Paving the Path to College at Hall Neighborhood House

Paving the Path to College at Hall Neighborhood House

The Center for First-Generation College Students reports that more than half of all undergraduates in the United States are first-generation college students, which means that neither of their parents has a bachelor’s degree. 

Navigating standardized testing, application essays, financial aid, and the rest of the application process is difficult even when you have family members who have gone through it before. It’s even harder for first-generation students and their families, who are completely unfamiliar with the process.

That’s why we created a college-bound program at Hall Neighborhood House. 

This holistic program doesn’t start senior year; it begins when students enter high school and gives them an understanding of how the next four years can prepare them for the rest of their lives. Best of all, it works. This year, all nine seniors in this program were accepted into college! 


Teens in our community are eligible to join the program the summer before their freshman year. They join a tight-knit group of high schoolers at all grade levels who mentor each other, encourage each other, and learn together. They’re also mentored by Mayline, Hall’s high school coordinator, Jenn, our grant writer, and two volunteers: Dave, a retired marketing executive, and Meghan, a senior at the University of Bridgeport.

Karen submitting her Wesleyan application.


Applying to college is confusing, but our college program helps students and families set and reach their goals! 

One of our students, Karen, is at the top of her high school class and wants to be a doctor. She joined the program as a senior with an impressive transcript and big dreams for her future. 

She didn’t need us to get good grades, but she did need help navigating the financial aid process. Through the program, she learned what forms she needed and how to submit all of her information. As a result of all her hard work, she was accepted early decision to Wesleyan! 

Each student in the program receives individualized support as they progress through the process so they can make their college dreams a reality.


The program is broken into Summer and School Year segments. 

During the Summer

During the five-week summer HNH L.E.A.D.S. program, students receive a comprehensive education about the college process. They learn important skills like choosing the right classes throughout high school to ensure a strong transcript when it’s time to apply. 

“We help them understand what a college-bound curriculum looks like,” Jenn said. 

They meet other students in the program and learn about the clubs and extracurriculars that are available to them. They also learn about the FAFSA and other forms of financial aid, and they go on a wide variety of college tours. 

“Our goal is to expose them to every type of school that’s out there,” Jenn said. “They may not get to visit every school they apply to, so we want to make sure they have at least some idea and ability to compare it to a school they’ve already seen.” 

Students also start building cultural capital that might help them connect with peers or navigate social situations in the future. They see shows, go to museums, familiarize themselves with place settings at fancy meals, and learn how social and cultural capital can be useful to them as they head to a new place. 

The last part of the summer curriculum is leadership and development. Students learn to solve problems through teambuilding activities and set a code of conduct for their time together. They build their own little community and hold each other accountable for their individual, ambitious goals.

“They start seeing themselves as leaders and then have opportunities to demonstrate the skills that they see that they have,” added Jenn. 

During the School Year

Students can come to the college program three times a week during the school year. They’re busy with sports, extracurriculars, and jobs, so they don’t always make it all three days—but they are there regularly. 

Each session starts with a check-in, providing an opportunity to celebrate acceptances, encourage individual students as they work toward their goals, and set the tone of their time together. 

Then, students break apart into groups to work on their individual needs and tasks. Some take part in tutoring for subjects they’re struggling with, while the seniors in the group are often working on application essays or scholarships. 


This year, as the acceptances started coming in, we started planning more college visits—for both students and their parents. These visits give families important information they need to decide their next steps together.

After Karen got into Wesleyan, for example, her parents were excited but nervous about her being so far from home. They had never attended college and weren’t sure what to expect for their daughter. They wanted to make sure she would be safe and taken care of on campus.

On the tour, they saw how safe and secure the campus was and were amazed by all of the opportunities and resources Karen could take advantage of. When they learned about Wesleyan’s high rate of students getting into medical school, they were sold! They left the visit confident it was the right choice, even though it was farther away than some of the other schools Karen got into. And Karen was so excited to show them her top choice. 


Seniors may be heading off to different schools in the fall, but they will remain connected to their friends and mentors in the program. 

“We’ll get them together in January, and they’ll stay in communication with their friends who haven’t graduated yet,” said Jenn. “That way, we can build the alumni group and build the culture of college knowledge in our community.” 

