Sept. 19, 2012
20th Anniversary Celebration
By Kimberly Primicerio,
By Kimberly Primicerio
Record-Journal staff MERIDEN — Twenty years ago, when
the Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council was
established, the nonprofit organization was run by two
employees assigned to form community partnerships and raise
awareness of substance abuse. Today, the organization is
still run by two employees, but has grown into the South
Central Connecticut Substance Abuse Council. Just recently,
the organization was tasked with providing assistance to
seven other communities, while continuing to provide
programming for youth, informational pamphlets and awareness
On Wednesday, community members and officials came together
at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center to celebrate the
council’s 20th anniversary. Invited guests enjoyed
refreshments. Community leaders said a few words throughout
the evening as people looked over a table covered with
newspapers articles, newsletters and pamphlets dating from
1992. “When I first came here I thought there was not enough
to do,” said Marlene McGann, executive director of the
council. “Now there’s not enough time.”
Marlene McGann, executive
director of the South Central Connecticut Substance Abuse
accepts a citation from Janet Storey, contract manager for
the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction
on Wednesday. The local council was celebrating its 20th
anniversary with a reception at the Augusta Curtis Cultural
Center in Meriden.
Click here for video
McGann has been with the organization for 18 years. The
council has taken on a number of initiatives, including the
signature programs that prevention coordinator Christelle
Aube created. “I told Christelle, ‘You know that saying, it
takes a village,’ ” McGann said to the crowd. “It doesn’t
take a village in our office, it only takes Christelle.”
Aube can take credit for the council’s BABES program and the
Soy Unica Soy Latina event. BABES, which stands for
Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies, allows
volunteers to go into first- and second-grade classrooms in
Meriden and Wallingford and provide children with coping
skills. Whether a children, has a lost a parent, a pet or is
going through a tough time, the program is meant to teach
the children concepts to deal with such issues.
Soy Unica Soy Latina is an event that occurs once a year for
Hispanic mothers and daughters to come together, go to
workshops and listen to keynote speakers. The program
provides inspiration and role models to the young girls.
While the council has maintained those programs over the
years, a lot has changed, McGann said. The council once put
together a “no smoking dining guide.” “We don’t need that
anymore,” McGann said. “There is no more smoking in bars and
restaurants. That was a big initiative.”
McGann also said that in the early 1990s, people didn’t know
a lot about HIV and AIDS, and the council started a
candlelight vigil. “It was an important topic,” McGann said.
“Our culture now understands more about it.” The council has
also come a long way with smoking prevention and underage
drinking, but more can be done, McGann said. The group also
faces issues with people abusing prescription drugs and
gambling. “We’re all over the board,” McGann said.
Aube, who has been with the council for 15 years, thanked
McGann for having the confidence to lead the prevention
efforts over the years. “Two decades isn’t bad for a
nonprofit business,” Mayor Michael S. Rohde said at the
celebration. Rohde gave thanks to Aube and McGann for their
dedication. He also said the council is just one of the
organizations in the city that works with other groups to
make things happen. “There’s a bright future for what you
do,” Rohde said.
May 10, 2012
Girls Inc. honoree has long record of service
Christelle Aube always lets other people take the limelight,
but on Wednesday night there was no escaping the attention.
At Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, more than 130 people turned out
to honor Aube, this year’s Girls Inc. Strong, Smart and Bold
Award recipient. For the past 13 years, Girls Inc. has
recognized a woman in the community who gives back, engages
in community services and serves as a role model to young
girls, according to Girls Inc. executive director Michelle
Bourdeau. “She (Aube) is all those things,” Bourdeau said.
Inc. is a nonprofit organization in Meriden that provides
after-school opportunities for young girls. They offer
summer camp and recreational activities. Aube, 54, a
prevention coordinator for the Meriden and Wallingford
Substance Abuse Council, believes in Girls Inc.’s mission
and everything they do. She was overwhelmed and excited to
be receiving the award.
“It’s a wonderful program for girls,” Aube said Wednesday
night. “It’s way for them to bond together and spend quality
time with mentors and role models.”
Born and raised in Meriden by French-Canadian parents,
Aube’s career in the city started when she helped her
brother deliver the Record-Journal at the age of 7. “That
job lasted me 20 years. It was the longest job I ever had,”
she said. It even helped her buy her first car, a Buick
Skylark. After graduating from Maloney High School in 1975,
Aube attended Central Connecticut State University. She
received a degree in business management and would go on to
become director of development at Easter Seals in Meriden.
When the organization cut her job, she applied for the
position at Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council.
Director Marlene McGann hired her 14 years ago and they
continue to run the office today.
“There’s no other position I want to be in,” Aube said.
“Marlene allows me to create and bring awareness.” While
Aube chatted with guests she was constantly interrupted by
friends and colleagues who wanted to congratulate her. They
gave her hugs and kisses, and said the award couldn’t go to
a more wonderful person.
