Old State House educator, Meriden native, spearheads kid governor program

Old State House educator, Meriden native, spearheads kid governor program


MERIDEN — A city resident is behind the state’s Kid Governor program, established last year when a fifth-grader from East Hartford was elected on her platform to promote kindness in the world.

Brian Cofrancesco, a 2007 Maloney High School graduate who studied architectural history at the University of Virginia, works as head educator at the Old State House in Hartford. Early last year, he was looking to create programming to teach students about government and elections. This led to the development of a Kid Governor pilot program through the Old State House.

“Our goal was to come up with a program that was going to engage students in civics and civic engagement,” Cofrancesco said.

In November, fifth-graders from 15 municipalities across the state elected Elena Tipton, of East Hartford, as the state’s first Kid Governor. Tipton’s office is in the Old State House, which was built in 1796 and served as the state capitol for about 80 years.

There were seven candidates, who each campaigned on different platforms such as saving bats, bullying, technology in schools, more recess for students and preventing kids from joining gangs. Tipton campaigned on kindness.

“It’s a nice topic that everyone can really get involved with, given the things going on in society,” Cofrancesco said.

Each candidate created a brief video explaining why they were qualified and how they would address issues important to them. The videos were posted online during election week in November for fifth-graders from each municipality involved in the program to see.

The timing was intentional so students could learn about the election process, Cofrancesco said.

Ballots were created to mimic actual election ballots, and students voted after watching videos from all seven candidates. Students were asked to analyze the videos, similar to how one would analyze a campaign commercial. Hundreds of students voted in the election, according to Cofrancesco.

“We had no idea how this would be received, and it’s just taken off,” he said.

As Kid Governor, Tipton, a student at Thomas S. O’Connell Elementary School in East Hartford, is on a mission to spread kindness. She has established the 13th of every month as Kindness Day. The Old State House is helping out, and has established a website where Tipton’s blog, “Kindness is Cool,” can be accessed. Every month, a few days before the 13th, Tipton will post a blog with suggestions about how to be kind to others. On Feb. 9, she suggested giving out 13 high fives, holding the door open for someone or helping your parents with groceries.

“I chose kindness because the world just needs to be a little bit kinder,” Tipton said in a video posted to the kid governor website.

Tipton, who is serving a one-year term, was inaugurated on Jan. 29 in the historic courtroom at the Old State House. All seven candidates attended, along with their classmates. There were more than 200 people at the event, including local dignitaries, legislators and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who swore Tipton into office.

“For me, the whole idea of this program just started out of a whimsical discussion of what could we do,” Cofrancesco said. “To see something that you brainstormed months ago come to fruition with the secretary of the state, it was amazing.”

On Feb. 3, the opening day of the legislative session, Tipton sat in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office and met Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. Tipton toured the Capitol with Wyman, and was on the House floor for Malloy’s State of the State address.

“It’s really refreshing to see how the representatives, senators and officials are taking it seriously and respecting her for having a platform and standing up for what she believes in,” Cofrancesco said.

The Old State House is already preparing for next year’s election, he said, adding that the goal is to get more schools involved throughout the state.

aragali@record-journal.com 203-317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

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