Giving all kids a chance for a whale of a good time at Mystic Aquarium

Museums have the power to inspire. They open worlds beyond our communities and our everyday lives. They play a vital role in spurring children towards types of careers about which they otherwise might have been unaware.

We are fortunate to have many such inspirational institutions here in southeastern Connecticut. We also are fortunate these institutions recognize the importance of full accessibility to their facilities and provide regular outreach to schools and community groups.

One recent example that deserves congratulations and recognition is the decision by Mystic Aquarium to continue offering substantial general admission discounts to Connecticut SNAP EBT cardholders, that is, to those receiving supplemental nutrition program benefits for low-income residents. SNAP often is called food stamps. Instead of the regular Aquarium adult admission price of $37.99 and regular child admission of $27.99 for those 3 years old to 13 years old, SNAP EBT cardholders can secure aquarium admission tickets for $5 each.

“Mystic Aquarium is deeply committed to community and to providing equitable access to the resources of the Aquarium,” Aquarium President and CEO Dr. Stephen E. Coan said. “We know that the learning experiences here have profound positive impact and we want to assure that all students and families have access to those experiences.”

There’s ample proof many are taking advantage of this access. In 2018, more than 80,000 visitors used the Aquarium’s discount offer for SNAP recipients.

The Aquarium’s decision is profoundly positive for children from low-income families, children who deserve the same opportunities as do children from wealthier families. While many local residents criticized on social media the concept of providing discounts to those receiving public assistance, we believe children’s futures shouldn’t be jeopardized by a lack of financial means.

To qualify for SNAP benefits, monthly gross income cannot exceed $3,870 for a family of four. The maximum monthly SNAP benefit for a family of four is $642. Most SNAP recipients, however, qualify for far smaller amounts. Anyone who shops for groceries should readily grasp the challenge of having such a tight food budget.

Those who do not have such drastic financial limitations, but whose limited means still gives them pause about paying the standard entrance price, can take advantage of other Aquarium discount programs. For those who want to visit the Aquarium more than twice a year, for example, annual memberships provide a great value. Discounts are offered to those with AAA membership and the Aquarium has offered active and retired military personnel free admission during specified time periods.

Another unbeatable option is available through most local public libraries: free admission passes to many local attractions and museums can be secured by anyone who has obtained a free library card.

“Museums inspire learning and creativity for children and adults and work actively to insure that a broad and diverse audience can access these opportunities at any stage in life,” states the London-based Museums Association. The Arlington, Virginia-based American Alliance of Museums notes a museum that adheres to its core standards “strives to be inclusive and offers opportunities for diverse participation.”

The Mystic Aquarium’s policies demonstrate it is actively striving to do exactly that.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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