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  • 1. I attended Bridgeport Schools from kindergartenthrough HS. From beginning to end, I was a part of thecity’s magnet program so I was constantly surroundedby educators and peers who expressed how much theywanted a top education for me and for themselves.Even when I was young, I realized there was a bigdisparity. The expectations were not as high for nonmagnet school students, it seemed. Skipped class? Ohwell. Low “C” average? To be expected. Aneducational hierarchy within our own schools eventhough everyone deserves great encouragement, greatexpectations and a great education. The “bubble” of success that I was wrapped in didmake a difference in my life and has helped mebecome who I am today. However, I believe everyBridgeport student holds potential and deserves to beviewed with the same hope, same expectations and inthe same esteem as students who scored higher ontheir testing. I imagine the difference it could havemade in the lives of some students, had they beenoffered equal motivation. Blaming a parent, a student,a teacher, a school, an administration is notappropriate. The right move is to move forward in apositive and INCLUSIVE spirit and work together to I EXCELchange the culture of no/low expectations that hashaunted this city for too long. That’s why I Excel. -- Erica
  • 2. I was born in Ghana, West Africa and migrated tothe United States in 1986. I had the opportunity toattend the best schools in Ghana. However, during myfirst year in high school in P.G. County, MD, I sawsomeone get shot at lunchtime during a fight. I wenthome in shock and, when I returned the following day,the superintendent advised me to “get used to it”because “it’s normal.” I realized how easy it was toadvance and pass classes without doing much, howstudents were smoking all over the place even aroundthe teachers. But I loved school so much I had perfectattendance in my senior year. I even went to schoolduring senior skip day! Education reform is highly recommended inBridgeport public schools. The number of dropouts inBridgeport schools is a disgrace to society and doesn’tpromise our kids any future. As the executive directorof Connecticut Against Violence with my lifetimeexperience, I would like to be a part of this reformprocess. The community must stand together andnot leave it up to the teachers to help give I EXCELkids a better education. That’s why I Excel. -- Kingsley
  • 3. I’m a parent of three children in theBridgeport Public Schools. I’ve beeninvolved in my children’s education,working in my community and helpingpeople with information or resourcesbecause I would like to see high qualitystandards of education for the whole districtin Bridgeport. All children enjoy being in school in a funand respectful environment to learn withexcellent menus, enough supplies, sports,resources and technology available for allchildren to learn and use. Children enjoybeing with the most qualified teachers whocare about our children’s education and notonly their paychecks. As parents, schools and communities weenjoy working together to improve andprevent dropouts, making sure that everychild is prepared to become successful inlife. That’s why I Excel. -– Laura I EXCEL
  • 4. I am a product of the Bridgeport public schools! My parents worked hard to make sure I had a chance to go to college. But when I got to college I realized I was well behind my peers academically. I had to play catch up-- and fast. It was hard work but with help from my teachers I excelled and graduated. Many of my friends were not so lucky. They dropped out, got in trouble or barely graduated. They were ill-prepared for the world. I know because I was there that not every child in the Bridgeport public schools is given an opportunity to succeed. I wonder how different their lives would be if they were given the opportunities that I had in school. Today, nearly half of Bridgeport students drop out of school and only 25% of Bridgeport elementary students are reading at grade level! The system is not working and a lot has to change.Bridgeport students are capable of great things. They can accomplish as much, if not more, thantheir peers in other school districts. They just need support. They need inspiration. They needa school district that functions and provides opportunity for everyone. I work at ExcelBridgeport because I believe that we are at a critical moment in the history of our schools. Wehave a chance to spark a movement that will literally change the life course of over 20,000students and, by extension, the future of the city of Bridgeport for generations to come. This isit! Now or never!I believe that every child deserves an I EXCELopportunity to succeed! I work herebecause we need change and we need itnow. We can’t wait! That’s why I Excel. -- Jorge
