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United Way Launches New Capacities Initiative in Norwich

In a pep rally atmosphere with a drum line, rally towels, and dance performances, United Way officially launched its New CapaCITIES: Norwich initaitive to increase the number of financially stable households in Norwich to 66% in the next ten years. The plan to accomplish this goal is by aligning the education system with workforce needs and creating a more interconnected community.

The event was held at Slater Auditorium at Norwich Free Academy and featured many speakers including representatives from the City of Norwich, Norwich Free Academy, Norwich Public Schools, Eastern Workforce Investment Board (EWIB), Otis Library, and Norwich students.

"I think about this project as the start of something really big," said Virginia L. Mason, President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. "No entity by itself can solve community problems. We have to solve them together."

Norwich Free Academy shared several programs they've already begun to help students be prepared for careers including a "senior seminar" that provides practical training about the working world in Microsoft Office, personal finance, and workplace readiness. They also have a partnership with Three Rivers Community College to allow NFA students to become certified nurses aides, then either getting a job or continuing their education to become registered nurses. A third program involves NFA's partnership with EWIB's pipeline to prepare students work at Electric Boat which expects to hire thousands of new employees in the coming years.

Abby Dolliver, Norwich Public Schools Superintendent, stressed the importance of communicating with students that there are many options for careers available, and they don't always require going to college. "Letting students know earlier and earlier what's out there for them is so critical," Dolliver said.

Lee-Ann Gomes, director of Norwich Human Services, noted that many Norwich residents are living in poverty and others simply don't earn enough in wages to support the cost of living. "We can do this better. This program will make it better for our people," Gomes said. "I appreciate the United Way stepping up and funding it."

United Way is funding the project, committing $300,000 over the next three years. Norwich Free Academy and the Eastern Workforce Investment Board have also offered funds for the project. Partners represent a diverse cross-sector in the Norwich community including banking institutions, schools, nonprofits, and the City of Norwich. Learn more details about the project, the needs it will address, and a full list of partners by visiting the New CapaCITIES page on our website.

Bob Farwell, director of Otis Library, encouraged other community members, businesses, and organizations to get engaged in New CapaCITIES. "It has to have enthusiatic support of everybody in the room," Farwell said. "I want to get you engaged in this process along with us."

Read more about the event from coverage in The Bulletin.

If you would like to get involved in the project, such as by attending Community Conversations, contact Lindsay at lindsay.poulos@uwsect.org.