By SHERIDAN CYR
The Connecticut Association of Alternative Schools and Programs (CAASP) held their 11th annual STARS (success, teamwork, achievement, recognition, self-esteem) celebration day and state conference, uniting four alternative high schools from across Connecticut at Lincoln College of New England in Southington and giving students the opportunity to show off their passions.
Students from alternative high schools in Farmington, Windsor, Southington (ALTA) and West Hartford (REACH) moved between rooms in Founders Hall presenting performances including public speaking, career portfolios, demonstrations, artistic performances, community service projects and audio or video promotions. Danbury Alternative Center for Excellence students were unable to attend due to power outages related to the previous week’s weather.
“These presentations give all of us a chance to share our knowledge with other students and judges,” said Anthony Palace, West Hartford student. “Besides a common desire to share our passions, we all attend alternative schools. Alternative schools exist because not all students learn the same way. Some of us are more successful in small environments where students are able to work in less stressful settings and develop stronger relationships with administration and staff.”
The event is planned and run by students in the STARS leadership program, who are selected for the program based on leadership, grades and attendance. Southington ALTA STARS were represented by Carissa Cayer, Alexa Miani, Kevin Perez and Sara Roccapriore. Altogether, 16 Southington students gave presentations at the conference.
“These are kids who traditionally struggle in school, but they are smart, creative and innovative,” said CAASP President, Rob Melillo, from Danbury ACE. “This is a great day for them to showcase some of the successes they’ve done throughout the year, and a chance for them to say, ‘Look what we do. We’re just as good as everybody else.’”
A panel of CAASP Conference judges visited each individual or team presentation, and offered constructive criticism. The theme of the 11th annual event was “KIND: Keep Inspiring New Dreams.”
Lincoln College of New England has hosted the STARS Conference for several years.
“This conference is a great opportunity for us to observe these young adults going through changes and challenges, and finding themselves in a healthy competition. We are grateful to be a part of that process,” said Admissions Representative, Darmar Jenkins. “We are here to provide a healthy, small environment that’s inclusive and diverse for these young students, to allow them to interact with each other and learn more about themselves, their passions, and their motivations and be able to express themselves intellectually.”
State Senator and former Lincoln College of New England teacher, Joe Markley (R-16), presented a citation honoring STARS Celebration Day and State Conference. The citation recognized that “all students can learn given the right environment, allowing for unique and individualized training strategies and by empowering students to choose a personalized education plan.”
Markley encouraged students to “Keep learning. Don’t think this is the end of the road. This is the beginning. You’ve got the tools and you can continue your education for your whole life.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.