Berlin Upbeat Alumni Pay it Forward

Berlin Upbeat Alumni Pay it Forward Through Establishment of Alice Mitchell Vision and Leadership Fund

Charitable Fund a “Fitting” Tribute to Retired Director of Revered Berlin High School Character Development and Leadership Training Program

New Britain, Conn., April 20, 2017 – Alice Mitchell spent 49 years at Berlin High School before her retirement last year – including 28 as the original director of Berlin Upbeat – guiding, motivating and inspiring thousands of impressionable and often vulnerable high school students seeking their place in a demanding, complex world.

And now those very same students, thankful for Alice’s gift to them, have provided a gift of their own – not to Alice, but to the community she loves – ensuring that her influence will continue for generations to come.

Alice Mitchell, photo courtesy Hartford Courant.

Alice Mitchell, photo courtesy Hartford Courant.

Mere months after Alice’s retirement in 2016, her legacy is being honored by the students she mentored through establishment of the Alice Mitchell Vision and Leadership Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. The fund is designed to perpetuate Alice’s vision and leadership by supporting Berlin programs and activities that prevailed during her long career, including youth development, leadership training, community involvement and the building of community pride and spirit.

“When we heard that Alice was retiring, we knew that taking her to dinner or buying her a gift card was not the way to honor someone who spent her entire life helping students like me,” said Scott Ahern, a 1990 Berlin High School graduate who was part of the original Upbeat program founded in 1988. “We wanted to do something that was fitting, to say thank you in a way that reflected her vision and carried on for years to come.

“Once we started making calls, the response was immediate,” he said. “People didn’t ask why, they just said, ‘I’m in.’”

Alice Mitchell came to Berlin fresh out of the University of Massachusetts in 1968 – and never left. She took a job as a health and physical education teacher at Berlin High School, and later became a counselor after earning a master’s degree in counseling.

When the “Just Say No” campaign against drug use was popularized in the late 1980s, Berlin High School chose to establish its own drug and alcohol prevention program and to encourage local teens to make healthy choices in life.

Berlin Upbeat was born and Alice Mitchell was a natural choice to lead it.

Over the course of the next 28 years, all under Mitchell’s steady hand, Berlin Upbeat became a signature, community-wide program that was about much more than saying no to drugs. Since its inception, students, parents, school staff, town officials, police and fire personnel and the community at large have bought into Berlin Upbeat’s premise – thanks in large part to Mitchell’s tireless work – that making healthy decisions and serving the community go a long way toward building the character and leadership skills necessary to lead a productive life.

“Alice Mitchell has inspired students, teachers and members of the community to remember the importance of giving back,” says Sheel Patel, a 2011 Berlin High School graduate who now serves as a Berlin Upbeat mentor and is part of the committee of former program participants who are involved with the fund. “When Scott told us about this idea for the fund, to do something that really showed how much of an impact she had on all of our lives, we all completely agreed that it was something we wanted and needed to do.”

Others involved in the establishment of the fund and helping with initial fundraising include Scott Rogers, Kathy Riccio, Rich Crowe, Pat Tedesco and Carley Calafiore.

For her part, Alice feels humbled that her former students have chosen to honor her in this way.

“This is so incredibly flattering,” said Alice, who was surprised with the announcement of the fund at a retirement gathering hosted by her former students. “It is such a kind, thoughtful, fitting thing to do, because the fund is all about giving back to the community, which is what I believe in.

“What they are saying to me is, ‘The message you gave us was not for the four years we were in high school, or the one year we were in the program, it was for the rest of our lives. I don’t know if there is any greater tribute that you can have.”

The committee, said Ahern, is now in the process of developing additional fundraising strategies. To donate to the Alice Mitchell Vision and Leadership Fund, visit www.cfgnb.org/giving/our-funds.

Established in 1941, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain is “Where Good Begins” in Berlin, New Britain, Plainville and Southington. The Foundation works to inspire philanthropy, manage permanent charitable assets effectively, and partner to address key community issues through strategic leadership. For more information, visit www.cfgnb.org.