I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At age thirteen, my family immigrated to the United States in search of a better life and greater opportunities. I attended Stamford High School and there, my passion for helping others took root through volunteer services. During high school, I ran track and field, and participated in several clubs. I volunteered at several different places including Ferguson Library and the YMCA.  I also worked as a medical recorder for the Gastroenterology/Hematology Associates in the Tully Center to support my family. 

After I graduated, my mentor Susanne Weil, who plays a vital role in my life introduced me to the East Side Partnership. One of the challenges I faced before attending college was a financial struggle. I needed a computer, which is critical for college students. 

Mr. Grunberger sympathized with me and saw my desire to both support my family while chasing my dreams.  He purchased a laptop for me as a graduation gift. It was a generous gift and this laptop played an important role in my success in college. As a way to show gratitude, I worked for the Eastside Partnership as an intern during that summer vacation. There, I learned the importance of community development and I played an essential role in advocating for East Side local businesses who were losing up a lot of business due to the removal on-street parking.

Over the years, Mr. Grunberger has been extremely generous to my family and me. He has invested his time and energy to mentor me and in supporting me financially while I struggled sometimes to purchase college textbooks. 

There are no words to express the gratitude for Mr. Grunberger’s kindness and generosity. My hope that one day, I will be able to influence other young people through mentoring and advocacy like him.

I graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a BS in Social Work. Afterwards, joined the Peace Corps and was posted in Botswana, Africa to work as a youth and HIV/AIDS capacity building volunteer. After completing my service, I will be continuing my studies at Smith College School of Social Work in order to earn a MSW.


Denise Desgazon


Hi my name is Denise. I am an aspiring student. I am from Haiti and I have been in the United States for four years. I come from a big family of four brothers and a sister. I enjoy playing volleyball and soccer. 

I met James a few years ago through my sister. He helped my family when we were in need of a place to stay. Through his generosity, he bought me a computer, a phone and pays for the line. That has helped me build and maintain some relationships that I am unable to afford myself. He has helped me get a job at “A Step Ahead” in the past. 

I am very grateful for what James has done for my family and I. Without his efforts I would not be where I am today.

James Travers

James Travers


My name is James Travers, Transportation Bureau Chief of Stamford. I have been in the position for about a year and a half. Prior to this, I worked for the city of New Haven.

During my time there, two tragic traffic accidents occurred in city the streets. Initially one promising young medical student was struck and killed. Shortly after, an eleven year old girl was struck and killed while crossing. The two incidents were separated by a short amount of time. Neighbors soon approached me after, with a request to take action. In the world of traffic and parking, we don’t often get money to do things. With no money in our budget, we looked toward a community effort. Through that, the community created “Street Smart”. It is a pedestrian, cyclist, motorist education and safety campaign. It did so well that it was adopted by the city of Stamford a few years ago. 

I believe in partnerships. The city can’t do everything on its own; there has to be a way for the community to aid us in the process. People are consistently throwing things out. It would be nice to get help from citizens in that area. We have not had a chance to go out into the community much. From my perspective its really about the community. The community should have a voice, and that voice adds a key part to my job as a whole. This is where the East Side Partnership comes in. ESP is well established in its respective community. James has helped me connect more with the community. One of the first things he did was take me on a tour around. 

I was left with a good impression. He was the first person I met with a “how can we do it together?” drive. That alone inspired a lot of respect in me toward him. Many people are quick to talk about issues that need to be fixed in the community but only a few actually offer help through the process. With a realistic approach, he holds me accountable with high expectations to get things done. Together we hope to implement temporary solutions that will lead us toward permanent ones.

Mona Mitri

Mona Mitri

I am  Mona Mitri, the owner of Tutor Me SOS. We tutor students from age 3 to college age on all subjects and prepare students for standardized tests. There are free online programs for students looking to improve their skills on their own time. All-around, we offer an abundant variety of services for students. 

I cherish my job because I can see the direct impact it has on students. The tutoring really helps in boosting their confidence getting into the college of their dreams. It encourages them to open their mind and walk in their intelligence. 

Before starting my own company, I was the director of a tutoring club. It was through that, that I initially met James. He would always buy hours with the company to help underprivileged kids. 

He has always personally been a great supporter. He has helped build confidence in what I do. I always struggled with the value of my belief,  “students need tutoring and guidance”. James was always there affirming that my belief is of great value, and that I was needed in the community. But above all of that James has been an excellent role model. Seeing his drive to help others has influenced me to do the same. 

There are a number of students that come through ESP. There was one student that was struggling in many areas at school. With our help they were able to overcome their struggles and go to UCONN with a pre-med degree. It helped them get the grades that they wanted to get into their programs. 

Moving forward, I want to bring a larger group of underprivileged students into my program. Seeing how the tutoring has helped the students I’ve worked with, it would be great to offer that to those who can’t afford it. The costs of that dream are too overwhelming for me to provide at the moment but I do hope to work with ESP to make it possible.


Jonathan Hoch

Jonathan Hoch

My name is Jonathan Hoch. I am the Chief Operating Officer at Domus. From the very beginning in 1998, I’ve been very much in love with my job. I get to work with the after-school programs, finances, and human resources. My position has a lot of moving parts, but it does come with flexibility. 

I personally first acquainted James through a mutual friend. We lost communication for a bit. A few years later we got reconnected through a student attending Trail Blazers that he was mentoring. Fortunately that was the same time that he was starting the East Side Partnership. 

Before the East Side Partnership, there was no-one trying to connect the dots in the community. There was no-one to go to when issues arose. The East Side Partnership was there to listen to the community and pursue a solution. For example, there was a speeding issue in front of the building. With help from the ESP we were able to get a crossing walk in front of the school. Parents and students alike felt more safe and were very pleased with the change. This was just one of many. It is almost immeasurable all the good things that ESP was doing for and within the east side community. James has a knack for looking toward a solution for the community, and I am very thankful for that.

The East Side Partnership does a terrific job at informing the community about activities doing on, I hope that they continue moving forward.