  • 5. I attended Bryant school briefly and also graduatedfrom Luis Munoz Marin and Harding High school. I havejust received my bachelor’s degree in English and amvery excited to attend graduate school in the fall. Iintend to teach public school in New York for a fewyears. I envision Bridgeport schools being a place wherestudent’s abilities are cultivated and their confidenceand curiosity of the world around them is fostered. Ienvision schools as a place where teachers aresupported and prepared and parents are informed andengaged. I hope that Excel will have the ability to organize thewants and desires of parents, teacher, students, andcommunity members and give them a deciding voice onwhat the schools that their children attend look like,giving them the ability to choose the type ofenvironment they’d like to live in. That’s why I Excel. -- Shanée I EXCEL
  • 6. My wife and I live in Westport; our children went toprivate schools and then to selective colleges. So whyshould I care about Bridgeport schools, and why ExcelBridgeport? Several reasons: universal public education wasan American idea and one of our great gifts to the world.To deny good education to kids based on where they live isa betrayal of our ideals. Second, in the same way thatdenying women their opportunity to get ahead deprivedthe society of half the abilities at our disposal, so denyingBridgeport’s children a good education is depriving us, allof us, a chance to take advantage of what they mightcontribute. Third, having visited schools throughout thestate and all over the city, the overwhelming unfairness ofdenying these children a chance provides a powerfulmotivation to be involved. Why Excel Bridgeport? Because this organization, ourorganization, is focused like a laser on certain key neededchanges. We want to get Bridgeport residents, parents andnon parents, involved; we want them to understand thefacts about Bridgeport’s schools, knowledgeable about whatmust be done and politically active to force our leaders tostay the course on fixing the schools. At the same time wewant the city’s leaders and school administrationto know that when they do the right thing, we’ll I EXCELsupport them in any way we can; and when theyerr, we’ll let them know. Our one and onlyagenda is to see these schools improve. That’swhy I Excel. -- Jonathan
  • 7. My name is Shanet Hinds and I am a recentgraduate of The Bridge Academy Charter school.I am so happy to be attending Dartmouth Collegein the fall. I wish more Bridgeport students couldhave the same opportunity. It makes me sad toknow that many students in Bridgeport willnever reach the Ivy League or even college. I believe that all student in Bridgeport shouldhave a school system that allows them to reachtheir dreams and full potential. I joined ExcelBridgeport so that I could be a part of themovement to see this change happen. I believethat, with Excels help, in the coming yearsthere can be more Bridgeport students in the IvyLeague than ever before. That is why I Excel. -- Shanet I EXCEL
  • 8. I am an alumnus of the International Baccalaureate (I.B.)program Harding High school, a rapper and a journalist.Although disappointed with the violence and drugs in myschool, I feel that attending schools in Bridgeport has alsogiven me long lasting relationships. Bridgeport has unique knowledge and experiences thatwill be bonuses in the newsroom. The people Ive met, thethings that Ive learned can never be duplicated. In college,got to visit Seattle for a journalism conference and will visitSan Francisco next year. Ive interned for CBS Radio inFarmington and actually got hired. Im part of the street teamthere for four of our states biggest radio stations. I also hadthe awesome opportunity to interview J. Cole, a hip-hopartist under Jay-Zs Roc Nation label. I want to give back to the city that helped shape me to bethe man Ive become and show students that this city does notdefine you, only you can define yourself. Despite thetemptations and lack of resources, you can make somethingout of yourself with focus and effort. I am the exception andwant to show others that they can be too. If you want to go tocollege or pursue a career; stay strong, motivated, and lookat the bigger picture. No matter what is going at home or atschool. Do what is best for you. Its a tough road and you willhave to endure but once you do and have a glimpse of the I EXCELworld has to offer, there is no looking back. That’s why I Excel. – Jon
  • 9. As a graduate of BridgeportPublic Schools (Central HighSchool, Class of 2002), I knowfirst-hand the manychallenges our school districtfaces. As a former teacher, Iknow the daily challenges ofour students, teachers andprincipals. Most of all, I knowthat as a community we havethe capacity to guaranteeeach child an education thatprepares them for success incollege, career and life. My Bridgeport is one inwhich all 20,000 students inthis district can do whateverthey want. That’s why IExcel. – Maria I EXCEL
