8th Annual Golf Classic-August 10, 2020
The Country Club of Fairfield
Honoring Jim & Judy Bailey & Ann Marie Donnelly
Path to College for First-Generation Students
- High standardized test scores
- +2 grades ahead of national norms
- High ACT scores — Top 25% of nation
- College affordability– two-thirds receive college scholarship offers
- Value system that will be forever part of their lives
- Discipline and more.
Our staff and principals have been hard at work to ensure distance learning is occurring even though our physical campuses are currently closed to students. In addition, some campuses are using Google Meet for morning prayer.
All of our social workers continue to be actively engaged with their respective students, and even our PE teachers are posting ways families can keep their children active and fit indoors during this time.
At least one family isd even requiring their children to wear their uniforms at home during normal school hours to reinforce that school is still “in session.”
We are so proud of out CAtholic Academy community for coming together and thinking outside the box so that our children can continue to be educated.- body, mind and spirit!
Like the public schools, private and Catholic schools are now focusing on supporting students with online learning during the school shutdown. But these institutions have the added charge of collecting tuition while students are not in the classroom and trying to recruit freshmen for the new school year in the fall.
This, at a time when a number of Catholic schools across the state have closed or merged with others due to low enrollment.
This, at a time when a number of Catholic schools across the state have closed or merged with others due to low enrollment.
Brian Wallace, a spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport, said the diocese’s decisions will likely be aligned with those of the governor.
Please read important information regarding the Coronavirus. Check back here for latest updates.
Marie Telfort has much to be proud of. A unit controller at Sodexo, Telfort’s three daughters graduated from the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport’s St. Augustine campus and went on to terrific success.
Her oldest daughter, Vengie, graduated from Lauralton Hall then received a B.A. from Assumption College and an M.A. from Suffolk University; post-graduation she interned for the European Parliament in Brussels and today works as a digital analyst for CBS. Telfort’s middle daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden in 2015 and received both a B.A. and an M.S. from St. John’s University where today she is a graduate assistant. Her youngest daughter, Elisha, is a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy, where she is a member of the Key Club and just finished a stellar volleyball season.
But things weren’t always so happy and bright for Telfort and her daughters.
DEALING WITH HARDSHIP & LOSS
Originally from Haiti and one of seven children, Telfort grew up in a household where a high value was placed on Catholic education. So naturally, when she moved to the U.S. in 1998, she sought out a Catholic school for her girls and was thrilled to find St. Augustine. “It’s very family-oriented. Everyone knows everyone.
Teachers always have time for your kids after school, they have a social worker in the school and there are small class sizes. And number one, it was always a safe environment.”
But in 2011, the family experienced hardship, including the loss of both of Telfort’s parents. “I had a lot of tragedy in Haiti then went through some personal tragedy in Bridgeport. Despite working, my financial situation was falling apart. With one daughter in Lauralton Hall and two in St. Augustine, I started wondering if I should tell my children they would be unable to graduate from the schools they were in.”
Telfort decided to call Ann Marie Donnelly, an 8th grade teacher at St. Augustine whom she trusted and respected. “Mrs. Donnelly said, ‘Don’t tell the girls they won’t be able to graduate.’ She told me to make an appointment with the principal, social worker and financial person. That was the best advice because when I called, they stepped up to help us. They didn’t let money be an obstacle to a good education. I will never forget that.”
And praise for the school extends further. “When my oldest went on to high school, her English teacher there asked me to make sure I told her 8th grade English teacher at St. Augustine that she did a really good job,” shared Telfort.
A THANKFUL SPIRIT
When Elisha graduated last June, the family decided to show their gratitude for one teacher that all three Telfort children had: Mrs. Donnelly. “The girls called it a ‘Legacy Award’ and it was a very special surprise. But it was also a little embarrassing because it’s all of the teachers that prepare these students for high school, not just me,” said Donnelly.
The Telfort family is just one of hundreds of families who received needs-based assistance last year, totaling more than $2 million. Telfort said that if it wasn’t for the generosity of donors who make such aid possible, she doesn’t know how her daughters’ lives would have turned out.
On October 2, Catholic Academy of Bridgeport Board Chair Brad Evans welcomed 60 guests to the schools’ 10th Annual Fall Dinner celebration at Polpo Restaurant in Greenwich.
Sixty guests dined on Polpo’s upscale Italian fare. Those in attendance included eight of the Academy’s 12 Board members, all of the principals from the Academy’s four Bridgeport campuses, and many longtime and faithful supporters of the school.
Angela Pohlen, who took over as the Academy’s Executive Director in July when Sr. Joan Magnetti retired, thanked Ron and Dominque Rosa, owners of Polpo, for once again underwriting the food for this annual event. Past Board Chair Jim Bailey, who emceed the event, recognized Sr. Magnetti for her role in the Annual Fall Dinner since its inception in 2010 as well as for her committed and innovative leadership during the 10 years she served as the schools ED, a period during which the Academy transitioned from six schools to four and the budget went from seeing a deficit of $2.4 million to being completely balanced every year for the past six years.
