SHU Gives Excellence Awards to Exemplary Students, Teachers, Parents in the Bridgeport School System

News Story: May 30, 2017

Sacred Heart University's Isabelle Farrington College of Education and the Bridgeport Public Schools (BPS) concluded the last academic school year with an event designed to recognize exemplary students, parents and teachers, pre-K through grade 12, in the Bridgeport schools.

The BPS and Bridgeport Higher Education Alliance sponsored “Bridgeport Public Schools Excellence in Education at Sacred Heart University.” It was the first time the awards were offered, thanks to the initiative and collaboration of Sacred Heart and three other universities in the immediate area: Fairfield University, the University of Bridgeport and Housatonic Community College. Each university took a group of Bridgeport schools and conducted an awards ceremony.

Sacred Heart worked with Wilbur L. Cross Elementary School, Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School, Hallen School, Thomas Hooker School, Madison School, Multicultural Magnet School, Park City Magnet School, Read School, A.B. Skane School, John Winthrop School and the Zoological Science, Research and Biotechnology High School at the Fairchild Wheeler campus.

Michael Giarratano, department chair and clinical assistant professor in SHU's Isabelle Farrington College of Education, began the program with a welcome to more the than 700 people who gathered for the ceremony. “Our mascot is the Pioneer, and you are all pioneers, too, who have done extra-special things,” Giarratano said.

Thomas Forget, interim dean of SHU’s College of Education, told the audience, “We’re here to honor students and peacemakers who are leaders in your school…and to honor educators, too, with the same pride and joy.”

Aresta Johnson, Bridgeport’s interim school superintendent, also spoke, and later shared, “We started planning this months ago, aiming to take a moment to recognize great students and teachers. And to come to a college campus for this—this is what we strive for. The word will get out. This is awesome; the parents are very excited, and Sacred Heart really rolled out the red carpet for us.”

The awards presentations led off with the Peacemaker Award, given to 26 students who demonstrated a great willingness to help others. One recipient was Danelsnka Colon, 13, from Wilbur Cross, who is thinking of becoming an artist or veterinarian. “I was a little nervous to go up on stage, though this is not my first award. I’ve won science fair awards. But I feel like a celebrity,” she exclaimed afterwards.

Twenty students received the Spirit Award for excellent attendance, conduct and positive contributions to the school community. Twenty more students received the Most Improved Award for displaying significant progress in academic performance and/or social-emotional awareness.

An unexpected interruption sent everyone out of the building when the Edgerton Center’s fire alarm sounded. That prompted Spirit Award winner Joel Monge, 17, from Fairchild Wheeler’s Biotech program, to remark, “They can’t hold the heat,” referring to the great talent and energy the school groups exhibited. Once the ceremony resumed a few minutes later, another 20 students received the Academic Award for consistent outstanding academic achievement across a variety of subjects.

Among teachers, the first honor was the Mentoring Award, bestowed on 11 educators who worked effectively with peers and/or preservices teachers to improve the quality of instruction and school climate.

Going the Extra Mile was the next award, given to 12 teachers who exuded a willingness to take initiative consistently in moving the school community forward and significantly adding to the students’ lives. One of those teachers was Hector Medina from John Winthrop, who also works part time at Black Rock’s Taco Loco restaurant. At school, Medina serves as a basketball and track coach, oversees the Invention Convention and is a debate coach as well. “This is an amazing honor; I’m humbled,” he said after receiving his award.

Nine educators received the Paraprofessional Award, 11 support staff members received the Going the Extra Mile Award and 12 parents received parent/guardian awards.

Xavier Vera was beaming about his 11-year-old daughter, Paola, a student at Multicultural Magnet School who won a Peacemaker Award. “I’m so proud to be her father. She is my youngest and says to me, ‘I’m going to make you happy and proud.’ She’s very responsible, beyond her years. She wants to be a lawyer one day,” he said.

Reflecting on the proceedings and focusing his thoughts on the students who were recognized, Forget commented, “In this way, we’ve caught students doing something great instead of doing something wrong. You can see the excitement on their faces. It’s very challenging to be an educator…and a wonderful privilege for us to honor everyone.”

The ceremony was followed by refreshments, private photos against a SHU banner backdrop and pick-up of the actual awards.