Diageo employees refurbish the Carver Community Center

Danielle Robinson, PhD, Director, Alcohol Policy and Corporate Reputation Management at Diageo, who also serves on the Carver Board of Directors, brought a team of co-workers to the Carver Community Center to redecorate two classrooms!  

Diageo North America, Inc. is headquartered in Norwalk and is a longtime supporter of Carver’s educational programs. Diageo was formed in 1997 from the merger of Guiness and Grand Metropolitan. Like another Carver donor, Xerox, the name Diageo is an invented name. The name is composed of the Latin word "dia", meaning day, and the Greek root "geo", meaning world, and is meant to reference the company giving pleasure every day, everywhere.

Diageo employees were true to their company’s name when they brought bright colors, beanbag chairs, new shelving, wall hangings and bright artwork to the Carver community. Carver students immediately appreciated the gifts and the new sense of joy our friends at Diageo invested in their space.

Thank you, Diageo! 

Norwalk ACTS Interviews Novelette Peterkin

Impact Agent 

Here is an Impact Agent article at Norwalk ACTS from June 2016

A conversation with Novelette Peterkin, Executive Director, Carver Foundation.

When Novelette Peterkin assumed the role of Executive Director at the Carver Center in 2004, many were doubtful that she would be able to realize her vision for the neighborhood community center.

"There was a lot to do,” explained Novelette. “But from the beginning, my goal was to give Carver kids access and opportunities so they could be just as successful as their more privileged counterparts.

Today, with a $3.5 million budget, Carver has become a shining example of what is working in our community, and the largest provider of after-school programs in Norwalk, serving close to 800 elementary, middle and high school students.

Novelette began the transformation with a “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis,” a skill she learned while working on Wall Street. Her team focused on small, high-impact changes as a way to strengthen Carver’s traditional programs and athletic leagues, as well as galvanize Carver’s client base and make everyone more accountable. She also began looking at data in a new way.

"Basically we started peeling back the layers to understand the needs of our students,” explained Novelette. She discovered that after-school was the biggest gap in the city; students needed an extension of their school day. They also needed caring adults in their lives, noted Novelette, so she literally extended the school day by hiring certified Norwalk Public School teachers who believed in the students and knew the NPS curriculum.

"I tapped into the best and the brightest,” she added.  And it has paid off. Since 2005, 100% of Carver’s seniors have graduated on time and nearly 100% of Carver graduates have gone on to college.

Q: How does data play a role in Carver’s success?  
A:According to Novelette, data plays a critical role in all decision-making at Carver. For example, Carver’s K-5 after-school program (CASPER), uses Lexia Reading Core5, a personalized literacy software program with activities designed to meet individual student needs. It can be used after school or at home and features an embedded assessment system that collects student data with every click of the mouse.
“By checking progress along the way, we can help students with small group intervention and keep them on track,” notes Novelette.
Carver also provides summer learning programs including Summer Enrichment for 5 to 13 year-old students at two Norwalk sites; Freshman Summer Success Academies for graduated 8th-grade students transitioning into 9th grade at Norwalk and Brien McMahon High Schools; and Summer Learning Experience for 5th grade students transitioning into middle school.

One of Norwalk ACTS’ community outcomes focuses on ensuring that students have a positive transition from elementary school to middle school. Current data indicates that many Norwalk students do not have the necessary skills to successfully transition from 5th to 6th grade.

Further, The Program on Education Policy and Governance Working Papers Series at Harvard University states, “Students moving from 5th grade  into middle school show a ‘sharp drop’ in math and language arts achievement in the transition year, which plagues them as far out as 10th grade, even risking or thwarting their ability to graduate from high school and go on to college.”

Novelette, a member of Norwalk ACTS’ 5th to 6th Grade Transition Workgroup, as well as Co-Chair of the Norwalk ACTS’  8th to 9th Grade Transition Workgroup, agrees that transitions can be a critical turning point for students, adding that ideally, a summer transition program should be offered to every Norwalk student entering middle school and high school.

Carver’s Summer Learning Experience helps students learn the basics of navigating their respective new schools by offer individualized instruction, parental involvement, small group learning experiences, diverse enrichment activities, as well as free transportation, and full-day activities, a plus for working families. By all accounts, the programs are having a positive effect on the incoming 6th graders.

Q:What does the data tell you about your programs?
A: The staff at Carver uses RIT scores (Rasch Unit) to estimate a student’s “instructional level.”  A RIT score has the same meaning regardless of the grade or age of the student.  Some people consider RIT to be a ‘readiness’ level, for example, if a student's scores a 235, then he/she is “ready” to learn algebra.

