WH Schools alum, Edible Arrangements co-founder donates to Forest
WH Schools alum, Edible Arrangements co-founder donates to Forest
Posted on 05/26/2015
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WEST HAVEN, May 19, 2015 — Forest Elementary School now has a new program for students in need, a partnership with Southern Connecticut State University’s baseball team, and much-needed technology for its English Language Learners classroom, all thanks to a successful alumnus who remembers his roots.

Kamran Farid--who attended Forest in the mid-1980s and went on to co-found Edible Arrangements, a popular worldwide fruit bouquet company--has donated $5,000 for iPad minis, headsets, cases and keyboards for the school’s ELL students, as well as $4,000 for a new food backpack program. The donations were made through his Kamran Farid Foundation. This is just the beginning of his work with the school, he said.

Farid, now 36 and living in Branford, visited his old stomping grounds May 15 with two of his daughters, Salma and Zairah, to meet with school officials and see how the iPads are enhancing learning for Forest’s ELL youngsters. He opted to give back to the ELL program since he was an ELL student himself.

“It was beautiful to see the kids here and watch the iPads in use and to see their eyes light up. You could see the value the iPads are bringing to the classroom, and I’m glad to see the teachers are excited about them,” said Farid, whose family moved from West Haven to North Haven shortly after he entered middle school. “My kids are around this age, so it was nice to show them where I grew up.” 

Farid’s family is originally from Pakistan, and he primarily spoke Urdo when he enrolled at Forest in the 1980s. He can still recall how much he enjoyed his ELL class and the impact it had on his childhood.

“There were only around five of us in the class. That’s really where I fell in love with reading. I still remember all the nursery rhymes, like ‘Jack and Jill.’ I had fun; it didn’t feel like class,” he said.

So when he reached out to the West Haven Public School District earlier this year to learn how he could be of assistance to his old elementary school, he asked about the ELL department’s needs.

Forest currently has ELL classes scheduled throughout the day and is seeing that population of students growing. There was a need for more technology in those classes, teachers told Farid, and Farid delivered.

Now, ELL teachers Mara Rabinowitz and Marisa Gambardella have 11 iPad sets to use on a regular basis with their students, thanks to Farid’s donation. While the iPads can help present a lesson in a new way or can appeal to certain students based on their learning style, they also give youngsters a chance to use technology they might not have at home.

“We are getting the kids used to working with them and finding apps that we can incorporate directly into our lessons. Now that we have many more iPads, students can pair up and complete assignments with one another using the iPads,” Gambardella said. “We love having the extra technology to incorporate into our teaching and assignments. There are more opportunities for different types of instruction when you have more technology.”

During Farid’s visit, Gambardella and Rabinowitz were working on naming the five senses with a group of around 15 first-graders (who also gave Farid hand-made thank you cards). After a brief review, students paired up to use the iPads and an app for an activity related to the unit on senses. Farid’s daughters joined in, partnering with the students and helping when they had questions.

Later, Farid and his daughters toured the school, stopping by the art room, library media center and building addition that was created after Farid moved on to middle school.

Next up was the school social worker’s office to see a few of the food backpacks distributed through the new program that was launched at Forest this winter with Farid’s backing. The initiative assists students in need by providing a backpack of food for meals when the students are at home on the weekend, since they receive breakfast and lunch at school on weekdays. The Target store in Orange provided money for the backpacks so that as much of Farid’s donation as possible could go toward food.

Beyond the financial donations, Farid also connected Forest administrators with the SCSU baseball team to create a mentoring program and hold family activities. The student-athletes visited the school earlier this year to chat with students at lunch and play games with them at recess, and recently held “Forest School Family Day” at SCSU with a barbeque lunch and games.

“It’s amazing when you start to give how many other people want to join you and give too,” Farid said. “I remember little activities and things like this about my years in school, and I think kids today will remember all this too.”

Principal Thomas Hunt, Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro and Assistant Superintendent Anne Druzolowski all met with Farid at Forest and noted how meaningful it is to have a former student think of his elementary school so many years later when considering ways to give back to the community. 

“We’re so proud that Kamran is a Forest alumnus and can’t thank him enough for making sure students have what they need both in and out of school. It was great to welcome him back to Forest and hear about the positive experiences he had when he was here. What really came across was his appreciation for everyone at Forest who helped him while he was a student,” Cavallaro said. “His generosity won’t soon be forgotten and is already making a significant impact on our students.”