Report for America | Connecticut Public Radio

Report for America

Connecticut Public is proud to participate in the Report for America  initiative, a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-reported issues and communities through its reporting corps. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project , Report for America addresses an urgent need in journalism at a time when news deserts are widening across the country.

Connecticut Public is among 164 newsrooms across the country selected to join Report for America’s journalism program which is supported by national funders to The GroundTruth Project and local donors. In Connecticut, our RFA journalists will primarily focus in two areas:

Latino Community in Connecticut

Brenda León covers the Latino community in Connecticut, which represents 15% of the state’s population. Working in tandem with journalists from GFR Media in Puerto Rico, León chronicles the experience of Puerto Ricans with ties to both Connecticut and the island. Additional coverage includes stories about racial and wealth-based disparities in health, education, and criminal justice, as well as immigration reporting distributed regionally by the New England New Collaborative. Recent reports include a local project celebrating Black, Latinx, and indigenous changemakers and how Hartford’s Park Street has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Brenda León
León previously covered the recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico during her internship at The Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico. A graduate from Lehman College at the City University of New York, she focused on broadcast journalism with a concentration in political science. During her time there she was a host at WWRL La Invasora 1600 AM. Her work has been published in The Gothamist, Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), El Deadline and The Mott Haven Herald. A Bronx native, León is a recent graduate from The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she obtained her master’s in Spanish-language journalism.

Naugatuck River Valley Community

Ali Oshinskie reports on the Naugatuck River Valley, a region previously overlooked particularly in radio reporting. Oshinskie covers stories that capture the essence of the Valley, including relevant issues related to work and the aging labor force, including the impact on blue collar workers. Recent reports include the effect of COVID-19 on Naugatuck River Valley companies and concerns about absentee voting in the wake of the upcoming election.

About Ali Oshinskie
Oshinskie has produced live radio shows during internships and fellowships for New Hampshire Public Radio, Marketplace Morning Report, and Connecticut Public Radio. She has written for The Hartford Courant and Arts Council of Greater New Haven’s The Arts Paper, and she has produced for Wondery’s Business Wars Daily and the New England News Collaborative’s weekly program NEXT. Later this year, her writing will be published in “Fast Funny Women,” an anthology of essays. After completing her undergrad at the University of Connecticut, Oshinskie founded a podcasting company, PODSTORIES. Most recently she was a program coordinator for the Yale School of Nursing.

Leadership Support for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, comes from:

Access Health Connecticut Small BusinessHoffman Auto Group

Additional Support Provided by:

Tara and Arthur Diedrick

Jay Youngling and Susan Jordan

Joe Zimmel

William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund


Courtesy: Cristian Padilla Romero

Just days into his term, President Joe Biden has moved swiftly on a couple of fronts in addressing immigration issues. Immigrants in Connecticut call Biden’s efforts to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program a great first step. They’ve also welcomed the announcement from the Department of Homeland Security of a 100-day moratorium on deportations.

Several activist organizations met in front of New Haven’s City Hall to mark President Joe Biden’s inauguration earlier that day and push for racial, economic, and social justice.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Celebrations of President Joe Biden’s inauguration took place throughout Connecticut Wednesday night, including one by Unidad Latina en Accion, or ULA. The organization celebrated in the form of a demonstration, hosting a two-part event: a march and car caravan in New Haven and a virtual roundtable of speakers from advocacy groups across the state.

Amar Batra / Connecticut Public Radio

J.R. Romano announced Tuesday night that he has resigned as chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. Last October, Romano had said he would step down at the end of his term in June. The immediate resignation marks a surprise development.

He said in a short email statement that he decided his resignation was best for the party. In an interview, he refused to elaborate, saying his statement said it all.  

“That’s why my statement was concise, it’s exactly how I feel,” Romano said. “The party needs a new face, it needs a new voice.”

A Hartford HealthCare worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public


As Connecticut prepares to transition into Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout, there’s growing concern about reaching diverse communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 illness and death. To address the problem, Dr. Jorge Moreno, an internist and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, posted a video about his experience with the vaccine. 