This past year, according to Novelette, the percentage of students achieving “Proficiency” (a RIT score of 205 – 235) in reading is 14% higher for the Carver Academy students (78%) than the Comparative Group of students who did not attend a summer program (64%).

“In general, we have been successful in leveling the playing field for our students.  The data shows that these and other Summer Transition programs help to ‘plug gaps’ and get students to the starting gate,” explains Novelette.

However, she warns that a 5-week summer program will not necessarily make students College and Career Ready, but it’s a start.  It is crucial now to move these “average” students from the 50th to the 70th percentile in CCR assessments and many other National tests over their 3-year middle school career, she adds.

“Imagine if these students were enrolled in a Carver program after school for four years or if they attended a summer academy throughout all three years of middle school?” notes Novelette.

Q: What other measurements or data points do you track?
A: Academics are just part of a successful transition, says Novelette. Soft skills, such as self-confidence, the ability to communicate, self-advocate and stay organized also play an important role.

“We have the data that shows us this program is having a positive impact on the kids’ performance,” says Joseph Velucci, principal, Roton Middle School.

“Look at the suspension data – the rate is down. Academics are up. They’re here learning, they’re more involved … The bottom line is that this program simply helps kids do better.”

Q: What are the most important skills Norwalk children need to be College or Career Ready?
A: In many ways, today’s students are preparing for careers that have not even been created. That’s how fast our world is changing, notes Novelette.

“We also know that students achieving average proficiency are not necessarily College and Career Ready (CCR).  In fact, the “average” student likely will not pass the new National assessment (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), nor will he/she be CCR. To be truly well prepared, a student must score well above the 50th percentile, according to Novelette, in fact current research shows that CCR levels are closer to the 70th percentile.  

Q: How are you preparing students for careers in STEM?
A: Another area of focus for Carver is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education; problem solving, analytic thinking, collaboration and communication and other skills required to succeed in 21st Century jobs.

Five years ago, GE invested in STEM education at six Norwalk sites, including Carver Center, Side by Side School and Norwalk’s four public middle schools. This was the beginning of a robust after-school program which includes a robotics team, collaborative design projects and field trips to Datto, NBC Studios, King Industries and other tech companies.  

But according to Novelette, this that is was just the beginning. In December, the new Charlotte Naomi Horblit Technology Center opened on the second floor of the Carver Center, thanks to a $472,000 donation Mark Feinberg made on behalf of the estate of his late aunt, Charlotte Naomi Horblit and an additional $28,000 which came from an anonymous donation.

Every day after school, students can’t wait to jump into the bright green chairs and get to work on one of the 24 new PCs, eight iMac computers with Retina 5K displays or 3-D printers and 3D scanner and video conferencing software, all designed to support STEM learning.
In March, middle school students proudly displayed their computer programmed robotics, architectural models, bridges and other STEM projects at a community-wide Interactive Showcase at Carver.

Q: Why is it so important for your community to give back?
A: Giving back has always been another key to Carver’s success. In fact, it’s a requirement for students who are awarded college scholarships. They come back to Norwalk, work as counselors, talk to the kids about their futures and serve as true role models.

Mark Feinberg was born and raised in Norwalk and attended Brien McMahon High School. During his freshman year, his science teacher encouraged him to work as a camp counselor at the Carver Center, teaching science. It was an experience he never forgot.

Feinberg went on to graduate from St. Luke's School in New Canaan and to pursue a career as wealth management adviser for Merrill Lynch after graduating from Boston University. When his aunt’s will requested him to name seven charitable beneficiaries of her estate, Feinberg recalled his summer camp counselor job three decades ago, and chose the Carver Center as one of the seven.

“Giving back has always been part of Carver’s mission,” said Novelette. When Carver students go on to achieve their dreams, they know it’s important to come back and help the next one in line.

The Impact Vine supports Carver's STEM education programming!

The Impact Vine, a generous and innovative initiative of the longtime Carver supporter The Community Fund of Darien, is a new online giving platform that "allows donors to support the projects they are passionate about, and local nonprofits to raise funds for socially impactful projects in our community." Carver is gratefully among the initial charities featured.

Carver offered our donors the opportunity to support our robotics programming -- here. Our goal was to raise $878 to purchase two LEGO Mindstorm robotics kits. Carver was the first among the pilot initiatives at TheImpactVine to reach its fundraising goal, thanks to our generous donors.

This innovative and generous crowdfunding initiative is still underway and there are other worthy projects there that deserve your consideration and support.