  • 10. My name is Jessica Martinez and I was born and raised in Bridgeport. I have an 8-year-old son attending Luis Munoz Marin School. I have always been seriously concerned about his education and the school system he was in. Many months ago, I was asked to be a part of a problem-solving group with other parents from across the city facilitated by Excel Bridgeport. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. But I immediately realized how different this group was. We did not just talk about the problems in our schools, we actually laid out a plan for solving the problems, used data, established rules of decorum for our meetings and had robust, meaningful, results- centered discussions. I am tired of the negative connotation and stigma about Bridgeport. I am a parent and homeowner here and I am working to build a better future for Bridgeport. I believe change can happen, with hard work, perseverance, outreach and great leaders. Our kids need us. I encourage more parents to become involved in the education of their children and becomeI EXCEL their own advocates. We are so much stronger when we work together. That’s why I Excel. -- Jessica
  • 11. A good education is the great "equalizer." Without it, Imnot sure how my life would have turned out. I attended public schools in an urban area and was thetypical student caught between Spanish spoken at home andthen going off to school where only English was spoken. Myparents, who came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico, stressededucation, but they couldnt help with homework and didnthave the skills to guide us. When it was time to graduate, I amfortunate that CCSU created an Educational OpportunityProgram (EOP), which I credit for giving me the chance of alifetime. I did not have the academic background to beaccepted on my own to a four year college -- but afterattending an intense summer EOP program I was accepted inthe fall. That lack of a solid educational foundation in myearly years did plague me in my first years in college. It tookme awhile and some stumbling to get a college degree, but Idid it! A few dedicated people a long time ago knew there werestudents like me and thought it was worth trying to give me achance by helping to improve my educational skills. We owe our children the very same - each and everyoneone of them must have access to a solid educationalfoundation in our public schools that will allow I EXCELthem to succeed. I do believe there is nothingmore important we can do for their future andthe future of our state. Thats why I Excel! -- Diane
  • 12. I am a product of public schools, aformer teacher and an advocate forkids. My parents moved to Weston when Iwas only 4 years old. Even though itdidn’t have sidewalks or streetlights, ithad great public schools. I knew I waslucky to grow up there because myparents never let me forget. I had manyamazing teachers who encouraged meto get fired up about the world outsideof Weston. They did so much more thanteach me – they opened my eyes. I came home to Fairfield County tojoin Excel’s team because I know thatmy students, like Yadira, can doabsolutely anything if their promise ofan excellent education is realized. I dream of a Connecticut in whichthe 06608 has schools equally as I EXCELexcellent as the 06683. That’s whatfires me up. That’s why I Excel. -- Shana
  • 13. My name is Erica Lockhart. I’m a student at Warren HardingHigh here in Bridgeport. I’m originally from Stratford and Iattend their public schools from grades K-10.It was a greatexperience. Education was valued and our classrooms werefilled with students who were open to new and exciting ideas.One time, when I was in sixth grade, I needed academicsupport. My teacher Mrs. Smith was more than willing to stayafter school and assist me until I mastered the math. Thedetermination of one teacher influenced me to work hard andalways ask for help. That determination is what makes adifference in a child’s life and is so inspiring to a young mind. No student should have to settle on a bad education. Someof my teachers have not taken the time to really help studentsin need like Mrs. Smith. My mission is to help the helpless beheard, to educate and inform them that they have the right toa good education. I want to see change! I want to see more students inclassrooms than in hallways. I want every student to haveopportunities to have a teacher help them and to be inspiredby their teachers, so they can achieve greatness. That’s why IExcel. --- Erica I EXCEL
  • 14. If you want to be a part of the “I Excel” project, sharewith us! What is your story? What is your vision forpublic education in our city? Why are you involved withExcel Bridgeport, your student council or PAC?Please send a 2 paragraph statement and a picture toShana at shana.hurley@excelbridgeport.org. I EXCEL