Through the college program, our students will keep learning and building pathways to the futures they want to have. 

Spring 2024 Updates from Hall | April Newsletter

Spring 2024 Updates from Hall | April Newsletter

Spring is officially here, and we’re already looking around the corner to summer! As the weather gets nicer, neighbors of all ages love spending time outside at Hall Neighborhood House. Our seniors play bingo in the sunshine, teenagers work on creative outdoor STEM projects, and our young children run and play all over the grounds.

We’re proud to be a safe place in the community where everyone can get outside.As our programs continue to grow and we get closer to starting our building expansion project, we need to expand our outdoor play area so that we can have more classes outside at one time. We want every child to have the opportunity to play outside every day. To make this possible, we need to expand our playground, and we need your help to do it.

Help Our Kids Play

Play is so important for all children, especially our youngest as they grow and develop! Through play, they learn teamwork, gain the confidence to tackle new obstacles, build motor skills, and encourage healthy brain development.

For some of our children, Hall is the only safe place they have to play outside, but the structure for the big kids isn’t safe for our three-year-olds. We need to raise $74,000 to build a safe, fun, and exciting play structure designed for our toddlers.

Will you help us reach our goal and give our young neighbors a place to play? You can ensure they have the space they need to grow and learn!

Help us build our playground by making a gift today ➡

New Renderings of Our Expansion

We have big plans for the future! Check out these renderings of our planned expansion—featuring our new and improved youth wing, an outdoor deck for our seniors, and a dedicated entrance to the Health Clinic.

Better Me for Seniors

Through our holistic senior program at Hall Neighborhood House, we work to meet as many of the needs of the seniors in our program as possible.

In addition to meals, exercise programs, opportunities for connection and fun, and health and dental care, we also provide mental and behavioral health support to our neighbors at our Senior Center through the Better Me program.

The program started in 2023 and includes sessions on a variety of topics relevant to seniors.

Learn more about the program ➡

Dental Screening

We were all smiles after our most recent dental screening!

All children in our programs got examinations, thanks to our amazing volunteer dentists. They learned about the importance of brushing and how dental hygiene is part of an overall healthy life.

As of today, our partners at the Fones School of Dental Hygiene have seen 299 patients at our dental clinic!

Experiencing the Eclipse

Our STEM team celebrated the eclipse in a BIG way—with help from some amazing partners! Students from the University of Bridgeport visited Hall to teach our youth about how the eclipse happens and how to safely view it.

Then, we took our telescopes to Burlington, VT and Junction, TX to photograph this incredible phenomenon.

My Tiny Temper

Author Chris Fequiere and his son Oliver came to Hall to read “My Tiny Temper,” one of his many books designed to teach young children about their emotions. Thank you for reading to our preschoolers and for giving them each a copy of the book!

We are grateful to our friends at Fairfield University for helping make this special event happen!

Easter Celebrations

We celebrated Easter with egg hunts, fun art activities, parties, and even a special visit from the Easter Bunny!

Thank you for reading our updates this month. We are thankful for you!


Better Me: A Holistic Program for Seniors

Better Me: A Holistic Program for Seniors

As we age, we face new challenges—mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. Through our holistic senior program at Hall Neighborhood House, we work to meet as many of the needs of the seniors in our program as possible. 

In addition to meals, exercise programs, opportunities for connection and fun, and health and dental care, we also provide mental and behavioral health support to our neighbors at our Senior Center through the Better Me program.

The program, which started in 2023 with funding from an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant, includes sessions on a variety of topics relevant to seniors, facilitated by Marylin Pratt, an incredible clinician from Southwest Community Health. 

Over the past year, Better Me has had a significant impact on our seniors. 


Each Better Me session consists of a short educational presentation on the day’s topic, followed by a group discussion. Through the 20 sessions we’ve had so far, seniors have explored topics that are relevant to the struggles they face—from self-esteem to stress and anxiety and relationships to resilience. Each session provides a safe space for seniors to explore their feelings, share openly, and learn from each other.

After some sessions, including our conversations on love/forgiveness and depression, the seniors decided they wanted to explore the topic further—so we added additional discussions! 

