Woodward House Urban Education Program

Residents Sharing Tips in Woodward House library

A Year of Education in Community.

The Woodward House Urban Education Program provides community support and connection for young adults beginning a career in urban education.

First Congregational Church of East Hartford offers free housing for one year on Main Street in East Hartford for young adults beginning a career in urban education who desire a deeper involvement with the community while working in our public schools.  Living in the community you teach allows you a far deeper understanding of the environment your students are learning in.  Living in a home with others beginning a career in urban education provides extra support (and fun) in what can be a challenging career.

Where does the Urban Immersion Program take place?

You can work in an elementary, middle, or high school in East Hartford, Connecticut.  The school population in East Hartford is multi-racial and multi-ethnic, with over 50 languages spoken.  The population is also very transient – which means children enter the school system at various levels and may not be aware of the resources in town.   According to the United Way ALICE report, of the 20,157 households of East Hartford, 53% struggle to make ends meet.  There are enough students who qualify for free school lunches that the school system provides free lunch and breakfast for 71% of the student population.  At one half of the district’s schools, free and reduced meals are provided to every child.  The schools provide tutoring and after-school support, but the need is great.  Compassionate, dedicated people, with an openness to diverse cultures and backgrounds, are sought to support the staff and teachers in our public schools.

East Hartford is home to many bike paths, parks, including a riverfront park, and a newly renovated library (across street from church housing).  East Hartford and Hartford, right over the river, hosts free concerts on the green, free Winterfest activities, free yoga in the park, delicious restaurants, comedy clubs, improv groups, craft beer breweries, funky coffee shops, and dancing of all varieties.  Church housing is on multiple bus routes running consistently into Hartford (10 minute ride).

What does an average day look like?

During the day your work with the school will depend on the specific position you are hired for.  Tutors will assist certified teachers by leading small groups of children behind in a specific area.  Substitute teachers will lead a classroom in the primary teacher’s absence.

What about finances and healthcare?

Participants are employees of the public schools and receive their salary and any benefits from the school system in which they are hired.  The church does not provide any stipend.

Free Housing?

The First Congregational Church of East Hartford welcomes residents to live in the Woodward House on Main Street, rent-free.  This progressive and diverse congregation has a long history of town involvement and will connect residents to town events, services, and community.  Residents living in church housing are expected to delve deeper into the community in ways meaningful to them, spending approximately 8 hours a month on congregational engagement outside of their direct service in the schools.  Residents may present programs to church members on topics of interest to the resident, join in social activities, lead a book study, attend or lead worship, help in the community garden, food bank, or in a project of their choice (details below).

Some House Pictures:

Why live in Church Housing?

  • Living in the community you teach and service, allows you a far deeper understanding of the environment your students are learning in. Church housing places you in the heart of East Hartford, right on Main Street across from the public library, town hall, the Board of Education and cultural center.  The church members know the history and culture of the town and how it is likely impacting your students.
  • Living in a community of other young people navigating the same program (although at different sites) provides tangible support. Relief and joy come from sharing the delights and challenges over dinner.

What is the relationship between the church and the residents?

The relationship between church and residents is intended to be one of mutual learning and growth, where we can work together as a chosen family to make meaningful change in our world.   We want you to look back and think of the church as the fun family that was overflowing with love and support during your year of service.

How does the church support the residents?

  • Fully furnished living accommodations. Kitchen stocked with every utensil and cooking equipment you could need. Private bedroom with bed, closet, dresser, blinds, ceiling fan, etc. The house also includes a living room, dining room, library/study, and mini-prayer room.  Bring your clothes and bedding and you are set for the year.
  • Personal Tour Guides. The church members know all the ins and outs of the town (and surrounding towns) to help you find everything from the best grocery store to bike paths to free concerts.
  • Welcome Wagon filled with essentials to help you get settled in your new home.
  • Weekly mentoring meetings and field trips
Residents with Church’s Young Professionals “Food for Thought” Group

What sort of training and mentorship is provided?

Residents living in church housing will meet regularly with the house mentor, a recently retired East Hartford Public School teacher, who will provide space for reflection and coordinate workshops for residents as desired.  House meetings are times for laughter, learning, and comfort during challenges. House meetings also include “field trips” to learn more about the town and community.

What are the expectations of the residents?

Residents are expected to delve deeper into the community outside of the school they serve in, building their understanding of the impact the wider community, including church, has on students.  To this end, residents in church housing are expected to:

  • Spend 8 hours a month on congregational engagement outside their direct service in the school.
  • Participate in regular house meetings facilitated by the House Mentor
  • Respect the property and other residents as outlined in the housing agreement
  • Complete an end of the year evaluation

Do I need to be Christian to be welcome to live in Church housing?

No, you do not need to be Christian.  However, you must be open to working with church people while serving the community.

Trivia Night Fundraiser for Food Back Pack Program organized by Woodward House Resident

What “counts” for the 8 hours of congregational engagement?

Nearly anything that involves the church counts, but we hope you will take this opportunity to take initiative, share your unique gifts and explore how the church impacts and serves the town.  Some examples include:

  • Work with church Green Team on environmental issues
  • Tend to the Community Garden on-site
  • Work with Hunger Action Team in town
  • Coordinate a special speaker or presentation for church members on a relevant topic of mutual interest (past topics include immigration, local farming, GLBT rights, recycling, etc.)
  • Organize an event for children in the neighborhood (ex. Movie night; babysitting for parents to go Christmas shopping, etc.)
  • Participate in one of the small groups of the church (knitting club, women’s group, craft nights, etc.) or start your own
  • Lead a book study or educational program
  • Participate in advertising and recruiting goods for Christmas toy drive, food bank, supplies for shelter or other cause that is important to you
  • Assistant teacher in the Sunday School
  • Sing in the choir, usher during worship services, participate in worship, join the Praise Band
  • Serve coffee or bake goods for church coffee hour.
  • Join church clean up days or assist office staff
  • Help at the Church Fair in November
  • Help at the Pancake Breakfast which raises money for East Hartford children in need in December
  • Share your unique passion and gifts with the faith community!

Planting Seeds for Community Garden

What kind of Church is this?

First Congregational Church is a fun, open and affirming congregation of people from diverse backgrounds and different ideas.  Jesus Christ is our inspiration and our guide for our personal lives and for making a just world for all people.  We are part of the United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org) a denomination that goes back to the pilgrims and is continually on the forefront of progressive issues (i.e. first to ordain women, GLBT folks, etc.).  Our open and affirming statement says it nicely: We welcome into our full life and ministry, children of God, people of every race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, ability and economic status.   We believe that we can all grow and practice a unity of faith that will transcend our difference and together be a living testimony of God’s steadfast love.  We embrace the amazing diversity of God’s creation and believe everyone is created in God’s image.  Therefore, everyone is unique, valuable, and loved by God.

What are the house rules?

The housing agreement looks like your standard lease agreement with any apartment you would rent.   No pets.  No illegal drugs. No weapons.  No smoking.  No candles or open flames.  Be a law-abiding citizen, keep the place tidy, and take out the trash every week.  We encourage you to be good stewards of our sacred natural resources by recycling and conserving energy.

What is the next step? How do I apply?

After you have received an employment offer with the East Hartford Public School, you are eligible for Church Housing.  Email your interest to Louise Holmes at the church office (office@churchcorners.org)  or call 860-528-3133.  We will schedule a simple skype interview.  The interview will help us get to know each other, discern how you might best share your unique gifts, how we can best support you, and answer questions you may have.

Where can I learn more?

Check out this article.