The Hour reports on Carver's partnership with Underground Factory to win Fairfield County's Giving Day

Local recording studio partners with Carver Center

By Kaitlyn Krasselt, Wednesday, March 8, 2017

See the article at The Hour HERE

NORWALK — Kenneth Shuler, also known as the rapper FNX, credits much of his success — in music and in life — to Norwalk’s George Washington Carver Center, an organization he says kept him off the streets and in school.

Now, in yet another effort to give back to the organization that shaped his life, Shuler is co-hosting with Norwalk’s Factory Underground a live telethon featuring several other Carver alumni and a number of local musicians.

“The simple truth is that without the influence and mentoring I received at the Carver Center, I wouldn't be where I am today,” Shuler said. “I'm actually only one of a thousand success stories of the George Washington Carver Foundation. As a child, I remember sleeping on the floor of a church, often not knowing where our next meal was coming from, and who would have bet that I would have stayed in school, all the way through to a Master's Degree in Business? The Carver bet on me, and now I'm giving back. The way I see it, supporting Carver is investing in the future of Norwalk.“

The event, which will be broadcast live from the Carver Center from 5-9 p.m. Thursday on Facebook, is part of the effort to raise money during the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Giving Day, a 24-hour county-wide crowdfunding effort.

The 24-hour Giving Day is an annual competition among more than 400 Fairfield County nonprofits to raise as much money as possible, with prizes given to those organizations that raise the most. The Carver Center, which came in fourth last year, is hoping the live telethon and arts collaboration will give the organization the boost it needs to raise more money than ever this year.

“At Carver, we have many alumni who got their inspiration for their art here," said executive director Novelette Peterkin. "We love to add the arts whenever we can, and we have many events where we will showcase arts, so we’re very fortunate for the collaboration with Factory Underground and local artists."

The event is free and open to the public in addition to being streamed online. Performers include Steve Lou (also known as DJ Connect), FNX, Tom “The Suit” Forst in collaboration with Gabbie Pierre-Louis, Frankie Candullo, Ethan Isaac and Joel Kelly of the rock band EDISUN, Che-Val, Erick Northrop, Brian Larney, Francesco D’Angelo and Berdine Joseph, a Carver alumna and competitor on “The Voice,” among others. Lou, Pierre-Louis, FNX and Joseph are all Carver Center alumni.

The event streaming will be handled by AIM For a Better Tomorrow, another Fairfield County nonprofit that helps existing public service and nonprofit providers maintain or expand community art programming and art educational/therapeutic help for homeless and other “at risk” populations.

This isn’t the first time Factory Underground has gotten involved at the Carver Center. The collaboration began when FNX was approached by the organization in an effort to engage alumni. The effort spawned the fundraiser, Hometown Love, and an ongoing partnership with the recording studio.

Marc Alan, director of marketing for Factory Underground, said FNX’s story and the studio’s desire to give back to the Norwalk community has motivated him and the rest of the FU team to do what the can for the nonprofit.

“FNX is a Carver success story,” Alan said. “There’s hundreds of those. He got his philosophy from Carver and we’re lucky to have him at Factory Underground. We’re doing this because we believe in their mission and we just wanted to help these guys continue their mission. We're doing Hometown Love again in May, but in advance of that we wanted to help with Giving Day.”

Tom “The Suit” Forst’ isn't a Carver alum, but as a former teacher the organization's mission hit close to home. 

“What they do here is so important,” Forst said. ”Without education many of these kids wouldn’t have a chance. So to be a part of this is a great opportunity.”

Forst recently released his his first solo album, “On Fire,” through Factory Underground. The album features the single “Women of the World,” which he will perform with Carver alumna Gabbie Pierre-Louis at the telethon.

The Carver Center is the largest provider of after school programs for middle and high school students in Norwalk. The organization serves nearly 800 students annually through it’s programs at the Carver Center and off-site programs present in all of Norwalk’s public schools. All of the money raised by the Carver Center during the Day of Giving will be put toward programs and scholarships for Carver Students.

“To give to the Carver Center is to give to Norwalk Public Schools," said James Schaffer, director of Development for the Carver Foundation.

kkrasselt@scni.com; 203-354-1021; @kaitlynkrasselt 

Carver's Science, Technology & Engineering Showcase!

See all the Facebook album photos here!

On Thursday, March 2nd, at the Carver Community Center, six school student teams participated in a public exhibition of their work in STEM related fields. Teachers, families and community members helped cheer the student projects created during the Carver afterschool program this year.  Projects were thoughtfully designed.