A Muslim civil rights group has asked the Connecticut Department of Correction to terminate the employment of an officer who allegedly posted Islamophobic content on social media.

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, posted a video Sunday outlining its demand that the DOC terminate Officer Anthony Marlak.

Darlene Riddick, top and bottom left, died in July 2020 of the coronavirus. Her goddaughter, Patricia Sands, top and bottom right, lost eight people this year due to the virus. Sands believes her godmother will be remembered for her smile.
Patricia Sands / Contributed photo

Finding a godmother

Patricia Sands grew up in Waterbury. She started going to church on her own at age 7, because her parents weren’t church goers.

She met Darlene Riddick at the Macedonia Church of the Living God. Riddick was assigned to watch out for Sands. She taught her how to ride the bus, invited her over for sleepovers, and fostered her faith.

Jackie Carroll wanted to bring a little Christmas cheer to the town of Prospect. So she went to a dollar store for supplies and decorated the stop sign at the end of her street. Then she posted a photo on the town’s Facebook group. 

Carroll’s idea took off. “Within like, a day, there was already like five to 10 poles up,” she said. “I was super surprised at how fast it caught on.” 

Contributed photo

College students coming home for the holidays this year may find a house with one fewer family member, or attend a holiday gathering with one missing face on the video chat.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says whistleblowers have come forward in the wake of a lethal accident at the West Haven VA, alleging unsafe working conditions.

A U.S. veteran and a contractor were killed in a November explosion after being trapped in a room filled with hot steam. The accident occurred on the VA campus in a maintenance building. In addition to the two deaths, three other people suffered injuries.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Newtown’s legislative body rejected three proposed gun ordinances that backers say were intended to address armed intimidation at protests.

Senator Richard Blumenthal calls the bipartisan COVID relief package a "downpayment" and hopes for another package in the early weeks of the Biden Administration.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy spoke at the Capitol Friday about a proposed bipartisan COVID relief package, endorsing the $908 billion in aid but saying more is needed. Both senators see it as a stopgap and say they expect a second deal to come in the early weeks of the Biden presidency.

Blumenthal said inaction makes the stakes high.

“Connecticut is spending about $20 million a week, $20 million a week on testing,” Blumenthal said. “That money runs out at the end of this year. There’s no immediate source for additional funding.”

John Phelan / Creative Commons

Shawn Henning and Ricky Birch were accused of a New Milford murder as teenagers in 1985. Found guilty, they served 30 years in prison. But those convictions were overturned, and in July the charges were dismissed. Henning and Birch are now seeking justice in federal court. 

In two separate lawsuits, the men are suing the town of New Milford, the state and local police and detectives who built the case against them, and Dr. Henry C. Lee, who was the chief criminalist at the State Police Forensic Laboratory at the time.

Ingmar Riveros (left) and Peruvian refugee Xiomy De la Cruz (right) serve 150 families from their food pantry in a store basement in Hartford on Nov. 19. Many of the families are undocumented and severely impacted by the pandemic.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Early in the pandemic, Xiomy De la Cruz was working at a fast-food restaurant when her work hours were cut back. She is a Peruvian refugee and a single mother with two children and another on the way. Like many families, she found herself in various pantry lines to make ends meet.

Hospital leaders say they are better prepared for this second wave of coronavirus cases but they disagree on in ways in which it will be easier than the first wave.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

Data show the average length of stay in Connecticut hospitals for COVID-19 patients is about half of what it was in the summer. The Connecticut Hospital Association says COVID patients spent an average of 15 days in the hospital in June. By October, that number had fallen to 7 1/2 days.

Asnuntuck Community College

Completion rates for low-income Black and Latinx students enrolled in Connecticut’s two-year public colleges were already low before COVID-19 hit, and the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges they face.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is helping out some of those students through grants it has awarded to five community colleges.

Shoppers at the 2019 holiday market. The Women's Business Development Council decided to support local businesses and protect shoppers by taking the event virtual this year.
Contributed photo

Last year’s holiday market in downtown Stamford was a big success. The Women’s Business Development Council, which sponsors the market, planned to invite more of the women-owned businesses it supports year-round for 2020, but rising COVID-19 numbers make that impossible.

