Hartford's Version of Fame
Posted on 04/25/2023
Hartford's Version of FameOn any given day at the intersection of Vernon and Washington Streets in Hartford, high school students from all over Connecticut are singing, dancing, acting, performing, playing instruments, creating art, and stagecraft. They’re also learning about something many public schools shy away from teaching: Equity, equality and the history of marginalized people.

“We have open conversations about social justice issues, whereas, at some of the schools, it’s like, ‘No, no, no, we don’t talk about that!’” said college-bound senior Cecil Pond of East Granby. “Teachers don’t want to get in trouble.”

Pond, 18, is a trans man, studying visual arts at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Half Day Program, colloquially known as GHAA. It’s part of the Capitol Region Education Council and located in Hartford’s Learning Corridor. Like their classmates, Pond attends public high school in their hometown in the morning. On Monday through Thursday, they ride a bus to Hartford four afternoons a week for classes that don’t end until 4:15. Then they board another bus for the long ride home.

“It’s a busy schedule, but it is super fun here,” they said. And aside from exploring different media, Pond said what they like best is the diversity at GHAA.

Same goes for the faculty and administration, echoed Pond’s teacher, Wesley Santiago. “One of the reasons I teach here is because of the diversity. And I think I’ve learned a lot since I’ve come here to open-up my view of what diversity is,” Santiago said.

“I think it’s also an education that’s missing in a lot of schools,” he said. “We talk about how the struggles between different people, whether it’s the LGBTQIA+ community, whether it’s the African-American community, the struggles are very similar, and the struggles inspired each other.

“The environment makes you feel very welcome, be seen without needing to restate your pronouns every single day. The faculty here remembers and takes note of that, and on the attendance sheets, they’ll write a note of your chosen name and people will refer to you by that, and remember that.”

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