NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Memories of singing with her mother stuck with Ellyana Simon, even after she was put into foster care, abused and separated from her siblings.

But as she grew older, and the reality of her situation set in, Simon said she experimented with vices to help her cope with her feelings before realizing music would be her ultimate vice.

“I was trying to learn how to cope with my parents not being in my life,” Simon said. “As a teenager growing up, you tend to find different things to learn how to cope … things like drugs and alcohol or rebelling in school, that type of stuff, but me, I got that with music.”

Now a senior at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, Simon is awaiting a response from her choice school, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. The 18-year-old said she has just enough money for tuition, but not enough to cover room and board.

Simon is one of seven students from Co-Op to receive money from last year’s Talent Haven scholarship. The scholarship was created last year by city Alderman Sal DeCola to support children of low-income families who are interested in the arts.

With the help of the Shubert Theater, money for the scholarship was raised through a debut Broadway Night at the Shubert show. The show raised $5,521.48, money split evenly between Co-Op, Music Haven and Neighborhood Music School.


DeCo la said he believes in the cause because the arts “empower” children; following an artistic path “gives them a vehicle.”

“I think it empowers them because they’re not mimicking somebody,” DeCola said. “It’s them; every artist has their own style, from painting, to design, to singing, to how they perform.”

On Sunday, city students and alders will take the stage once again for the second annual Broadway Night at the Shubert show. Money raised from the show will support the second round of Talent Haven scholarships.

Co-Op senior Flavio Espinoza said he feels “honored” by the opportunity to receive scholarship money.

“There’s such a lack of resources in urban districts like New Haven where, even though we have a vast diversity of kids, we’re not recognized at all because of where we are, where we stand and how others view us,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza said he feels “patriarchal white America” views urban districts in a negative light but is happy that “people who are part of our community” notice that “we do need help and we do need these resources.”

Resources or not, Simon said she is going to see her dream of being a musician to the end.

“I know that this is what makes me happy and this is really what I want to do,” Simon said.

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