Bailey also recognized alumnus Sergio Lara, who 10 years ago was a recent graduate of the Academy working toward a BA in Marketing at Fairfield University and the speaker at the initial Fall Dinner fundraiser. “Since then, Sergio has gone on to spend six incredible years at PricewaterhouseCoopers and today is a Corporate Strategy Consultant at BDO. Sergio recently told me that it was only through financial assistance that he was able to attend our school, and that none of this would have been possible were it not for generous people like you sitting here tonight.”
Bailey said that the choice of dates for tonight’s dinner was intentional, for in the Catholic Church, October 2 is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. “One of the roles of Guardian Angels is to protect those entrusted to their care, and that certainly is true of all of you. Through the years we have asked you to partner with us so that we can educate those children entrusted to us in a safe, nurturing, Christ-centered environment; one where personal and moral character is being shaped, mutual respect and kindness are being taught, and students graduate with the confidence and ability to succeed in life; an environment that, in many instances, is not available in the public sector.”
Each guest received a crystal angel as a small token of the school’s gratitude for their kindness and generosity through the years. “When you hang it, I hope you will remember what a tremendous and powerful difference you have made in the lives of our students,” said Bailey.
A secondary theme of the evening was “unwritten,” and Jasmine Fuller, an alumna of the Academy’s St. Ann campus and a current junior at Kolbe, wowed the crowd with her singing of Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. Afterwards, Pohlen said,“If you read the statistics from the city of Bridgeport, they’re usually written with a period – as if it’s a foregone conclusion that the children of this city will continue in the perpetual cycle of underachievement because of their own deficits and not those of the system of which they are a part. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions. Our students are not statistics – they are individuals with the power and ability to overcome the obstacles that others have already deemed insurmountable. They will write their own stories, and it is our privilege to have a part in that authorship.”
Silver frames with personal quotes from many of the Academy’s 7th and 8th grade students donned each table throughout the room. These quotes were written by the students after they reflected on the song Unwritten and the following statistics: Only 23% of students in the Bridgeport Public School system are performing at grade level compared to more than 80% of Catholic Academy of Bridgeport students, and barely 60% of Bridgeport Public School students graduate high school compared to 100% of the Academy students.
To these statistics 8th grader, Mikita, wrote, “Why is that? Is it because we only take in smart students and throw out the rest? Of course not. We get these results because all of us know we aren’t statistics and can go above and beyond what the graphs say. We realize we can change our lives for the better and believe we can fulfill the mission God gave us. I dream of becoming a police detective because I want to help rid Bridgeport of crime and violence. This school is paving the way for me to achieve that dream.”
After the entrée course, guests had the opportunity to hear from Roseangel Zayas, an 8th grader on the Academy’s St. Augustine campus, whose favorite subject is English and who writes for the school’s newspaper and is a member of the yearbook staff. “Going to school here has given me a great education and the teachers always have the best interest of me in mind; they don’t just teach for the paycheck,” she said. “When I was in 5th grade, my family experienced an unexpected fire. My father got 3rd-degree burns and my mother 2nd-degree burns. All of our possessions were destroyed. The school worked to get my family a $1,200 security deposit for a new house plus threw me a housewarming party. I’m so grateful that God put such kind-hearted people in my path. They are like family to me,” Zayas said.
Although she does not come from a family of graduates, Zayas said she wants to be the first one “to go on to a good high school where I will continue to become the me God planned me to be.” She dreams of becoming a social worker or working n the criminal justice field so she can give back to others who need it most. “I believe the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport has put me on the right path to do so, and I appreciate all of the kindness, support, donations and acceptance from people like you.”
Later in the night, “Hands Up for Scholarship” pushed proceeds of the fundraiser above $300,000. All money will go to support students in the Academy, which educates nearly 900 children on four campuses in grades preschool through 8th in the city of Bridgeport, 85% of whom cannot afford the annual tuition of $5,000 and most of whom live below the poverty level.
Pohlen thanked the guests for their tremendous support, noting, “You are well aware that our students outshine and outperform their public school and many of their charter school counterparts by leaps and bounds. However, it’s important to recognize we don’t cherry-pick our students. These are the same kids who would otherwise go to those schools – the difference is we believe they can achieve, so we give them the tools to do so. It’s a difference in the mission.”
The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport must raise more than $2 million each year for scholarship. For more information, visit www.catholicacademybridgeport.org or call 203-362-2990.
ABC News journalist and political commentator Cokie Roberts died on September 17, 2019 at the age of 75. Roberts was a longtime supporter of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, both financially and spiritually.
Roberts also was the guest speaker at our 8th Annual Ladies Luncheon at Woodway Country Club on April 18, 2018. One of the highlights of that event was listening to Roberts, who in addition to being an award-winning journalist was also the author of several historical books, entertain guests with stories of American women saints, including St. Frances Cabrini, who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and devoted her life to caring for poor children in schools and hospitals. Roberts even donated a personal tour of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. followed by lunch to the fundraiser’s live auction.
Roberts will be dearly missed by all in the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport community. Our prayers go out to her husband, Steven, and Roberts’ entire family.
To see additional photos of Cokie Roberts and others from the 2018 Ladies Luncheon, please click here.