By Emily Clark–The 8th Annual Golf Classic to benefit the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport was held at the Country Club of Fairfield on Monday, August 10. Clear blue skies, mild breezes, and midsummer sunshine provided donors and supporters with a perfect setting for an afternoon of golf, a cocktail reception, and a lively auction that raised over $260,000 for scholarships.
Despite some limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was sold out with 21 foursomes for golf and 100 guests for cocktails, all held outdoors on the shores of Long Island Sound to meet social distancing protocol. Though each of the Academy’s fundraisers are important in providing scholarships for their inner-city students, CAB’s Executive Director Angela Pohlen said this one was especially vital due to a cancelled event in March, increased requests for financial aid, and the need for an additional $178,000 to cover the schools’ reopening and to meet standards for COVID-19 cleansing.
“This is a critical fundraiser for us,” said Pohlen. “Catholic schools are the hope to a weary world, and we need to be ever more present now.”
With close to 850 students among the four campuses of St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine, and St. Raphael, the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport will provide tuition assistance to approximately 90% of its population this school year. Pohlen commented on the great sacrifice parents make to send their children to the Academy, especially during these challenging times. “It’s harder now, so we work harder,” she said. “The more kids we can serve, the better.”
Pohlen added that everyone in attendance, from the generous donors to the committed staff of educators and personnel, all remain focused on the mission of CAB in preparing students for “a successful life of leadership and service,” evidenced through the powerful speeches shared throughout the afternoon.
During the cocktail reception, alumnus Janelle Rosales ’16 spoke about the financial burden so many families face in educating their children and thanked the donors “for providing this opportunity to future generations. My teachers gave me a future, a voice, and spirituality.” A 2020 graduate of Notre Dame of Fairfield in the top 20 of her class with over 200 hours of community service, Rosales will attend Quinnipiac University in the fall to simultaneously pursue both a B.A. and an M.B.A.
Those opportunities are made possible by such donors as Jim and Judy Bailey, two of this year’s honorees. As Board Chair from 2009-2014, Jim co-founded the Annual Golf Classic and along with his wife have sponsored multiple students over the years through the Leaders of Tomorrow program. In his speech introducing Jim, current Board Chair Brad Evans quoted the Baileys’ oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who remembers her parents instilling in her the values of compassion, commitment, and confidence.
Also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award was Ann Marie Donnelly, who retired from the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport in June after 37 years in education. Former students Michael Jones ’06 and Onyinyechukwu Nnodum ’13 praised Donnelly for her commitment to students and the difference she made in their lives.
“Mrs. Donnelly didn’t let me fall by the wayside,” said Jones, now a third-year Master of Divinity candidate at Howard University who also works full time at a technology company in Washington, D.C. In describing Donnelly as a “hero,” Jones said, “She stood up for all her students and made sure they all succeeded. She resuscitated students through her acts of kindness and gave her life to something bigger than herself.”
“She made me who I am,” added Nnodum, a rising senior at Cornell University who is studying Industrial and Labor Relations. “Mrs. Donnelly was a teacher, mentor, and friend.”
Success stories such as these, made possible by those most committed to the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, will continue on due to the generosity displayed at the Golf Classic.
“We are unique,” said Pohlen. “Where others see obstacles, we see potential. This is our moment in history, and when people look back to ask how we served so well, I look around and am reminded of John 13:35 – ‘they will know us by our love.’”