In addition, we’ve hosted a variety of care providers as part of the Better Me program. These community partners have shared their knowledge on topics ranging from nutrition to podiatry—and we are so grateful for their collaboration in promoting wellness to our neighbors! 


The impact of Better Me extends far beyond our walls. It empowers our seniors to navigate life’s challenges with resilience and grace. Through sessions on essential topics like communication, mindfulness, and preventative health, our seniors are equipped with the tools they need to be healthy and fulfilled in every life stage.

The sessions have been extremely popular for our community; so far, each conversation has gathered about 40 people—and our record-high turnout was 52 people! Seniors’ dedicated attendance speaks to the value they see in the program. 


After each discussion, our team ensures that seniors receive the care and support they need—whether that’s an individual follow-up session to explore their feelings or a referral to a specialist. In this way, Better Me serves as a first step to continued conversations and care. 


Our seniors trust Hall to provide the care and resources they need, and we are proud to meet those needs with high-quality programs. Better Me is an important part of supporting overall health, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Our holistic programming surrounds our seniors with the tools and relationships they need to thrive and continue growing as they age. The program is continually expanding in response to their evolving needs, and we can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Visit our Senior Services page to learn more about the program.  

February 2024 News: New STEM Centers and College Acceptances!

February 2024 News: New STEM Centers and College Acceptances!

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Hall, you know the environment our community has created inside our walls is something special. And if you haven’t visited yet, please stop by! We’d love to give you a tour.

Hall is special because our neighbors are special. We’re proud of what we’ve built here on George E. Pipkin’s Way, and we’ve been working hard to expand our work outside our walls over the past few years. This month, I’m so excited to share one of the ways we’re supporting youth throughout the city of Bridgeport.

Keep reading to learn more about one of our latest community programs.













Hall recently opened STEM Centers in Bridgeport Public schools …

We recently opened Alan Wallack STEM Learning Centers (AWSLC) in three Bridgeport schools, with plans to open nine more by the end of March. Hall’s STEM Learning Team is supporting educators in schools so they can inspire the next generation of students to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math.

These 12 schools represent a collective investment of over $450k in STEM education by incredibly generous individuals who have committed to setting up an AWSLC in every Bridgeport Public School. This community support of STEM for our youth is inspiring!

Hall is in the neighborhood …

Our seniors took a special trip to the casino! We provided transportation so they could enjoy a day of fun and games, playing the slots and taking advantage of all the casino has to offer.

Hall is in partnership with other experts …

Our partners at Southwest Community Health offer our seniors access to the Better Me program, which supports their social and emotional health. They discuss emotions and issues they’re facing in small groups with behavioral health experts.

Southwest also provides weekly behavioral health services to children and teens in our programs. The youth work with licensed professionals to learn coping skills, process difficult experiences, and practice resilience.

Hall is helping make higher ed possible …

There are 25 students in our high school program, nine of whom are seniors. We are very excited to share that all nine have been accepted to college and have received scholarships separate from traditional financial aid! One student has even made her decision and will be attending Wesleyan in the fall. As the remainder of the seniors decide where they want to go before National Decision Day on May 1, we are here to offer advice, resources, and support.

A special thanks to Dave Mahder for volunteering to provide many hours of valuable guidance and inspiration to Hall’s high school students.

Hall is celebrating …

Check out some photos from our Valentine’s Day festivities!

Thank you for being part of our community! Your support enables us to make life better for our neighbors—both here in our building and in schools throughout Bridgeport.

Meet Dianne Lillicraf, Hall Neighborhood House Health Services Manager

Dianne Lillicraf, Hall Neighborhood House Health Services Manager

For Dianne Lillicraf, our Health Services Manager, making health and dental care accessible and convenient for our neighbors is the top priority. 

“We are right here for them,” she shared. 

The Health Center at Hall Neighborhood House provides medical, dental, and behavioral health care to our neighbors. Dianne’s job is to coordinate these programs, schedule appointments, and ensure our neighbors get the very best care. She is the liaison between Hall and the providers.

