What do you get when you combine an engaging math and language arts program with live animals, an ice cream truck and an 80-foot, three-masted sharpie schooner? One memorable and meaningful summer enrichment program which at the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport is called “Jump Start.”
Thanks to the generosity of The Paul & Anne-Marie Queally Family Foundation, Jump Start just ended its fourth year offering five weeks of summer enrichment camp to rising 4th-8th grade students currently enrolled in one of the Academy’s four campuses: St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St. Raphael. This year’s program saw enrollment nearly triple from last year with 110 children participating.
“This year’s Jump Start was bursting with positive energy,” said program coordinator Debra Tarczali. “We are truly blessed to have such generous donors as the Queally’s and to experience summer learning through the eyes of our eager, hard working students.”
Academics have always been the core focus of Jump Start but this year was amped up with enhanced resources available to both students and faculty. “Mathletics” offered captivating online learning space, giving students the tools they needed to be successful both in and out of the classroom, and Vital Signs, strengthened middle school literacy and reading comprehension skills. Students also read high-interest stories and engaging novels. Art and technology classes and relaxation and meditation activities along with offsite field trips, such as a hands-on, science-infused learning experience aboard the Schooner SoundWaters, rounded out the program. Gospel values and group prayers also were incorporated into daily activities, and a nutritious lunch was also provided to all.
“I just love the program,” said teacher Peaches Bernard. “It’s wonderful for those students who struggle as well as those just looking to keep sharp during the summer months. The kids have a chance to build and scaffold their skills while working at their own pace. They are better prepared for the fall and truly get a jump start into the next year’s curriculum.”
Teacher Sue Dorsey agreed. “The novels the students read became a springboard to teach necessary reading skills and to harness the students’ own creativity, while also spurring their urge to write, read additional materials and express themselves through different media.”
Art teacher Karen Heck, computer teacher Joyce Bondos and Dorsey collaborated on culminating activities that grew from the love of a book, a love of literature and a connection that they hope will last a lifetime. Nataliya, a 7th grade student, said she enjoyed learning history as her class explored a nonfiction novel on Hurricane Katrina.
Books also came alive when the students got to see a library firsthand outside their school experience. 5th grade student Jeremy enthusiastically recalled, “One day we even got to walk to the Bridgeport Public Library, explore the bookshelves and see the huge reference room. It was amazing!”
To ensure academic growth, math and reading assessments were conducted both pre- and post-program. Students improved their skills significantly, some by as much as 20 percent. Teacher Annie Lapera noted that the small class sizes also helped students develop their social and emotional skills.
According to a 4th grader in the program named Icaro, “Jump Start gave us a great education and we learned life values.” Another participant, Christian, said “Jump Start was a really fun experience. I learned a lot and it reinforced the skills I’ll need in 8th grade.” Another student, Talan, added, “And the math was phenomenal!”
As the new school year gets underway, one thing is certain. Catholic Academy of Bridgeport students are better prepared and heading into the year with a jump start.