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DECEMBER news & updates

December 8th, 2023


12/13/23 - December Quarterly Convening


Norwalk Public Schools (NPS)

NPS has a lot to be proud of this fall. In addition to receiving a $15 Million Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Norwalk Public Schools and the Norwalk Board of Education were recent recipients of the 2023 CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) Board of Distinction Award. Congratulations! We were thrilled to partner with NPS on the Right to Read event earlier in November and look forward to continuing to partner on early literacy efforts throughout the community. 


A terrific article on the importance of supporting intermediary organizations like Norwalk ACTS.

CEO Corner

Jennifer D. Barahona, LCSW

I look forward to seeing many of you at our quarterly convening on December 13th. Our guest speakers will be from the newly merged United Way of Coastal & Western Fairfield County and will walk our membership through the newly released ALICE data and related policy implications. We are also excited to share updates about our civic engagement work as part of our Policy and Advocacy cornerstone.  

It has been an incredibly busy summer and fall, and we look forward to stepping away from work over the holidays and practicing what we preach about rest and recovery. We hope you all can do the same and return in 2024, ready to continue to tackle the multiple systemic challenges we face




Since releasing the 2022 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has continued to examine relationships between performance and opportunities to learn. One important contextual factor is school attendance.


Introducing Our Youth Advocates

Darwin Anariba

Norwalk resident, Junior at AITE School

(Academy of Information Technology & Engineering)

"I'm Darwin Anariba, a Junior in high school. I've been a student advocate at Norwalk acts for over a year now because I want to help the community, and I like to stay busy. I've learned a lot about helping different social groups, and we try to implement ideas for improving society. My favorite part is probably being in a place where people respect my opinion and are honest about things."

Patryk Mile

Norwalk resident, Junior at AITE School

(Academy of Information Technology & Engineering)

"My name is Patryk Milewski. I am a Junior at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in Stamford, Connecticut. My biggest interest is aviation. I have been a youth advocate for two years. My experience has been very good with Norwalk ACTS. I have learned a lot about how the community works and I feel more connected with the community.."

Aislinn Seiler

Norwalk resident, P-Tech

"I am a junior at P-TECH Norwalk. I am an active member of Temple Shalom in Norwalk through their youth group, BBYO, and their volunteer choir. I am a proud member of my community and am passionate about social action and civic engagement."

Maanav Patel

Norwalk resident, Junior at AITE School

(Academy of Information Technology & Engineering)



Norwalk ACTS has been asked to participate in a statewide ‘Start with Equity’ Committee to address the changes to kindergarten eligibility that were voted on in the last legislative session. The change will be felt most by Connecticut's working families. Without action, the fabric of early childhood education and family economic stability is at risk. Part of the reason Norwalk was asked to sit on the committee was because of the great action already taken by our local community to sign a letter recommending a phase-in approach. Great work! Additional voices and action on this matter is critically important. Please take a moment to review the information through this Action Center, sign on in support, and share within your networks.  


Kindergarten Registration 2023-24

  • A child must be five years old on or before January 1st of the 2023-2024 school year to be eligible.
  • Registration is currently open for the 2023-2024 school year. To start the registration process, click here.

Please join us in welcoming our new Early Childhood Community Advocates (CAs) and Early Childhood Community Volunteer, who joined us this year. They have been working with Maria Cloke, the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) Community Manager, by developing supportive relations with parents of young children with a central focus on improving parent understanding of early childhood development, completion of the ASQ-3, and the Sparkler mobile app. They also partner with Norwalk Early Childhood Education providers and the Norwalk Community Health Center to support parents and caregivers in learning about the developmental domains of children. In addition, they support parent voices by advocating at the local level with the Norwalk ACTS Early Childhood Initiative and the state level alongside the Office of Early Childhood. 

Finally, due to the expansion of the Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) work, please join us in welcoming Jennifer Giraldo, the new ASQ Community Liaison who started in November 2023.

Please take a moment to read about these dedicated, compassionate, and active community members below!

Jennifer Giraldo

Jennifer received a bachelor’s degree in human services from the University of Connecticut. Jennifer joined Family and Children’s Agency in 2018 as a home visitor in the Parents As Teachers program and has provided services to families in the city of Norwalk for the past 5 years.

