May 26, 2017

Lyme-Old Lyme HS’s Bocian Joins Statewide Student Program to Increase Literacy Rates

Connecticut Voice's Executive Board gathers for a photo, From left to right (back row), Kelley Gifford, Haoyi Wang, Hannah Lamb, Priya Mistri, KaltenReese Hasankolli, Izzy King, Hailey Jimenez, Gary Bocian from Lyme-Old Lyme High School, Alexandra Chitwood, Evani Dalal; (front row), Isha Dalal (founder) and Stephen Armstrong (advisor).

Connecticut Voice’s Executive Board gathers for a photo. From left to right (back row), Kelley Gifford, Haoyi Wang, Hannah Lamb, Priya Mistri, Kalten Reese Hasankolli, Izzy King, Hailey Jimenez, Gary Bocian from Lyme-Old Lyme High School, Alexandra Chitwood, Evani Dalal; (front row), Isha Dalal (founder) and Stephen Armstrong (advisor).

Gary Bocian of Old Lyme, a sophomore at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, has been named a member of the executive board of a new, statewide, student organization called Connecticut Voice.  Katie Reid from LOLHS is also participating in the program.

A kick-off event to launch the program will be held in Hartford at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Literacy Director for the State Department of Education Dr. Melissa Hickey, and Governor Dannel Malloy are just a few of the featured speakers at the event.

Founded by Trumbull High School senior, Isha Dalal, Connecticut Voice is an innovative program to give students in the state of Connecticut an opportunity to directly impact their community. More than 60 students from across the state are part of the program.

The goal of the program is for students to pass a law at the state level. This year, the program will focus on literacy rates to help close the education gap within Connecticut. At the event on Wednesday, students will be able to ask questions and learn more about why it is so important to give back to the community.

Not only is the group going to work towards passing legislation, but members will also start new community initiatives as well. For example, they will be holding a statewide book drive.

Dalal started this program while volunteering for New Haven Reads. After realizing that a large population of students exists, who are not afforded the same educational opportunities she has enjoyed, she was motivated to try and change that situation.

With interests ranging from legislation to neuroscience, Dalal created Connecticut Voice, a program that could encompass both. “To understand how to increase literacy rates, it is important to understand the brain as well as the community aspect. Before one can solve a problem, he or she must understand it first,” Isha stated when describing the program.

Working closely with Stephen Armstrong, the Social Studies Consultant for the State Department of Education, and with organizations such as the Trumbull Business-Education Initiative and the Trumbull ACE Foundation, Dalal was able to create this program. She met with the Secretary of the State’s Office, members of the State Board of Education, her superintendent, and the Commissioner of Education to garner support and create a solid foundation for Connecticut Voice

When asked why she created this program, Dalal said, “I want every student to know that they can make a difference despite their age, their background, or their interests. “

“The unique aspect of our program is that it is for students, by students. If someone has an idea and they are willing to work hard, they can do whatever they set their mind to. After reaching out to different leaders, I realized that there are so many people that care just as much as I do and, together, we can create a better world and help improve the lives of hundreds of people.”

Bocian is eagerly anticipating the launch of the program on Wednesday.  When asked in an email by LymeLine what he is most excited about with regard to the program, he responded, “Being involved with Connecticut Voice, I most look forward to making a difference in the community,” and “through our focus of illiteracy rates in Connecticut,” to help as many as students as possible.

Bocian continued, “Through Connecticut Voice, I hope to learn more about working with others on a shared goal. Even at the [first] Executive Board meeting, I was able to work with students from across Connecticut. I heard different perspectives from students because of where they are from. It really brings students ideas together. I also hope to improve on my leadership skills as this is a new opportunity to become involved in my community.”

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