CAN Passages Reading breakfast Christine
Community Assets Network (CAN) member Christine Halloran reads and comments on senior Passages proposals at Joel Barlow High School.— Nancy Doniger Photo


CAN Passages Reading breakfast Mary, Rob, Jeanne
Community Assets Network (CAN) members Mary Bailey, Rob Wyatt and Jeanne Newman review senior Passages proposals. — Nancy Doniger Photo
CAN Passages Reading breakfast Anne Lisa
Community Assets Network (CAN) members Anne Kipp and Lisa Campeau Fenzel read senior Passages proposals at Joel Barlow High School. — Nancy Doniger Photo

Deciding what to be when you grow up, restoring an automobile, upcycling jeans, shadowing a school teacher or counselor, raising money for charity, volunteering for a cause, and increasing awareness of food disorders. 

These are among the diverse and innovative topics Joel Barlow High School students have chosen for their senior Passages projects this school year. Passages is an inquiry-based, semester-long opportunity for seniors to build their own course, based on their interests and passions. 

The proposals, which the students write in the fall,  provide an initial outline of what they hope to learn and accomplish with their self-designed unit of study. The students present their projects in May at Palooza, a community-wide celebration of learning.

“It has always been my goal, as the facilitator for Passages, to make sure these proposals offer the most rich and substantial opportunity for our students, by offering specific feedback on the proposal’s direction, intention, inquiry questions, and educational goals,” English teacher Tim Huminski said. 

This year, for the first time, Community Assets Network (CAN) members went to the high school to read and comment on the Passages proposals. These “community assets” include local residents from a wide variety of fields who have agreed to serve as mentors and guest speakers for the Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools. 

Since the community assets had seen and substantively responded to the final presentations last May at Palooza, Huminski thought it might be beneficial if they could engage with the Passages projects at this early point and bring the experience full circle. The assets provided specific feedback on the proposal’s direction, intention, inquiry questions, and educational goals.

The CAN Task Force plans to invite assets to meet up at a midwinter forum where they will be asked to reflect on attributes they would like to see in Barlow graduates. They will also be opportunities to meet with students in the Barlow Career Center, in addition to mentoring and speaking engagements and participating in Palooza in May. Stay tuned for details!

The CAN Task Force encourages adults who live or work in Easton and Redding to register to become an asset by going to the CAN database at or through the Joel Barlow website under Community.

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By Nancy Doniger

Nancy Doniger worked as a journalist for three decades and was a founding editor of the nonprofit Easton Courier in partnership with the School of Communications, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart University (SHU). She served two years as executive member and is now a contributing editing of the Easton Courier. She was a former managing editor of Hometown Publications and Hersam Acorn Newspapers covering Connecticut's Fairfield and New Haven counties. She was a correspondent for the Connecticut section of The New York Times from 1995 until the section was discontinued in 2006. Over the years she edited The Easton Courier, The Monroe Courier, The Bridgeport News and other community newspapers. She taught news editing as an adjunct professor at SHU and served as coordinator and member of the Community Assets Network for the Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools. She was a member of the Newtown Community Center Commission, member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), board member of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), and past president and board member of the Barnard Club of Connecticut. She has won awards for her writing from SPJ and NENPA.