NEW BRITAIN - It was during a meeting in May of 2016 when officials from the Capitol Region Education Council made a decision they hoped would not have to be made - the middle school sports programs would not be able to continue.
Budgetary constraints from the state meant CREC had to choose between its high school programs and middle school ones. Although not officially announced, amongst administrators the decision was already made.
“When the funding was announced, it was clear that our high school and middle school programs as is would not be able to continue,” said Jonathan Winer, the athletic director for CREC, which oversees the five schools with sports.
“So the decision was to leave the high schools intact because those kids have had those opportunities and get rid of the middle schools and hope those kids have something to look forward to when they get to high school.”
But within a couple of weeks, the district got some exciting news. Dynegy, an energy company based in Houston with power generating facilities throughout the U.S., would be making a $100,000 donation to save the middle school sports programs for 2016-17 and another $100,000 for the 2017-18 school year.
Prior to Dynegy, CREC had been partnered with a company called EquiPower, who had an office based in Hartford and made yearly $50,000 donations to the district. When EquiPower was bought out by Dynegy, the company not only continued to honor those donations, but doubled them as well.
And on Tuesday, at the Academy of Science and Innovation, Dynegy presented CREC with the $100,000 check to fund the middle school sports program for next year.
“[Our company] powers roughly 25 million homes in the U.S. and we have to be in tune with our community,” said Marty Daley, the Executive Vice President and COO of Dynegy. “One of the things we’ve found out throughout our process is working with education-oriented programs, whether that’s in Houston or in one of our other communities. I’ve had three children who were all involved in sports and it’s made them better people.
“One thing we’ve also seen [is] the parallels between businesses and sports. One of our core themes is one team, one goal, so everything we approach as a company is working as a team and that’s what you get from sports and academics. Win, lose or draw, the key is working together.
“It’s been a pleasure for us to be part of this organization and donate $100,000. Our predecessor company started this six or seven years ago and we’re pleased to continue to be involved.”
For an hour and a half, Daley, the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Julius Cox and head of communications Meredith Moore were shown around the school by Innovation students, meeting and talking with parents, student-athletes and faculty members on what having sports in the schools meant and the values learned.
“This athletic program is five years old and it started with the middle school programs,” Winer said. “The high school programs didn’t come on until a year later. When we were in a position last year where the middle school programs were really in jeopardy of being cut, to us, that was a huge step backwards and it was going to be a huge disservice to the middle school programs that we had been growing.
“To have Dynergy come in and write us a check that enabled 1,200 kids to have the opportunity to participate in athletics is just amazing and for them to do it another year, they couldn’t be more generous. To me this is more than just kicking or shooting a ball, this is about life skills, which we want our kids to have well rounded experiences.
“I think the best part was having them have the opportunity to hear from the kids and the parents. The tour was nice and the speeches were good, but ultimately this is about the kids and for them to have the opportunity to interact with the kids and hear how sports impact them, the kids are going to be the one that sells this program, not the adults, and they did a great job.”
But the donation from Dynegy is set to do more than fund the middle school programs. A portion will also go to the newly created Dynegy Citizen-Athlete Award.
The $1,000 annual award will be given to a graduating high school senior at one of the four CREC high schools that offers athletics. The scholarship will be renewable for four years as long as the student is enrolled at a four-year institution.
Following the tour, speeches from Winer, students, CREC assistant superintendent Tim Sullivan, Daley and CREC’s executive director Greg Florio preceded the check ceremony to end the event. For members of the CREC administration, it was a moment that will not be soon forgotten.
“When you live in cities like Hartford and New Britain, there are a lot of ways to make connections, some are negative and some are positive,” Sullivan said. “We found an opportunity to show that our kids’ connections are positive so for that, we can’t be more thankful for what Dynegy’s done.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach