Making Connections at the Bruce Museum


Michael Miller

The value of any museum is in the connections it inspires – between visitors and the exhibition, educators and the schoolchildren they work with, or family members as they explore the galleries.

To cap off 2017 a new connection was created at the Bruce Museum with members of Community Connections, a program managed by Greenwich High School that seeks to give students with special needs real-life job skills and work experience.

Following a series of training sessions led by Felipe Rodriguez Jr., the Bruce’s Supervisor of Security, three Community Connections students are now on duty in the museum galleries three days a week. A former police officer with the proverbial heart of gold, Rodriguez has fully embraced his new charges and role as mentor. “We give the kids a valuable purpose and teach them the importance of being here to keep both the art, and the people viewing it, safe.”

Rodriguez’s message has clearly been received by the new additions to the Bruce Security team, and the students are excited to take on their new responsibilities.

“I think it’s an important job to be a security guard,” Michael Miller says. “I talk to a lot of people about the Museum, and they tell me about themselves.”

“I say, ‘Welcome to the Museum’,” adds Rashadd Hill, “–And don’t touch the walls!”

There are 19 students currently enrolled in the Community Connections program, ranging in age from 18 to 21 and of all levels of ability. Celeste Vigliotti, the program’s coordinator and a Special Education teacher with the Greenwich Public Schools, has been with many of these students since they were in elementary school.

“Greenwich does such a great job including these kids in their educational programs on through high school,” says Vigliotti. “Our goal with Community Connections is to not have them hit a wall when they are transitioning into their post-education life, but rather to give them work experiences and to develop skills that will allow them to be self-sustaining at the level that’s appropriate for each of them.

“The goal is to teach them how to work in the real world, giving them the work place skills that many of us take for granted,” Vigliotti adds.

Other students from Community Connections are currently placed with the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Cos Cob Library, the YMCA, and Walgreens. The students’ wages are provided by the Community Connections program. The Bruce has been able to take on three students to date, with the hope that suitable positions for more students will be found.

Like any good connection, the positive impact goes both ways. Rodriguez puts it best in speaking for the Bruce staff: “These kids give us the unique experience of showing us that people with differing abilities are capable of doing a lot more than people might think.”

To learn more about the Community Connections program, please contact Celeste Vigliotti or Dawn Russel at 203-413-8400, ext. 7509.

Rashadd Hill (left) and Felipe Rodriguez.

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