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Alyssa Eilbott - Guilford, CT

I graduated from ECA’s Theatre Department in 2011. My time at ECA provided me with a sense of belonging and purpose. The incredibly qualified staff and teachers became my mentors and role models while my classmates became my family. Master classes taught by guest working artists such as Drama Desk Award-nominated Kim Weild’s Viewpoints or playwright Staci Swedeen’s Scriptwriting gave students new and exciting experiences as well as valuable insight into the industry. Through many productions, I was able to learn how to work in an ensemble comprised of vastly different people, a skill I found vital to post academic work life. Classes such as Voice & Speech and Scene Study taught me how to make myself a presence and communicate in front of large groups of people. I was even given the opportunity to become a stage manager, which expanded my interest to the technical side of theatre.

The theatre department allowed me to spend my senior year exploring this new interest through a technical theatre independent study, where I received one-on-one tutoring with the Technical Director on how to design, draft, and implement a lighting plot. Because of this I was able to attend University of North Carolina School of the Arts for lighting. This enabled me to intern at Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC), one of the foremost lighting manufacturers in the industry. After graduating in 2015, I now live in NYC making a living in this industry. I teach for ETC as well as work for a wide variety of companies such as CNN, Fox, the Rangers and Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Westminster Dog Show and more. None of this would be possible without the start I got at ECA.

I urge you to protect ACES Educational Center for the Arts. ECA was crucial to my career and formed connections that have only gotten stronger. Other students should be able to experience the same opportunity.


Benjamin G. Seaman, B F A , LCSW - New York NY

During those years I experienced significant family problems and had moved out of my parents' home staying with friends' families and in my last two years of high school I supported myself with nothing more than the dedicated and concerned faculty at ECA to keep me focused.  While no school can be expected to make up for family difficulties, the cohesiveness of the program let ECA be what it could be, a shining light in my darkness, support for the part of my life I did have control over - my career. 

Thanks to the resources at ECA, my work developed to a point where I received a nearly full scholarship to attend the School of Art Institute of Chicago, where I continued to flourish. While in school I continued my work as a visual artist and writer. I published both journalism and fiction, and exhibited in a number of shows, and developed a craft of graphic design, which led to full-time employment when I graduated and moved to Latin America, and by 26 I had secured a job as an art director at the Wall Street Journal. 

None of this was even imaginable when I was in high school but the resources at the ECA, the space, time, and skilled teachers created the sense of possibility that lives on in me to this day.  There is no question that without the resource I could have easily become a casualty of an educational system that was geared toward more mainstream education.  Currently I practice psychotherapy with New York City creatives and I continue my practice as a graphic designer for select non-profits and I continue to paint and exhibit in the New York area.  Please continue funding for the Educational Center for the Arts and trust that their programs are contributing to a better society for everyone.


Cindy and Andrew Dunaj - Hamden, CT

WIMS theme is “Making the World a better place” – and they truly do!  This school embraces cultural diversity and ensures that all students learn about and show respect for all different nationalities and cultures.    Every lesson is weaved in with a demonstration of the application in the real world, as well the interconnectedness of how little actions have bigger effects in the community.

Another area that WIMS leads the way is in technology.  Every child receives either an iPad or a Chromebook to help build their technological aptitude.  This type of exposure will greatly help the students as they continue their education.

There are several extra and advanced programs that are offered to WIMS students.  Spanish instruction starts in kindergarten and the extended day allows all students to have 2 “specials” a day.  Both of my children have been taking violin lessons for the past 2-3 years.   My daughter has participated in an Enrichment program, which developed her marketing and presentation skills as part of a team who presented to the manager of a Themed restaurant and the owner of a successful bakery.  An agreement with SCSU allows several foreign languages to be offered as afterschool programs.   Also, several teachers stay after the regular school day to allow students to participate in the drama program.

Additionally, services are offered to help children build the skills in areas where they are lacking.  My son, with ADHD, has been learning mindfulness and receives group social skill lessons, which have allowed him to be more grounded at both school and home.   Both my children have received speech services.  My daughter has received extra instruction in reading to keep her at grade level, and develop her love for reading, so now I find her sneaking under the covers at night to read “just one more chapter”!  These pull-out programs are also done in a way that children who need extra help do not feel like they’re being singled out.