Robotics and much was where on display.  For example, some students constructed and displayed Truss Bridges. They used simple hand tools and materials, and followed a simple construction sequence. Students presented their Truss Bridges and explained how they performed simple calculations to determine the amount of materials required for each part of the project. They calculated the cost of producing a structure based on the selection of materials. They also identified a truss structure from other possible bridge structures and compared the strength of a truss structure with that of a rectangular structure.

Carver Jr. YDP team produced Hovercraft Boats (engineering) and Truss Bridges (technology). Nathan Hale BARK YDP students produced robotics demonstrations (technology), and fruit DNA (science). Ponus Ridge PRIDE YDP students produced an autonomous car display and survey (engineering), and air turbines and small boats (CPEP technology). Roton STRIVE YDP students produced robotics demonstrations (engineering) and air boats (CPEP technology). Side by Side Charter School RISE YDP students produced robotics demonstrations (engineering), CPEP technology projects and a videography project (technology). West Rocks REACH YDP students produced robotics (engineering), Truss Bridges and a Spaghetti Marshmallow challenge (technology).

The judges selected the following teams/projects as the winners (5 categories) and prizes were awarded to each team member. Best overall project – Carver engineering team for their Hovercraft project. (Each team member received a $25 gift card) | Most challenging (highest degree of difficulty) - Side by Side Engineering Team for their Robot Demo. (Each team member received a $15 gift card) | Most Innovative Project – West Rocks REACH Technology Team for their Spaghetti Marshmallow Challenge. (Each team member received a $15 gift card) | Teamwork Award – PONUS PRIDE CPEP Team. (Each member received a $10 gift card) | Top Presentation Award – West Rocks Engineering Team for Their Robot Demo. (Each team member received a $15 gift card)

Nathan Hale BARK = Belief Awareness Respect Knowledge

Ponus Ridge PRIDE = Perseverance Respect Intelligence Diversity Excellence

Roton STRIVE = Scholarship Togetherness Resilience Integrity Values Excellence

Side by Side Charter School RISE = Rising Innovative Scholars of Excellence

West Rocks REACH = Responsibility Effort Aptitude Character High Expectations

New Canaan High School Service League of Boys visits Carver

New Canaan's SLOBs (and here) visit Carver youth at least once a year to bring good fun and cheer.  See our Facebook album of photos here!

Founded in 2004, the New Canaan High School Service League of Boys (SLOBs) is a student/parent run organization that works to foster the parent-son relationship in a philanthropic organization committed to community service, leadership development, and education. It is an organization of parents and sons who join together in service and educational endeavors to foster community responsibility as well as strengthen the parent-son relationship. Their stated mission is "for parents and sons to initiate and promote educational and charitable endeavors that foster community responsibility and leadership as well as strengthen the parent-son relationship."  They currently serve approximately 30 philanthropic organizations with over 65 different projects. We are grateful that Carver is among their charitable commitments! 

Photos: Carver's 2017 Black History Month celebration!

See the photos from our 2017 Black History Month Celebration here, Volume 1 and Volume 2 at Facebook!

This exciting and memorable event was produced by Carver's Sr. YDP Plus students. 

The Program for the evening (2.25.17) included:

Pastor Lenore Jordan (New Place of Worship)

CASPER students singing

Chavez Johnson (The Dancing Christian)

Ebel Alliance and Whitely Thermidor, Jr. YDP, musical selection

Charge Cheer (Dance and Step Team)

Carla Romeus, Sr. YDP student reads her poem

Kouffin Kanecke Company (New Haven School of African Dance and Drumming)

Greater Love Temple Church Youth Choir

Sara St. Surin, Sr. YDP student musical selection

TRN Musical selection featuring Trenton Moore, Rahmin Blake, Nazaire Vereen

French Speaking Baptist Church Choir

Deacon Rodney Moore recites MLK's "I have a Dream" historic speech

Berdine Joseph, Carver alumnus, sings solo

Carver's Sr. YDP students, Alexis Hooks and Shelcie Charlot, offer closing remarks

Carver Summer Employment Opportunities

Summer Employment Opportunities at the Carver and Columbus Summer Camps

APPLY BETWEEN 3/27/17 AND 4/28/17!

Read a brief description of our summer enrichment programs here. 

Applications will be given out ONLY at the main office at the Carver Community Center at 7 Academy Street, Norwalk. Applications will be given out starting March 27th and all applications must be submitted to the main office of the Carver Community Center by the close of business on April 28th in order for you to be considered for employment.

Candidates must meet the following criteria:

1. Must be 16 or older by June 26,2017

2. Must be able to work the entire summer camp program which starts on June 26th and ends on August 4th 2017.

3. Candidates must submit to and clear a back ground check

This is a great opportunity! Sign-up today!