Over the years Aube has created two vital programs for the
council: the Beginner Awareness Basic Education Studies
program and the Soy Unica program. BABES allows volunteers
to go into first and second grade classrooms in Meriden and
Wallingford and provide children with coping skills. Whether
a children, has a lost a parent, a pet or is going through a
tough time, the program is meant to teach the children
concepts to deal such issues. Soy Unica is an event that
occurs once a year for Hispanic mothers and daughters to
come together, go to workshops and listen to keynote
speakers. The program provides inspiration and role models
to the young girls, Aube said.
McGann said Aube was unanimously nominated as this year’s
Strong, Smart and Bold award winner. “She was shocked,”
McGann said. “She thought we were kidding.” Aube does a lot
of hard work behind the scenes and doesn’t want any credit,
McGann said. She’s involved with Kiwanis Club and St.
Laurent Church, McGann said. She dedicates her time and goes
out of her way to help the organization. “She takes care of
everything. You don’t have to ask her twice to do things,”
When Aube spoke to her audience she made sure to thank her
friends and family. Her father died less than two weeks ago
and dealing with his loss was still on her mind. “His memory
burns bright in my mind,” Aube said. She spoke highly of her
peers, who encouraged and mentored her to where she is
today. City councilors, Mayor Michael S. Rohde and friends
of Aube’s from the Kiwanis Club made brief speeches and
View the presentation
Courtesy of Record-Journal
May 10, 2012
By Kimberly Primicerio
Dec. 2, 2011
18th Annual Parranda Provides Link to Puerto Rican
Puerto Rican caroling
festival drew generations to John Barry School on Friday
Courtesy of Meriden Patch
Meriden Patch caught up with
audience members at the city's annual Parranda on Friday
night, as they celebrated the holidays with a classic Puerto
Rican music festival.
To some, like Tina Rodriguez
and Ixsia Cardon, hearing the songs was like a trip back to
their birthplace, others like Sarina Cardona and Brandon
Deleon were introduced to this piece of their heritage for
just the first or second time.
Letter to the Editor - Dec.
Courtesy of Record-Journal
On December 2nd, more than 150 people gathered to
celebrate the Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse
Council’s 18th Annual Parranda. The Parranda is a Puerto
Rican carol sing that traditionally moves from house to
house. When Hector Cardona of the Meriden Police Department
suggested adapting the evening for the Meriden area no one
knew if it would be successful. It has become so popular
that the alcohol-free evening of singing, dancing and food
has grown larger each year. Families look forward to this
Meriden holiday tradition.
helped to make this a special event and they deserve our
thanks. We would like to thank Karen Dahn and the John Barry
School, the Meriden Board of Education, Mid-State Medical
Center, the Meriden Police Department, and thanks to the 3
kings for visiting.
thanks go to Officer Hector Cardona Sr., and his
grandchildren Miguel and Celine and the rest of the family
and band members who made the evening magical. Each year it
gets better and better!
Executive Director, MAWSAC
Annual ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina!
By Tiffany Diorio
— The Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council is celebrating its 10th
year hosting the Soy Unica, Soy Latina event, and coordinators don’t think it
will be their last.
Since 2002, Soy Unica, Soy
Latina has promoted mental wellness and high self-esteem and encouraged cultural
pride. Event coordinators bring in motivational speakers, host workshops, and
entertainment for girls. This year the free program will be held on Oct. 15 at
Washington Middle School from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
it’s usually referred to as a “mother and daughter” program, Christelle Aube,
the prevention coordinator, said the program isn’t open only to mothers and
“You can bring your caregiver or your aunt,” she said. “It can be another female
that might be a role model for you. You can bring anyone.”
Aube first brought the program
to Meriden after she heard about the idea at a conference in Washington, D.C. “I
thought it was a great event to bring to the Meriden and Wallingford area
because we have a strong Hispanic population,” she said. Since its start the
program has grown in popularity. At first, it was open to girls ages 9 to 14,
but after a few years Aube said they decided to increase the age range to 9 to
This year’s event
will include a Zumba class led by a YMCA instructor as well as 15 different
informational booths. Organizations hosting booths and handing out information
include Girls Inc. and Beat the Street.
“A lot of kids complain that they’re bored and that
there’s nothing to do, but there is a lot to do if you look,” Aube said.
Organizers are also
bringing back the “What do you know?” game. Inspired by television’s “Newlywed
Game.” daughters will have to answer questions correctly about their mothers and
year’s event will be Meriden School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni, State Rep.
Catherine Abercrombie, D-Meriden, and Meriden Mayor Michael S. Rohde.
“It’s a partnership with
the girls’ mothers and the community and they have a lot of good booths with
pertinent information,” said Rohde, who has attended the event the past four
years. “It promotes a lot of positives about working hard and setting goals.”
The three will
introduce the program’s keynote speaker Ann Hushin, principal of Maloney High
School. Hushin has worked at Maloney since 1991. She worked her way to principal
after starting in the bilingual department, then Spanish teacher, a department
chairperson, and assistant principal.
“We felt that she
was a perfect Hispanic role model for the kids,” Aube said. Hushin, who is
originally from Puerto Rico, attended the event last year and said she was
shocked when they chose her as the speaker for this year’s program.
“I think (the program)
is a great thing for students,” she said. “I was brought up with the sense that
my husband would take care of me, but in today’s economy it’s very hard to do
that.” It was
through education that she learned to be independent. Hushin says that when she
first moved to Connecticut in 1976 after she married she had a hard time
adjusting to the language.