Recently, Jennifer transitioned into a new role as ASQ Community Liaison. Jennifer is responsible for providing direct service and support to early childhood care providers and supporting home visitors at FCA with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire data entry and follow-up forms. Jennifer looks forward to continuing working and supporting the Norwalk community.

Ivett Castro

Ivett is from Bolivia and is a native Spanish speaker. She has lived in Norwalk for many years. She is a mother of three grown daughters who attended the American school system and has many years experience being around children. She knows how and why it is very important as a parent to be involved in the community and school.

Ivett wants to help support, advocate and guide Spanish speaking parents and let them understand why it is important and crucial to support and care for children during the early years of childhood to move forward. Family values are important and need to be instilled while they are babies, so these children can grow to be successful young adults and pillars in their community. As our families get better and stronger, it creates an impact in our community.

Jordan Buffone

Jordan is a Norwalk native who started working with children in high school as a swim

instructor at both Swim70 and at the Norwalk Recreation and Parks Department. Also, she worked at After the Bell, an after school program at Marvin Elementary School. By 17 years old, she knew without a doubt, working with children and watching them thrive was her calling!

She studied Elementary Education at Southern Connecticut State University, but had to pivot during COVID. She has been offered a full time position at the Room to Grow Preschool, where she has been working as an Early Childhood Community Advocate. She is so grateful for the opportunity to use her voice for students and parents alike!

Nicaury Delorbe

Nicaury was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Norwalk in 2004. She is the mother of two girls, the oldest is 8 years old and the youngest is 2 years old. She participated in one of Family & Children’s Agency home visiting programs for 7 years and likes to help other families in whatever way she can with her knowledge in the Sparkler application. She has her CDA (Child Development Associate) degree and she loves working with children. Also, she worked in a child care center and a nursing home for 10 years as a dining room supervisor. She is very excited to help more families by offering services that are available to the community and learn together.

Maria Guzman

Maria was born in Puerto Rico and has worked in Norwalk for 13 years. Her personal experiences have made her passionate about becoming involved with the immigrant and Latino community. Maria has worked and helped people prosper as a Norwalk ACTS’ Community Advocate for over three years.

Karina Mendez

Karina was born in Colombia and moved to Norwalk in 2006. She studied early childhood education and worked as a preschool and elementary school teacher. Karina is an animal lover and has a rescue dog named Rocky that she brought from Colombia. Karina is a new mother of a 2 year old boy named Samuel.

Ever since she and her husband became parents, they've been trying to educate themselves and help other new parents along their journey, especially during these post pandemic times. Karina is very interested in improving our new generation to come, so they can thrive despite all of the obstacles.

Jennifer Murray-Mayhew

Jennifer is a native of Norwalk. She attended the local schools and college. Being a proud mother of three kids, she strives to make sure they are given all opportunities to achieve the best education possible.

As a Community Advocate over the past couple of years, she assists our families to find services and outreach programs that will allow them to have the best outcomes, whether it’s in education or community recreational programs. Her goal is to help point families in the right direction with the help of the networks in the community. Our families are a priority. I love the saying Norwalk ACTS has, ”From cradle to career.” Yes, we must build on our young minds from the time they speak! That is why it's important to complete an ASQ for a child, 6 years and younger, yearly so we can help measure their growth. This is why she chose to be a Community Advocate!

Melisa Robles

Melisa was born in Ecuador and moved to Norwalk in 2012. She is currently working on her CDA (Child Development Associate) and is an Early Childhood Community Advocate at Norwalk ACTS. She likes to help people/families and especially likes to focus on the kids. She loves to witness their curiosity, watch them discover new things and also, likes to help them. Finally, she loves animals, and especially likes to spend time with her dog, Arhi. 

Eve St. Surin

Eve is a long time Norwalk resident who has over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit field. Her passion for community and equitable resources shared amongst fellow Norwalkers is something that drives her work every day. Being an advocate for her community is something she loves doing. 


Shaaron will be sending an email to SEH & OST Initiative members introducing himself and organizing a SEH / OST Initiative Collaboration meeting in January 2024. 

The SEH Leadership Team is in the process of working to create a suggested standard of care model with related training, systems mapping, and a survey of youth serving providers for feedback on potential workshops for professional development and the SEH/OST Initiative agenda for January. 

Shaaron is continuing to meet with community members and partners on his listening/learning tour. If you would like to connect, please email ssinvilcin@norwalkacts.org.

Norwalk ACTS


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