Greenwich, CT – An intimate gathering of Catholic Academy of Bridgeport supporters and their guests were joined by Bishop Frank Caggiano in the upper room of Polpo Restaurant on September 26, 2017, for the school’s annual fall dinner fundraiser. The Academy, which educates more than 945 students on the campuses of St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St. Raphael, needs to raise more than $2 million annually so it can provide scholarship to the 85% of its student population who qualify for such financial assistance.
Catholic Academy Board chair Brad Evans welcomed guests and said he was encouraged that enrollment in the school is noticeably up for the first time in seven years. He also spoke about important academic inroads being made at the Academy, the increased focus on Blended Learning, and the fact the school was able to have a balanced budget in academic year 2016/2017. “A lot of the success for the year is the result of the people in this room, as well as others, who have been so generous in helping us seek academic excellence in an inner-city like Bridgeport, beleaguered with low-perform
ing public schools and dire economics,” said Evans.
Executive Director of the Catholic Academy Sr. Joan Magnetti, rscj, followed Evans’ remarks by quoting Mark Twain. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” she said. “I want to thank all of you who are here tonight and who are faithful donors to our school,” she said. “You know the ‘why’ of your life, the purpose of your life, which is to be in the service of others.”
Peppered between courses of chopped salad, penne alla vodka, and delicious entrees and desserts, were memorable appearances by several students. Kadijah Needham, a top student at Kolbe Cathedral High School who would like to be an attorney one day, received a standing ovation when she sang a moving rendition of Kari Jobe’s I Am Not Alone, accompanied on the keyboard by Kolbe music teacher Joe Elbertson.
Later in the evening, Jennifer Melo, an alumna of St. Augustine who currently attends Notre Dame High School and dreams of being a neurosurgeon, spoke from her heart about her time at the Catholic Academy’s St. Augustine campus. “St. Augustine not only pushed me to grow spiritually but helped me to grow academically,” Melo said. “Every day I left my classroom knowing something new and was more prepared for all the obstacles and hardships I knew high school was going to throw at me. My teachers gave me the knowledge and confidence to do my best and I knew I could count on them for assistance and guidance.”
At one point in her elementary school education Melo was struggling in math. “My teacher helped me to go from a B- to an A in just one semester,” she shared. “I want to thank the donors who made all of this possible. God bless you all for investing in the children of today to improve our future.”
Rounding out the evening’s speakers was New Canaan resident Jennifer Cieszko, a parishioner of St. Aloysius in New Canaan, mother to seven children and wife of Peter, a former Catholic Academy of Bridgeport Board member. Cieszko spoke about her family’s long tradition of helping those in need while putting a face on them. “That is why my husband and I chose to sponsor a student through the Catholic Academy’s Leaders of Tomorrow program about four years ago,” she said.
Leaders of Tomorrow is a program that pairs donors with students in need. Each sponsor contributes $4,500 toward the cost of a student’s tuition for one year, and throughout the school year the sponsor receives report cards and correspondence from their selected student. Launched in 2013 with only eight sponsors, the program today has 53 supporters who sponsor 96 students.
Cieszko also spoke of the importance of educating the next generation of donors while giving them firsthand charitable experiences so they can see the world beyond where they live. Such opportunities clearly have had an impact on Cieszko’s youngest son, Petey, a 7th grader at Saxe Middle School in New Canaan who joined his mother at the podium. “I like writing letters to Terence, our Leaders of Tomorrow student,” said Petey. “He sends us notes, too, and I might even get to meet him this year.” With sincere charm and authenticity Petey implored guests at Polpo to consider giving to the Academy. “I hope all of you here tonight will think about giving a dollar or two to help kids like Terence and others at the Catholic Academy who could really use your help,” he said.
Because Ron Rosa and his wife Dominique graciously hosted and underwrote the fall dinner for the fourth year in a row, all donations were fully tax-deductible and the Academy was able to raise approximately $150,000. The dinner is one of three major fundraisers the Academy hosts each year. The next benefit will be an Annual Ladies Luncheon at Woodway Country Club in Darien on April 18, 2018, featuring journalist and author Cokie Roberts and honoring Roberta Chiappelloni, co-owner of Manfredi Jewels and generous volunteer to many causes.
For more information please call 203-362-2990.