The other night, our family attended Primary Academy Math night – where my 2nd grader was able to expand his math skills with fun games that also allowed him to interact with different teachers and students from K-2nd grade.  We’ve also attended several evening Art shows, Dances and Concerts that pull together the whole WIMS community.  Also, the entire town of Hamden participates in the annual International Fair, which is an amazing event celebrating the diversity and culture of WIMS families (this year it is on Saturday, May 6th if you would like to see for yourself what makes WIMS such a special place!)

Every day my children go to school excited to learn – which is a change from the school and programs they attended before joining WIMS.   They are supported by the entire faculty and staff, and truly feel they are an integral part of the WIMS community.   They have been offered many opportunities that are not included in our neighborhood schools.  We would hate for them to miss out on this amazing experience, due to a lack of funding. 

We, and our children, are counting on your support to help allow Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, and the other magnet schools in CT, to continue the fine job they are doing in creating students who are leaders, and truly committed to making the world a better place.

George and Devón Bellamy - Stratford, CT

Each of our children began attending WIMS in kindergarten and we love the school. The teachers strive for excellence with the students and bend over backwards to help any child in need.  Our son was having difficulty in 3rd   grade with reading.  His teacher quickly recognized this and the literacy team provided additional resources for him to bring him up to grade level. Ever since then he has improved each year with his reading and recently received honors.

The teachers and staff at Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School are very caring and dedicated and are helping the students reach their highest potential. Please consider not cutting the magnet school funding.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Janis Bozzo - North Haven CT

One of ACES ECA’s great strengths is that it draws students from over 27 cities and communities in Connecticut, representing students on a regional scale unmatched by any other Connecticut school.  This makes ACES ECA a resource for a large portion of the state, not just one town or district, and also means that students are exposed to other students from many different Connecticut communities.  Exposure to diversity provides rich educational experiences and benefits beyond the curriculum.  Further, ACES ECA’s programs and partnerships with international schools offer Connecticut public school students unique opportunities and valuable life experiences that will better prepare them as citizens in a diverse state, country and world.

ACES ECA is a valuable asset to Connecticut.  High quality public education is a draw to attract and keep young families in our state, which is important to strengthen Connecticut’s economy.  

Thank you for your time.  Please vote to invest in Connecticut’s future by maintaining the funding for ACES ECA.


Karen Morey - Cranston, RI


As an isolated young teen, Educational Center for the Arts gave me the knowledge that the world was much, much broader than I had thought – and that I had value in that world. Beyond being useful as a career option, I learned that my talent for writing was something I could like about myself; something that formed the seed of who I was in the greater world. Being part of the ECA community gave me a sense of identity and confidence which led me to who I am now, sharing what I love with children on the autism spectrum and helping build bridges among theater lovers in Rhode Island. ECA’s connection across town lines and across disciplines remains a critical initiative for building strong community members who shape the future of our country.

Thank you for your support of this important organization.


Kate Hubbard - East Haven, CT

These are the kinds of things I write on resumes, but what ECA actually gave me is far more valuable than any of that. It gave me a community. It gave me a way to express myself, a place that valued ideas, a place where I could explore myself. ECA gave me coping mechanisms. ECA introduced me to all sorts of people from different walks of life. It gave me a life long love of learning, of ideas, of empathy. It's made me a better person. It's made me a better mother. 

There is a story circulating the internet that when asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort Winston Churchill declined and said, "Then what are we fighting for?" Though this story is most likely false, the sentiment rings so true. Art is the reason.

I will leave you with what Winston Churchill actually said about the arts and hope you continue fund ECA. “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”


Kathleen Corelli Byrne - Sandy Hook, CT


I chose a ECA magnet school education for my son because he is a member of a multi-cultural community with a diverse range of students from all over the state of CT.  This visionary program has strengthened my son’s ability to communicate and learn to create in a safe environment.  In this day and age we want children who are able to enter college and the work environment with the expertise to communicate their ideas. These students who are given the opportunity to study fine and performing arts go out into our workforce with communication skills needed to develop strong families, communities and ultimately a strong nation. 

I am concerned about the lack of funding for magnet schools. My magnet school has received the same funding form the state for five years. As my legislator, I ask you to support my child’s school and ensure that magnet schools have the funding they need to be sustained into the future.

Maria Solomon – New Haven, CT

As a single mother of three, young black males, education has always been something that I have tried to instill as a vital part of their success in life. I want this for them, because it was not the case for me.

I vowed that my children would receive the best education possible. They deserve that much. Recently, I moved my two youngest sons out of New Haven Public Schools. Personally, I felt like my children were not receiving the education they deserved, so we moved. Since the move, I have been extremely satisfied with their progress.

