NEW BRITAIN – Students from Central Connecticut State University joined CCSU President Zulma Toro and other administrators on a tour of downtown Wednesday, stopping at many local businesses along the way.
“One of four goals that I have for the university is to make Central the steward of Central Connecticut, and we are starting with our backyard,” Toro told The Herald. “The purpose is to have a very strong connection between the city and the university in such a way that the university can lend its resources to the city to improve the quality of life and to help businesses.”
Toro said CCSU is working toward partnerships with local businesses and organizations to benefit the school’s students and staff. A connection to the city can “enrich” the student body’s experience, Toro said.
Rick Mullins, director of CCSU’s Institute of Technology and Business Development, led the tour – which stopped at places like YoYo Ice Cream, Trinity-On-Main and Mofongo before ending at Central Park.
“The more we have students coming down to see what we have to offer, eat at some of the local restaurants, the better,” said Steve Amato, owner of Amato’s Toy and Hobby, before giving Toro a jar of his homemade peach jam.
Brendan Kruh, president of CCSU’s Student Government Association, said that it was important to introduce the many different sections of the CCSU student body to downtown New Britain, and vice versa.
“This is a large step in the right direction in creating a joint community between CCSU and the city,” Kruh told The Herald.
Ray Rabuska, an education major who is a student ambassador with Toro’s office, said he was happy to check out some of the new things downtown has to offer. Rabuska previously interned at the New Britain Youth Museum, so his career at CCSU has brought him to the area many times.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, founder of the Ana Grace Project which recently opened its base of operations at CCSU, said the tour of downtown fit Toro’s goal of increased community engagement, among other things.
“She’s just ushering in a good spirit, and all these students are doing the same by being here too,” Marquez-Greene said. “It feels like the right place to be at the right time.”
Following the tour the group had lunch in Central Park, which was also hosting the city’s weekly farmers market.
“I think the success of many downtowns across the nation comes when you have a university at the heart of that,” Mayor Erin Stewart said.
Stewart said an increased CCSU presence is crucial to the growth of New Britain’s downtown.
“Dr. Toro’s involvement and interest in the city is really unprecedented,” said the 2009 CCSU graduate. “I’ve been mayor for four years and I’ve never had a relationship with Central like I have today. She’s only been here a couple months so I can only imagine what that’ll mean moving forward as we try to transform New Britain to a true college town.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.