means to them.

Bigger Than You Think Roles

So as we continue to recruit for actors for our play dedicated to growing up in Middletown, we thought it would be helpful to give people a sense of what we're recruiting for. Parts are broken up between "adult" and "youth" and then among the level of involvement in the play. Many roles are small and some have only 1-2 lines. Additionally, while some roles are built specifically by the stories of community members other roles are more general and can be played by either gender or any race (there are roles for everyone and anyone!).

Rehersals will start October 8th and will vary through the week depending on which scene is being rehersed. There will also be rehersals that weekend (10/13 & 10/14) and Monday (10/15) with the entire cast and the dress rehersal and performance will be October 16th and 17th. All rehersals will take place at Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Middletown High School.  If you have any interest or questions around getting involved please call Justin Carbonella at 860-854-6030 or email Mark Laucella at


Large Role (10+ lines)
Anne- Adult Woman, recurring role

Big Eddie- Adult Man, recurring role

Business Man- Adult Man

Felicia- Adult Woman

Frank- Adult Man, Chinese

Grady- Adult Man, recurring role

Mrs. Chandler- Adult Woman, recurring role

Q- Adult Man, African American

Sheila - Adult Woman, recurring role

Willard- Adult Man, recurring role

Medium Role (5-10 lines)
Barbara- Adult Woman, African American

Chris- Teacher - male or female

Director- Adult Man

Mayor- Adult Man

Mom- Adult Woman

Mr. Phillips- Adult Man, recurring role

Mrs. Papandria - Adult Woman, teacher

Scott- Adult Man or Woman, recurring role

Superintendant- Adult Woman

Small Role (less than 5 lines)
Coach- Adult Man or Woman

Jasmine's Mom- Adult Woman

Francis- Cleaning Woman (adult)

Mama- Adult Woman

Mr. Crawford- Adult Man, very small

Mrs. Fletcher- Older Woman, African American


Large Role (10+ lines)

Amelia- Teen Girl, full of hope, energetic

Bob- Teen Boy

Brianna- Large teen girl, angry, giving up on hope, recurring role

Gina- Teen Girl 13-19 yrs, recurring role

Jasmine- Elementary-age girl, recurring role

Joanne- Teen Girl 13-19 yrs, recurring role

Linda- Teen Girl, confused, angry, looking for hope

Trevor- Teen Boy

Medium Role (5-10 lines)

Young Barbara- Child, female, African American
Young Grady- Child, male 8-13 yrs

Liz- Teen Girl, angry

Young Q- Child, male, African American

Young Willard- Child or Teen, male

Small Role (less than 5 lines)

Alicia- Middle School Girl, recurring role
Andy- Child or Teen

Erin- Teen Girl 13-18 yrs

Fatima- Child, female under 10 yrs

Jack- Child, male under 10 yrs

Jim- Teen, male

Marty- Child or Teen, male or female

Tony- Teen Boy 13-18 yrs

Young Frank- Child, male, Asian American

Friday, August 31, 2012

Support the Voices of Middletown Youth

BIGGER THAN YOU THINK is a short play with a huge purpose--helping Middletown’s children grow up well. This is a time for committed action. Be a part of the action in a community performance created by the Middletown Youth Services Bureau, The Center for the Advancement of Youth, Family and Community Services, and Community Performance International.  From the stories of Middletown youth and adults, our play uses the 40 Developmental Assets, or building blocks of healthy youth development, to tell the story of how Middletown is doing with the most important job a town can have--raising the children. Participate in shaping the next generation of Middletown's leaders. 

To sign up for any of these volunteer opportunities or for more information please contact us by phone at 860-854-6030 or via email at (please include your name and contact information). You can also keep up to date on this project via Facebook at:

Cast –Roles for everyone from elementary school age, middle school, high school, young adults and grandparents, from all walks of life. The play looks to include over 50+ actors/participants so there is room for everyone regardless of perceived skill and experience (WE NEED YOU!!!). Auditions will be held at the Middletown Youth Services Bureau (372 Hunting Hill Ave, Middletown – former MHS VOAG site) and are scheduled for:
Friday, September 7th from 6-9pm
Saturday, September 8th from 10-12pm and from 1-4pm
Sunday, September 9th from 2-5pm

Program Book – This will feature program information and advertising.  We need the following help:
·        Someone to take the lead on producing this book, overseeing from start to finish, creative, ad sales & printing
·        Someone to do the layout (which may be the same lead person)
·        A large team of people to sell advertising space – this can be sold to businesses and individuals