I was able to get my kids a quality education, because I was not afraid to speak out and stand up for their rights and move to a community with better public schools. However, I know that not all families have this same opportunity. That is why I was excited to attend the Hamden Community Conversation, hosted by ConnCAN.

Community conversations like the one held in January are important. It gives members of the public a chance to hear from our state leaders and to voice our own opinion. Far too often opportunities like the community conversation are missed or the cries that are needed to be heard most fall on deaf ears. I was enlightened by the questions that were asked by other parents and happy to see legislators eager to provide their best possible answers.

As parents we all want what is best for our kids. We want them to do better than we did ourselves. But we must lead by example; that’s why I am currently enrolled in the National External Diploma program to get my high school diploma.

I want my children to know that the road may not be easy, but anything is possible if you work hard and never give up. I think that was the theme for the community conversation, the status of our state’s education system may be uncertain and the road to fixing it may be a bumpy one, but getting there is not impossible if all children and families are given the support and opportunities they deserve.


Michelle Johnson

I studied theater at ECA for all four years of high school. Now, I have two degrees from one of the top liberal arts schools in the country, have performed professionally, and am pursuing a career in theater and community outreach. I profoundly believe I would not have been able to accomplish what I have without the artistic and personal excellence I learned from the teachers and students at ECA. This school not only offers the superb artistic guidance of experienced and talented teachers but an academic philosophy that encourages critical thinking and social accountability. The school not only produces great artists but dedicated and generous citizens who actively give back to their communities.
Cutting the arts magnet high school budget would be huge blow to the students of this state as well as the communities they aim to enrich.

I urge you to stop the proposed $500,000 budget cut to arts magnet schools in our state. Thank you.


Sari Rosenblatt - New Haven, CT

Our students learn how to create something from nothing; from the blank page to regional and national award-winning prose and poetry. Students also learn to stand up and deliver their work to an audience. What we teach here is, yes, craft and critical analysis, but also perseverance through the process of revision. It is a rare teaching environment where students go from a draft to 4-5 revisions; where the rigor of work ethic is as important as the result.

ECA holds a vital place in education.  Its thirty-plus years in operation are a testament to its success as a school, and the huge support of parents, alumni, and community leaders.  We have enriched both the lives of our students and the lives of those they reach through the arts.


Saul Fussiner - Hamden, CT

Currently, I am a teacher of History at New Haven Academy. Several of my students there attend ACES ECA in the afternoon. What ECA gives these students is great confidence in their abilities as well as a social world of other young people with similar interests. ECA is where artistically minded young people get to try out their craft and where they make lifelong friends from their high school years.

For those who become artists, ECA is a stepping stone in that journey. For those who do not, ECA provides them with lifelong skills of concentration, discipline and outside-of-the-box thinking that will help them in all of their endeavors.


Steve Bearman, Ph.D. - Oakland, CA

I received a Ph.D. in social psychology in 2009, have published chapters in academic anthologies and articles in scientific journals, had my blog read by millions of people around the world, and am currently working out a multi-book deal with Parallax Press.  All of these endeavors were made possible because of the wordsmithing and capacity to communicate complex ideas I learned from Caroline Rosenstone and other teachers at ECA.  I have been a teacher myself for many years, having founded Interchange Counseling Institute in San Francisco in 2002 (, and have used much of what I learned about experiential education from ECA as a basis for how I teach the art of counseling.


Susan Kruger - Hamden, CT

Educational Center for the Arts (ECA) is a special place, which provides students with a strong interest in the arts with a place to concentrate on these studies and to become young artists.  It has a superb faculty that my daughter describes as “the best people in the world.”   Everyone at ECA treats the students as mature and responsible people, a role to which they rise.  It not only provides an artistic focus for students, but also leads them to take their studies at their sending schools seriously, enhancing their academic learning.  It promotes good citizenship and concern for fellow students and humanity.  ECA has been providing this opportunity to students for decades and is unique in bringing together over 300 students from approximately 25 townships, allowing them to share and grow together.

Please continue to fully fund this unique educational institution so that future generations of students will have the same opportunity to broaden their lives.


Tony Carnevale - New York City, NY

ECA invites students from all over Connecticut, including ones who came from far less privileged backgrounds than I did. I befriended people I might not ever have been able to otherwise meet. (By the same token, ECA didn't exclude me for living in a nice neighborhood -- for which I'm truly grateful. My local school may have been "good enough," but it offered nothing even close to what ECA did in the arts.)

