On a recent afternoon, a yellow EASTCONN bus pulled up to CLiCK in Willimantic, carrying 10 youngsters and 3 EASTCONN staff. As the door opened, laughing students scrambled out and dashed for the hill beside the building, where they walked the labyrinth, following the spiral stone path from edge to center, and back out again. Two young boys took a few minutes to sit on the rocks to meditate. Clearly, this was a happy, familiar routine.

The group was from EASTCONN’s Community Arts Connection After-School Program, for young students who reside in the Windham Heights apartment complex in
Willimantic. EASTCONN has administered the program for nearly 20 years, offering homework help, creative activities, nature walks and periodic field trips for students and their families. Participation has dropped from 50 students to 10 during COVID-19, but students were clearly joyful on this day. 

At line-up time, they headed into the building for an afternoon of yoga, friendship and a cooking lesson. On the menu this week? Fruit and yogurt parfaits, a student request from several weeks ago.

“All right, my friends, are you ready to rumble?” greeted Dianisi Torres, who runs a CLiCK nutrition and wellness program  in collaboration with community partners. Here in CLiCK’s teaching kitchen and open community space, the kids grabbed their choice of purple, pink or turquoise yoga mats and staked out their personal spaces on the floor.
     Ms. Torres led them through Mouse, Fish, Hero, Pretzel and Lion yoga poses, asking them to “Think about good, positive things that have happened to you, or that you want in your life.” Next came one minute of silent meditation, which surprisingly stretched into two.

After the familiar routine of handwashing, gloves and hairnets, (“Don’t take my picture!”) they had a lesson on the correct way to hold the adult-sized, red plastic knives. They concentrated on cutting the most perfect strawberry slices and carefully spooned them into plastic cups, adding yogurt,
a scoop of granola and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

When asked what made the day so special, Jilliana, a 6th grader from Windham Middle School, pondered for a second.
“It was really fun and relaxing to come here out of my house,” she said, smiling. “I liked meditation the best!”

Could it be said that magic happens here? For this happy crew, you bet.
Learn more: Contact EASTCONN’s Anna Forlenza-Bailey at .