“I wouldn’t leave my apartment for a long time,” she
said. “It was a while until I felt comfortable enough to talk to people. I
thought people would make fun of me.”
But through the encouragement of her husband she
eventually got over her fear and went back to school.
She’s stressed the importance
of an education since, and plans to stress it in her speech.
“I tell all my
students that if you don’t have money they can take away your lights, housing
and cars, but they’ll never take away your education,” she said. “An education
will give you a good future and you have to continue it.”
Oct. 26, 2010
First-grade program gets parents involved
By Jaclyn Hirsch
Photo by Jaclyn Hirsch/Record-Journal
WALLINGFORD — A mostly volunteer program aimed to help
first-grade students learn life skills had a few extra volunteers Monday
morning. Several parents of first-graders at Highland School dressed up as
characters from stories used to reinforce a five-week life skills program that
helps children learn how to make good decisions and feel empowered.
Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies (BABES), a
national educational program that is intended to help first graders learn
important life skills lessons through interactive storytelling and songs, is
taught to Wallingford and Meriden pupils by eight local volunteers and organized
by the Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council.
“It’s an important message, and they make it fun for the
kids,” said Elaine Villano, one of the parent volunteers for the day. Villano
changed Monday into a wise owl, who gives advice in several stories throughout
the program. Her son, Ryan, is in first grade and is eager to talk about the
stories from the programs when he comes home, Villano said. In past years,
fifth-grade students have worn the life-size costumes for the program’s closing
ceremony, but this year parent volunteers stepped in when the district
reconfigured the elementary schools and separated the third, fourth and fifth
grades from the lower grades.
Christelle Aube, the Meriden and Wallingford Substance
Abuse Council’s prevention coordinator, brought the program to Wallingford and
Meriden in 2000, and last year the program reached more than 1,000 children in
12 schools. The program is funded through donations and grants from the Meriden
and Wallingford United Way, the Meriden Kiwanis Club and other local groups.
Aube said having the parents come in for the final session of the program allows
them to see what the children have learned. She said she believes it’s important
for young people to learn about peer pressure and decision making at an early
age. “They (first-graders) don’t always think about what kind of decisions they
make on a day-to-day basis,” Aube said.
The eight volunteers from Meriden agreed that they enjoy
working with children and making an impact on their lives. They also said they
loved to see the parent involvement in the program, a new element this year.
“There are so many children that have so much going on in their lives,”
volunteer Elaine Murphy said. The volunteers — who range in age from late 60s to
early 80s — said children still recognize them around the community several
years after they go through the program. “We get acknowledged, and that’s very
rewarding,” Murphy said.
Highland School first-grade teacher Allison Denya said she
sees her students using some of the language and lessons taught to them by the
BABES volunteers. She said the program teaches “valuable lessons” to the
students such as how to avoid bullying or how to compromise during a
disagreement. “Some of them have a lot that they are dealing with, and this
helps them,” Denya said.
Ongoing Events --
Click for details
Call For your Drug Free
MAWSAC is offering local businesses a free kit on creating
and sustaining a drug free and safer workplace. The
resource is filled with easy to use posters, fact sheets
and low cost ideas for keeping employees and customers
safe. It is appropriate for any size business. Don’t miss
out, call now 294-3591.
Joins with DMHAS To Start CT
Statewide Task Force on Inhalants
In recent years, inhaling house hold products
or “huffing” has
become prevalent among young
some as young as 5th graders, have begun to
inhale anything they can find in the hope of getting
“high” from its fumes.
Some of the products used by these children have
been lighter fluid, hair spray, white out, deodorant, air
freshener, and gasoline, and the list goes on and on.
In recent years, this has led to brain damage in
some children and even death.
In fact, 36% of youth who die from inhalant use die on the first time they
use an inhalant.
The problem is that these products
that are commonly found in households and schools and can
easily be purchased contain poisonous chemicals that are
harmful or even fatal when inhaled.
Youth, parents and other adults are just unaware of
this fact. In
addition, these products are readily available to them.
In response to this problem, the
Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction
Services, in conjunction with the
and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council, recently
established the CT Inhalant Task Force.
Their goal is twofold:
to increase the awareness of inhalant abuse and to
prevent inhalant abuse.
This task force is comprised of police officers,
members of Connecticut Safe Kids, Connecticut Poison
of Health and Human Services,
Governor's Prevention Partnership, and various
health and youth serving organizations who work toward the
welfare and safety of children.
Some of the warning signs are:
a change in friends or interests, decline in school
performance, disoriented/dazed appearance, slurred speech,
chemical odors on cloths/breath/backpack, red spots or
sores around nose and/or mouth,
headaches more than usual,
finding empty lighters
or spray cans or household
cleaner containers, and finding
of rags or plastic bags with chemical odors on
For more information on the CT Task
Force on Inhalants, contact
MAWSAC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think your child may be experimenting with
inhalants, please consider these resources:
Infoline at 211 or on the web at
In a poison emergency, call 1-800-222-1222 or 911