I'd also like to say a few words about Caroline Rosenstone, who ran the writing program when I attended and, as I understand it, still does. She's so smart, so nurturing, such a good reader and critic -- we are all so, so lucky to have her in this world and in a leadership position at ECA.

ECA is so important to my life, and always will be. I hope that it thrives in the years to come, and that many more students can explore the arts in high school.


Caitlin Foster - Brooklyn, NY (Milford, CT)

I attended ECA for three years during high school. I consider those three years to be the most crucial of my thirteen years of public school education, and the experience that directly altered the trajectory of my life. ECA gave me the tools, support, and confidence to pursue my skills and fundamental interest in fine art. Since graduating from ECA, I have been working in the art world in New York City both as a successful artist and as an arts administrator in several blue chip galleries. I cannot stress how important and crucial the role ECA played in my life, and more than anything I want to stress how vital I think access this programming is for future high school students.


Charlotte Beach - New Haven, CT

I am a proud graduate of the Education Center of the Arts, class of 2012. I was in the Creative Writing Department for all four years of high school, and can say with complete certainty that I would not be the person I am today if not for the experiences I had or the lessons I learned from the rich community of artists at ECA. ECA prepared me for my college career at Brown University in ways that my regular high school, Wilbur Cross, simply couldn't. The intimate, discussion-based classes in which all ideas were both welcomed and challenged molded me into the writer, artist, and thinker I am today. It would be a tragedy for a program like ECA to shut down. Students all over Connecticut will suffer in immeasurable ways if you defund it, of that I am sure.


Duo Dickinson - Madison, CT

Educational Center for the Arts was the single most important educational experience for my son.  Its Music component gave him the skills to audition into the Jacobs School of Music, where he received a BA in Horn Performance. Its location allowed him to walk across the street to Neighborhood Music School, down the street for choir practice and up the street to sing and take classes at Yale. His fellow students were as diverse as his hometown suburban high school was cloistered.

The model of intense arts education in downtown New Haven for a half day, while staying connected to their home school for the rest of their day has transformed students we know beyond our son: honing skills, opening perspective, availing the students of what New Haven has to offer: do not close off this essential, unique and threatened resource to all those kids whose lives would have been changed by its extraordinary programs.


Kristen & John Hannigan III - Hamden, CT

Our eight year old son, is currently a third grader at Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School.    Wintergreen is very important to our family as it has provided an excellent learning environment for our son.   The specialized classes offered daily have afforded him the opportunity to explore his artistic side, learn a second language, and discover his talent for playing the violin.   It has also provided us with an alternative choice to our neighborhood elementary school. 

We asked Jack why Wintergreen is important to him.   Without hesitation, he replied “his teachers”.  “They are caring, respectful, and keep us safe.”  We echo our son’s sentiments that the teachers and staff are an invaluable asset to Wintergreen.  They offer a meaningful education to the unique, diverse and inquisitive students who make up the Wintergreen community. 

Nadine Spence - West Haven, CT

I'm writing to let you know how valuable the ACES program has been to my family. As you know, many public schools are not equipped to meet the needs of children that gifted or have a desire to pursue studies in STEM. My son has shown a great interest in science and engineering from an early age, and it was on obvious early on that he would benefit greatly from a school that would be able to focus on that curriculum. It has been less than a year and I can already see the change and growth that the ACES school has had on him. His desire to design and build grows with every day, and the school helps him push himself to try and do more.

There are many families like mine that depend on the ACES schools to provide specialized education for their children. It is only through the continual financial support from donors, both private and public, that they're able to meet their financial needs. As one of the many voting constituents in your district, I ask that you consider maintaining funding the ACES program. On behalf of the school, the families, and my son Ethan, I thank you.


Nati Avni-Singer

ACES Educational Center for the Arts is a special place because it is an escape from the hierarchical and sometimes impersonal environment at many high schools.  There, my teachers took me seriously as an artist and as a person.   At ECA, I grew artistically because the training opened me up to many abilities that I previously couldn’t access from within me.


Youme Nguyen Ly, (Youme Landowne) - Florence, MA

I am a published author and illustrator for children and young adults. My work has received national awards and international attention for addressing issues of social justice. My participation in the Educational Center for the Arts/ACES Writing and Visual Arts programs helped to strengthen, shape and encourage my future as an artist and as a human being. I have no doubt that the physical space provided and the community of ECA helped me to SURVIVE adolescence in New Haven in the late 1980's. Thank you for your attention to our testimony.





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