I started my job at Eastern in August 2006 and had been in Willimantic less than a week when I attended my first Third Thursday Street Fest. The greeting I got was amazing. During the two hours it took me to walk the five blocks of the festival, I found the townspeople to be warm and welcoming and I was surprised at the broad range of cultures on display. In fact, much to my astonishment, among the large Latino community in town were families from my own hometown of San Sebastían, Puerto Rico.
Over the years since, I have been struck by how much the Willimantic community works together for the benefit of its people. We have great cultural traditions — events like Third Thursday and the Boom Box Parade, and treasures such as Curbstone Press — and service
organizations ranging from the Covenant Soup Kitchen to the Spanish American Merchants Association. The downtown area continues to sport new storefronts at the same time that the community preserves such elements of its heritage as the thread mills and the Victorian Hill residential section of town.
I am especially pleased that Eastern’s students, faculty and staff are active members of the Willimantic community, continuing a tradition of service that began when Eastern opened its doors in 1889 as the Willimantic State Normal School. Through our Center for Community Engagement, Eastern students work in dozens of community-based projects at social service agencies and nonprofits. More than 1,000 Eastern students also tutor and volunteer in other capacities in the local school system. I am proud of Willimantic and pleased that Eastern continues to be part of this vibrant community.