Naugatuck continues to display their commitment to building an inclusive community accepting everyone for who they are. As the world prepared to celebrate autism awareness month in April, the town held two events that recognized we really need to go above and beyond. In the words of Laque Youngblood, a student of City Hill Middle School who spoke at one of the events, “Although autism awareness is helpful, we prefer autism acceptance”. And he should know more than anyone, speaking clearly and confidently about the impact of autism on his life.
On Thursday March 31st a gathering of over 100 people on the town green saw Laque, together with his fellow students and the town’s Mayor Pete Hess speak very personally about acceptance and inclusion. The crowd heard music from City Hill’s band and songs from Tyler Suarez from Naugatuck High school, a nephew of Mrs. Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed in the shooting on December 14th 2012. Tyler sang an original piece he wrote with his grandfather, dedicated to Mrs. Hochsprung.
The event was organized by the student “squadron leaders” from City Hill’s Wingman program and culminated with Mayor Hess issuing a proclamation to recognize world autism awareness month in Naugatuck and lighting the town center gazebo in blue.
The organizers are already planning a larger event for next April, including the illumination of more of the town’s buildings in blue and encouraging the community to install blue lights on their porches and in their homes.
Then on Saturday April 2nd City Hill hosted their first annual fundraiser for their Wingman program; “Dylan’s Dinner”. Families enjoyed mac’n’cheese with all the trimmings and delicious cupcakes all prepared by staff at the school. Together with a raffle of great prizes from local companies as well as the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots, the event raised over $3,000. Added with another grant from Dylan’s Wings of Change these funds will enable the Wingman program at City Hill throughout the 2016/17 school year. During the event, parents and teachers discussed extending community programs for children with special needs across the town with a series of monthly recreation and social nights together with the YMCA of Naugatuck. It is wonderful to see the town embrace the spirit of inclusion inspired by the students at City Hill.