A program that aims to connect two communities and build leadership and confidence in young students was recognized recently by Congressman Jim Himes (D-4) and First Selectman Timothy Herbst.

Readers Are Leaders was created by Trumbull dad Dan Nichols for students at Middlebrook Elementary School. Once a week, eight- and nine-year-old students have been going to the Kossuth Street YMCA in Bridgeport to read to three- and four-year-olds in the after-school program.

While Nichols intended for it to be a six-week program, students kept it going beyond that, building bonds with their younger students, who began looking forward to the visitors each week. On June 21, the first group celebrated the completion of the program, receiving a certificate and a congratulations from Himes and Herbst.

“It’s trying to build bridges between different communities in our county and we have some very diverse communities,” Himes said of Readers Are Leaders. “It’s a great opportunity for community service and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

Nichols would like to see the program extend to other schools and get bigger, Herbst said he supports that move and will help Nichols grow the program in any way possible. He said the program takes his First Selectman’s Reading Challenge a step further.

“It’s kids reading to young children and that’s really important,” he said. “It’s building character. Often kids get lost in technology but this is a great opportunity to encourage reading.”

Staff at the YMCA say it’s been great to see the growth. The young students look up to the older readers and the readers have become more confident as time goes on.

The students who participated in the program’s first year are Kayla Nichols, William Wardzala, John Wardzala, Paula Ardissone, Joseph Wardzala and Julianna Sassano.