GSEAP Stags Make a Difference at Barnum School
Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) actively seeks out and establishes partnerships with schools in the local community in order to gain hands on experience in education while assisting teachers and administrators. One example of this collaboration is the service-learning program partnership with GSEAP students who aspire to have careers in education and Bridgeport’s Barnum School. GSEAP students enrolled in the Philosophy of Education course taught by Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, assistant professor of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation, are currently participating in this service-learning program.
Chloe Scherpa ’17 a Service Learning Associate, leads group reflections among the GSEAP students following their weekly visits to Barnum School. The discussions commonly reflect on what GSEAP students are learning from the Barnum students, and ideas for future projects the class can take on to give back to the Barnum community. Critical reflection is an essential component of service-learning.
Scherpa said, “One of my favorite experiences from the program was during my first semester when we brought the Barnum students to campus. I asked the students what they wanted to accomplish in their futures, and many of them said they enjoyed being on campus and would love to attend college one day. The visit was very powerful for the students, many who had not been on a college campus before.” The service-learning course has also been taught by Drs. Stephanie Burrell-Storms and Wendy Kohli.
Alumna Frances Aponte ’95 MA, ’04 CAS, a full-time employee at Barnum School, has been working as the school psychologist for the past six years. Aponte is a coordinator for the service-learning program, and works directly with Miss Scherpa and the GSEAP students. Aponte received her MA in applied psychology in 1995 and her CAS in 2004, both at Fairfield. From 1997 to 2004 she was an ombudsman, a public advocate who represents interests of the public, for parents of special education children. At Barnum, Aponte conducts counseling, crisis response and intervention and psychological evaluations for students in need.
Aponte says the collaboration with Fairfield University started as a way to promote social emotional learning while having the Barnum students make a meaningful connection with adults. Previously, Aponte worked with 2nd-4th graders by playing games to increase students’ awareness of their social emotional functioning, and to develop their skills in interacting with others. She took out a game known as “Jenga” with different questions written on the blocks, to engage students in meaningful dialog about problem solving and feelings and emotions. This program evolved over time into the service-learning program that Fairfield GSEAP students are actively participating in today.
“The program inspires Barnum students, after working with Fairfield students, to pursue higher education themselves and gives them exposure to the world around them. Our students become interested in college when they are introduced to and work with the Fairfield students pursuing degrees, and these experiences motivate them to pursue a path to one day achieve the same goal. I explain to the students that there are two different worlds that they live in: one that exists in their neighborhoods, and the other which is the rest of the world. It is about finding balance between these two worlds that helps our students succeed,” said Aponte.
The service-learning program has certainly made a difference on both Fairfield and Barnum students as they work together. The students at Barnum receive more instruction, while Fairfield students have the great opportunity to see what is going on in the community and experience teaching in an urban environment.
Dr. Crandall says, “There are many extremes in the school system in Fairfield County. We experience ‘zip-code apartheid,’ as we have some of the best schools and the worst schools in the area. This program is beneficial because kids are more likely to learn when they see a relationship being built.”
Fairfield University is dedicated to the service-learning movement across multiple disciplines on campus. These initiatives flows from the Jesuit Catholic educational mission of Fairfield University that calls for the dynamic integration of academic excellence, social responsibility, and faith that promotes justice.
Written by Nicole Kowalczyk ’16