My name is Sachini, a Junior at UConn. Prior to that, I was enrolled in the college preparation program at Future 5. I joined Future 5 about a year and a half after moving to America from Sri Lanka.

James Grunberger is my mentor and has an incredibly positive influence on my life. He helped me get through the transition from high school to college and words cannot describe how grateful I am towards him.

He introduced me to Katie Trivia former Executive Director of ESP.  She was a great mentor and she guided me through projects on how to make the East side of Stamford a safer and prettier neighborhood. As a former East Side resident I was glad that I was able to give back to my community through ESP. 

I also worked with Miriam who is currently working with the Peace Corps in Africa.  She was also a strong advocate for the ESP at weekly meetings with James, Katie and the rest of the Board

After I finished my Bachelors Degree I plan to be more involved with the ESP. I want to help James Grunberger and his ESP teen beautification crew in creating a safe and beautiful neighborhood for  future generations. 

Sachini Welikannage



I had a bizarre life before The East Side Partnership. I didn’t have any idea what to do, where to go for help when I needed it. I had no connections/resources available to me helping me move forward in my life. I was lost and was getting bad grades during my sophomore year in high school with no support. Later that year I fell into a deep depression. School was hard and I couldn’t seem to make anyone around me happy, not even my parents. I I had no will or reason to finish the year strong or even bother to ask for help.

James did more than invest in my life, he left a footprint. Everything I know now is because I learned it through him. He has always been a great leader and mentor. He helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Upon recognizing them he taught me how to use my strengths to become a better person, exposing me to my hidden identity and potential. He showed me what the business world has to offer and I fell in love with becoming a businessman, entrepreneur, marketer and a leader. He showed me the way to success by expanding my pool of professional networks with people whom I never thought I could meet. He has showed me that having respect for your community can take you a long way and make others respect you for who you are and what you do. 

James made me a better person by showing me a side of myself I never knew was there. He saved me from my depression and had it not been from that, I may not be here on this earth today. So for everything I deeply give thanks and I’m sure there is more to come.

I am now in a better position to move forward and be successful in life. I know who to contact when experiencing a dilemma, what career to pursue, and the multiple ways to stand out and make myself known. I know I will be something great soon to come and all thanks to James for opening that door.




I  left my job because I was being overworked and underpaid. I was struggling to make ends meet and was not happy. I was taking online classes and I was unemployed so I couldn't pay off my classes.

East Side Partnership  gave me an opportunity to work and learn from accomplished builders and computer engineers. 

They connected me with several other job opportunities and provided support and wrote several recommendation letters. Jim and Andy invested their time, knowledge and resources to a video production company that I started with two other partners. 

Now I have a steady part time job and I have the time to both learn and work on my business. Because of the help and efforts of ESP, our company was able to do work for other established businesses including Amazon Business!

Harvest Road Production LLC




Emigrating from Guatemala, growing up in the United States was not an easy feat. Integrating into the American lifestyle was difficult but my faith and confidence drove my success. My parents are not college graduates so it is up to me to be the first generation child in my family. And to be a good role model for my younger sister to follow.

Life was very dull before East Side Partnership. I was working at a deadbeat job that took time away from my athletic training. I was having hardships communicating with my father and helping the family financially with the little that I make. Those and a number of other issues were contributing to depression.

 I had nobody supporting me and nobody to express my emotions to. 

After joining The East Side Partnership, James became a trustworthy mentor that was supporting me. Always had a listening ear to hear me out on the issues going on in my life.  He expanded my professional network. I was offered a better job opportunity when we I needed it the most, and James fed me when I had no money to feed myself, and we had noting in the fridge. There is so much so say that can span out to 20 pages, The East Side Partnership has been a life- changing blessing in my life.

There are no words to express all that The East Side Partnership has done for me. All I can say is that I wold not be where I am today without ESP. I hope one day to get to the place where I can invest so much time and support or the struggling youth. I aspire to make James and ESP proud one day.

I’m  doing well in all my classes now, and am more focused. I have a big pool of advice from James that I always go back to when I run into obstacles in life.