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Open Choice Parent Recognized for Involvement in Education

(Hartford, CT) The youngest of five children born to Jamaican parents, Lorenzo Blake, is a Hartford native who is passionate about education and his community. As a child, Blake participated in Project Concern (now known as Open Choice) for two years and subsequently moved to the suburbs of Bloomfield. As a Project Concern participant, he gained the skills needed to achieve his best through a high quality education. Today, Blake is an active parent in CREC’s Hartford Region Open Choice Program and in the Avon Public Schools where his daughter, Noelle attends school. Noelle enrolled in the program and began attending school in Avon in 2009 when she was in Kindergarten; currently, she is in the 4th grade at Roaring Brook Elementary School in Avon.

In addition, Blake is a graduate of the Open Choice People Empowering People (PEP) leadership program. Through PEP, Blake led the creation of a parent blog, serves as a PEP ambassador for Open Choice parents with students attending Avon Public Schools, and participated in the PEP Facilitator Training Program at University of Connecticut. As an ambassador, he is currently working with Avon administrators, teachers, fellow parents and supporting staff to ensure Open Choice students have a parent providing input to enhance their integrated educational experience. Blake most recently worked on a student trip to the CT Science Center, a Roaring Brook Elementary School Movie night, served as a panelist for CREC Open Choice Freshman Orientation and provided transportation for parents to attend meetings to finalize students’ class schedules.

Through his volunteerism with CREC, he received an invitation to be a parent participant in the Sheff Movement. Attending the Sheff Movement's monthly meetings has given Blake the opportunity to voice the opinions and concerns of Open Choice parents. In recognition of his dedication and commitment to parental involvement in the lives of children, the Sheff Movement has made available several learning experiences to Blake. In 2012, Blake represented parents at the National Coalition on School Diversity Conference in Washington D.C., the Building ONE America's National Leadership Training in Phoenixville, PA and the One Nation Indivisible Conference in Omaha, NE.

In an article written by Blake for the Sheff Movement newsletter, he explains his perspective on choice programs and parental involvement: “Hartford’s magnet schools provide a learning environment focused on education specific to the children’s talents and potential. Children, like my daughter Noelle, who are in the Open Choice program through CREC are immersed in a suburban learning environment. This affords them chances to compete and prove themselves using their strengths and abilities. Commonly, it is through these new experiences that confidence is built, bonds are created and possibilities are explored. The knowledge and the social skills our children gain while in these programs become invaluable tools often utilized in their future careers. Support from parents with children in these programs, and in participating school districts, is crucial.”

Blake is motivated by one of his childhood idols, Muhammad Ali, who said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Blake adds, “I just enjoy the feeling of having my ‘rent’ account current and feel very comfortable in the room it affords me.” In 2012 the State Education Resource Center (SERC) honored Blake for his strong parental involvement by giving him the Parental Involvement Recognition Award. CREC appreciates Blake’s active involvement in improving the Open Choice program and serving as a role model for all Open Choice parents.

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