Health Care

Medical care is provided in partnership with Southwest Community Health Center. Their experienced team of healthcare professionals delivers top-quality care in a warm and welcoming environment onsite at Hall. They are committed to enhancing the health of individuals and families by providing accessible, affordable, and personalized health care. 

Medical services at Hall ensure our families have full access to health care for their entire family at a convenient location they already visit every day. 

“As a parent, I understand how hard it can be to balance work and life,” Dianne explained. “We wanted to make medical and dental as convenient as possible, especially for our working parents. Getting in to see your primary care physician can be very difficult at the last minute, and, if your child is sick, it’s hard to get an appointment immediately. Here, they can pick their child up, walk right over to the medical center, and have the child examined by a professional.”

Dental Care 

Neighbors can access free dental hygiene care, including exams, cleanings, x-rays, fluoride treatments, and sealants, provided by Fones School of Dental Hygiene, under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Boyce, DMD, and now our Hall family can receive follow-up care to treat advanced dental issues through Southwest at our state-of-the-art dental clinic. The dental clinic was made possible through the generous support of Impact Fairfield County and Delta Dental. 

Southwest dental services began recently and filled an immediate need for advanced dental care. We are excited for them to be able to expand on the dental hygiene that Fones School of Dental Hygiene has provided to over 180 of our Hall family members.

Behavioral Health

Mental health is a critical part of overall health, and Dianne helps coordinate Hall’s behavioral health program through Southwest Community Health Center, which provides mental health support and social work resources to neighbors of all ages. 

“Hall is a safe place,” said Dianne. Building trusted relationships with the community allows Southwest to work confidentially with them to make life better through mental health support.

Once a week, for example, all our seniors participate in a weekly “Better Me” clinic, where they learn about and discuss topics like self-esteem, stress, depression, emotions and anxiety, and forgiveness and relationships. Over the past year, this program has grown—and we are thrilled to see more and more seniors taking advantage of it.

Group and individual mental health sessions are also available at Hall.

“Our comprehensive, holistic health program really helps them connect with what they need and when they need it,” said Dianne. 

Please visit our Health Center Page for the most up-to-date information on our medical, dental, and behavioral health offerings—including appointment availability.

Our partnerships

Partnerships are an integral part of our strategy to serve our community. We partner with other organizations to uplift Bridgeport and provide our neighbors with the best services possible. When we all work together, we can create a stronger community.

“Seeing the outcome of these services is my favorite part,” said Dianne. “We are helping others, and it is rewarding to see their gratitude and provide something they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

These services matter to our community because …

They are convenient.

Most of our neighbors visit Hall every day—for senior center activities, after-school programs, or childcare. Now, they have access to even more services right on-site.

“This program really helps them connect with the services they need,” shared Dianne.

This year, for example, one of our senior citizens slipped and fell outside his apartment. When he arrived at the Hall Senior Center later that week, he told our team about the fall … and that he had broken his top denture in half. 

We contacted Dr. Peter Ferrara, a local dentist who volunteers in our dental clinic. Dr. Ferrara examined the senior, and within 48 hours, the senior had brand-new upper dentures that fit even better than the originals.

Our clinic enables us to respond quickly to the health-related needs of our neighbors 

They are accessible.

Our goal is to provide care to any member of our community who needs it—regardless of their ability to pay. Through our government-funded providers that use sliding scale models and the generosity of our partners and donors, we can assist all of our neighbors and provide them with the best care possible. 

They are empowering.

Our neighbors trust us to provide the high-quality services and care they deserve. They know that the providers we connect them to have their best interests at heart. When neighbors have these consistent relationships with their providers, they feel more empowered to make health-related decisions.

Educating our community with programs on good health choices and providing services where they can access them easily will help make a stronger and healthier community. 

Our vision for the future

As Hall grows, we have big plans to continue expanding health services. We look forward to new partnerships that will allow us to provide more clinics and services like occupational therapy, physical therapy, and hearing and vision screenings.

Our clinic—and the medical, dental, and behavioral health services it provides—is just one part of the holistic care we offer our neighbors. We are proud to unite community organizations and partners to make life better here on the East Side of Bridgeport. 

“It’s a great place to work and be part of the community,” said Dianne.