Tag Archive for: Early Learning


New center named for Rita O’Brien Dee

Tewksbury resident Rita O’Brien Dee, surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues, was honored by Community Teamwork in Lowell for her half century of service to the organization. The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health & Development will be a resource for Community Teamwork and providers across the community who are working with children with behavioral, emotional, and developmental challenges.                                                                                                              (Paige Impink photo)

By PAIGE IMPINK News Correspondent paige@yourtowncrier.com

TOWN CRIER – Oct 16, 2021

TEWKSBURY — She thought she was attending a board meeting to accept a donation from a supporter of Community Teamwork, a vital services organization she works with in Lowell. But, when Rita O’Brien Dee saw her face on colorful t-shirts and friends and family under a festive tent, she realized something else was go­ing on.

Community Teamwork CEO Karen Frederick wel­comed O’Brien Dee and explained the surprise.

“We’d like to welcome Rita and acknowledge more than a half century of service to the community, and to the Commu­nity Teamwork family by dedicating The Rita O’Bri­en Dee Center for Behavioral Health & De­velopment,” said Freder­ick.

Through a generous anonymous donation and a subsequent grant from the Greater Lowell Com­munity Foundation, Com­munity Teamwork was able to establish the program, located at the James Houlares Center on Phoenix Avenue in Lowell. The center will be the headquarters for programs and services that promote healthy social-emotional development for children, in­crease children’s success in school, strengthen children and families, and mitigate adversity through trauma-inform­ed care.

According to Child and Family Services Division Director Meghan Siem­bor, “This opportunity could not have come at a better time… This opportunity enables us to meet a critical need and ad­dress a significant public health issue — children’s mental and behavioral health.”

Siembor praised O’Brien Dee.

“Her love for children is unparalleled as is her passion for giving back to the community,” said Siembor. “It truly is an honor for me and the staff across the Division of Child and Family ser­vices to be able to develop this Center in her hon­or.”

O’Brien Dee was visibly moved.

O’Brien Dee has been involved with Commu­nity Teamwork for 56 years. As a single parent raising five children on her own, she faced difficult struggles trying to work, put food on the table, and keep a roof over the heads of her family.

O’Brien Dee started her career as a teacher aide at Head Start, and earned her Associate’s Degree and quickly be­came an early childhood teacher at the center. O’Brien Dee was in the classroom for 27 years.

Upon retirement, O’Bri­en Dee joined the Head Start Policy Council and Community Teamwork’s Board of Directors. O’Bri­en Dee is also a member of many CTI committees and supports numerous initiatives.

According to data collected by CTI, mental health has emerged as a prominent community need, jumping from the fourth-most cited community need to the second-most cited need from the prior survey cycles. The impact of the pandemic is notable.

Key information also points to mental health as the most pressing is­sue in the community behind the need for better housing, according to CTI’s data for the great­er Lowell community.

O’Brien Dee is known in Tewksbury for her participation in the Friends of the Library, the Tewksbury Historical Society, and is an active member of the Tewks­bury Senior Center, Gar­den Club, the Democra­tic Town Committee, and is a former election wor­ker.

O’Brien Dee has been an inspiration and example of giving back to the community, not just in Tewksbury, but in the greater Merrimack Val­ley.

If you would like to donate to help support the new Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavior­al Health & Develop­ment, please contribute to the Greater Lowell COMMUNITY Foundation c/o The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development



Cti health safety content coordinator Vernon smith left and group leader tiffany De oliveira both of lowell inside lowell Memorial auditorium
Cti health safety content coordinator Vernon smith left and group leader tiffany De oliveira both of lowell inside lowell Memorial auditorium

Curtain call for remote learners

With CTI’s help, venue shifts from shows to education Lowell MEMORIAL Auditorium

Lowell Sun 1/10/2021
By Barry Scanlon, Correspondent


Lowell » During its nearly 100- year run, Lowell Memorial Auditorium has hosted musicians, comedians, actors, boxers, dancers, and much more.

Now the venerable building on East Merrimack Street has added a new chapter to its glorious history: Classroom.

The building is hosting 24 students Monday through Friday thanks to a partnership between Pete Lally, president of the Lowell Management Group, and Community Teamwork, Inc.

“ It’s really nice to have the auditorium being used, especially for something like this in the community where there’s such a need,” Lally said. Lally was approached by Kathleen Plath, CTI’s director of Development and Marketing. Due to the pandemic, CTI was looking for buildings with capacity to help students learn remotely.

“ She said, ‘ Hey, I know you’re not doing many concerts these days,’” Lally said.

Indeed, few industries have been hurt by the pandemic more than the entertainment one. Events booked at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium have been canceled or postponed since last March. The auditorium, which opened in 1922, consists of 2,800 seats for most events and has 100,000 square feet of room.

“ It’s been a busy place for so many things,” Lally said. “ There’s been a number of days it was pretty much just me there.”

Lally jumped at the chance to assist CTI, an organization that does “ so many good things,” he said.

There were some hurdles to clear, mainly getting a license from the Department of Early Education and Care. That process took about six weeks as the auditorium was tested for air quality and the building’s WiFi had to be upgraded.

Auditorium » 6A


CTI health & safety content coordinator Vernon smith, left, and group leader tiffany De Oliveira, both of Lowell, inside Lowell Memorial auditorium which is hosting two-dozen schoolchildren for remote learning.

Julia Malakie photos/ lowell sun

Demetri Rivera-Robinson, 8, of lowell, uses on an online drawing instruction program.



A total of 24 students, ages 5-13, have been remote learning at one of Lowell’s most notable buildings since Dec. 19. That number will grow, possibly up to 104, as CTI increases its staffing level. The students are able to use the building from 7 a. m. to 5 p. m., freeing up their parents to work during the day.

CTI is committed to helping low-income people become self sufficient. The organization serves 63 cities and towns in Middlesex and Essex counties.

“ It’s been absolutely fabulous,” said Meghan Siembor, CTI’s director of the Division of Child and Family Services. “ The kids love being there. The staff loves being there. It was a winwin. Pete and his entire team were fabulous to work with. It was a shared mission.

You don’t want buildings unoccupied, es- pecially during the winter.”

CTI looked into other venues, including community centers and churches, before finding the perfect match with Lally, Siembor said.

CTI provides meals to be brought to the students. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks are provided. The auditorium also affords space for the children to stay active when they close their laptops.

The stage has been used for acting purposes, and the auditorium also has space for arts and crafts activities.

Students learn while being socially distanced on the main floor of the building. Meeting spaces on the upper floors are available as well.

“ I think the parents are so grateful,” Siembor said.

The Lowell Memorial Auditorium normally hosts 120- 140 events a year. The Golden Gloves boxing tournament, concerts, dance competitions and recitals, High school graduations. It’s normally a beehive of activity.

Lally, who also operates entertainment buildings in Lexington and Plymouth, said the partnership between his group and CTI will continue through the end of February. If the pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the auditorium’s schedule, students may be allowed to learn there into the spring.

“ It’s refreshing for us to have it used 50 to 60 hours a week,” Lally said.

Karen Frederick, CTI executive director, echoed a similar sentiment: “ The partnership with the Lowell Memorial Auditorium has enabled us to provide services to our families and keep people working in the community, which they would not be able to do without much needed childcare. This is a good example of the community coming together to meet the needs created by this pandemic. We are grateful that LMA Management and the city of Lowell were willing to work with us to think outside the box to come up with this solution.”

Kaleb Liman, 7, of Lowell, shows his work to group leader Keily Escalante at Lowell Memorial Auditorium.


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