Connecticut is on track to lose a record number of lives to drug overdose this year. The most deadly year prior was 2019, with 1,200 overdose deaths. Numbers updated earlier this week show 1,032 overdose deaths so far in 2020.

Back in April, members of the Connecticut National Guard assembled beds in a field hospital at Southern Connecticut State University. It was erected to accommodate regional hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut is entering its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic -- 5,271 new cases and 43 more COVID-related deaths were reported over the weekend. But health care executives want to reassure residents that there are plenty of hospital beds.

Tenants at Barbour Garden Apartments in Hartford experienced unsafe conditions including mold, mice, and leaky ceilings. The lawsuit claims that tenants experienced housing discrimination in their search for better living conditions.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public Radio

A group of former residents from Hartford’s North End is taking on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Center for Leadership and Justice filed suit on their behalf Wednesday, claiming that HUD failed to reduce segregation when giving them options for new housing.

Héctor Valdez / Bou Group

There is still time left to sign-up for this weekend’s Latino and Iberian Film Festival, at Yale.

The festival features films online from countries including Chile, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Horns honked across New Haven around noon Saturday, just after Joe Biden was declared the projected winner of the presidency. Cities across the country held impromptu gatherings in the street, but the scene in downtown New Haven was more subdued.

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes speaks outside Waterbury City Hall Wednesday. She declared victory, claiming the 5th Congressional District again. As she walked away, she joked "this is my victory party."
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Democratic incumbent Jahana Hayes declared victory in the race for the 5th Congressional District on Wednesday afternoon outside Waterbury City Hall. At 1 p.m., with all the votes reported, she held an 11-point lead over Republican challenger David X. Sullivan.

Elijah Maturo stands outside Torrington City Hall. He planned to register and vote for the first time on Election Day but a piece of documentation held him back.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Voter turnout reached record highs on Election Day. Latest numbers estimated 70% of registered voters in the state cast their ballots. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday afternoon that those numbers were the highest participation rate she’d ever seen. Inevitably first time voters are part of that boost but as they cast their inaugural votes some obstacles got in the way. 

Carol Hollander, left, fills out an application for an absentee ballot for her neighbor and friend, Gertrude Lerman, right. Lerman is 104 years old and made it to the New Haven Hall of Records Saturday so she could cast her ballot.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

The window of opportunity to apply for an absentee ballot has come and gone in most towns. But some municipalities are allowing voters to come by town hall to get everything done at once. And in an effort to limit risk of the coronavirus, New Haven voters could brave the weather Saturday and apply for and cast their absentee ballots outdoors. 

Contributed Photo

Nina Vázquez left her hometown of Aguada, Puerto Rico, when she was 13 years old, moving to Meriden with her family. 

“I consider my family an economic refugee,” said Vázquez. “The reason why we left was because of an economic downfall in Puerto Rico. We were planning to go back a few years later, but it never could happen.” 

danielfela/iStock / Thinkstock

When Victoria van Basten began putting together her paperwork to apply for U.S. citizenship, her plan was to have one consultation with an immigration lawyer, to keep costs as low as possible. 

“We just knew there was no way to pay for a lawyer’s time,” van Basten said. “Not with all the filing fees and things that go along with immigration.”

And those fees soon may nearly double under the Trump administration. 

The day after the 2016 presidential election, David Nastri, like many, couldn’t believe his candidate had won. Then he ran into one of his friends. She was crying, in disbelief that so many Americans had chosen Donald Trump.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Hartford Public Schools will continue to offer an in-person learning option for at least two more weeks. Since September, there have been 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city’s schools but only one probable case of in-school transmission, officials said.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

As elections officials process over 600,000 absentee ballots across Connecticut, some mistakes have cropped up. Municipal clerks in four communities say the number is relatively small, and most resulted from human error and computer glitches -- not fraud.

U.S. Census Bureau

After a Supreme Court order earlier this week, the 2020 census count is set to end the night of Thursday, Oct. 15. This, after multiple changes to the deadline in the past few weeks. Ending the count earlier than expected has increased concern about ensuring an accurate count in Connecticut.