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Sharing America

Connecticut Public Radio is part of the public radio collaborative “Sharing America,” covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. The initiative is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and includes reporters in Hartford, Conn., Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., and Portland, Ore.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Tatiana Melendez waited in the shade during a New England heat wave, ready to make a move.

“I got all the information for you, all right,” Melendez, 46, said as she handed a baggie of info to a passerby. “This is very good for you. For everybody doing sex.”

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

A sign taped to the door told customers that Story and Soil Coffee was closing early for a staff training.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Commencement was two days away and Karina Lasalle Arroyo had hauled out nearly seven months’ worth of luggage from her time in Connecticut.

She stood in a dormitory parking lot and confirmed she was ready to go home.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Minutes into touring the Mark Twain House in Hartford, the visitors came across a black-and-white photo of a young Clara Clemens, a daughter of Mark Twain. Soon, it dawned on everyone that Clara looks a lot like Milianis Rivera, a Puerto Rican evacuee.

Bulkeley High School senior Yeicy Alejandro, smiling at left, talks to her new mentors from Central Connecticut State University. They're in the new "Ambassadors" program - Puerto Rican evacuees helping other students displaced by Hurricane Maria.
Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Communications major Marivelisse Acosta attends Central Connecticut State University. But on Wednesday night, she stood in the cafeteria of Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, contemplating what to say as a mentor to the school’s displaced students from Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

A sprightly “Good morning!” awaited students and parents who approached Sanchez Elementary School on the Friday before spring break.

Maybe the school staff was in an extra good mood? But Merelys Torres, secretary of Sanchez’s parent-teacher organization, said it’s like this every morning. She noticed it right away when her family came to Hartford from Puerto Rico last fall — a sensitive time for her two kids.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

They came from countries like Haiti, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and Ghana. And on Thursday, inside the downtown Hartford Public Library, 50 immigrants took the Oath of Allegiance from U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Like many of his neighbors, Bernie Michel came to Hartford from somewhere else.

In Michel’s case, Ohio.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s lunchtime at Central Connecticut State University and 10 students converge on their usual spot in the dining hall. They start talking about the food — and it becomes clear that they don’t love the rice. They explain that it’s not as seasoned as the homemade arroz in Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s mid-March and Hartford Public High School teacher Bridget Allison goes over essay-writing tips for her fourth-period class. After a while, she checks in on a group of students who are seated together — a few of the evacuees from Puerto Rico.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Show me the money.

That’s the message from Hartford Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The disaster last fall uprooted many Puerto Ricans who fled the island, including children who ended up enrolling in Connecticut schools.

Before a screening of "Black Panther," artist Martha Walker-Dawkins paints the face of Zaniah Welsh, a fourth-grader at West Hartford's Smith STEM School. Engineer David Johnson sponsored the event to inspire students.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

As a child in the Midwest, David Johnson said he dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Katie Hanley, head of Oak Hill's Center for Relationship & Sexuality Education, teaches students about the different types of relationships.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The title for today’s lesson is written on the whiteboard of this Hartford classroom: #Relationships.

Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The State’s Attorney in Waterbury has cleared a Bridgeport police officer in the fatal shooting last year of a 15-year-old boy.

Spectactors at Tuesday's Hartford school board meeting in the Naylor School auditorium.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The Hartford school board voted Tuesday night to close two neighborhood schools this year, endorsing the first wave of a plan to downsize a school system with high needs and declining enrollment.

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