GSEAP Builds Bridges with Bassick High School
At the beginning of the year, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) set out to work with Bridgeport Bassick High School to offer classrooms on Fairfield's campus where students could take their regularly scheduled coursework, taught by their teachers. The idea was simple: Develop a system to expose high school students to learning in a college environment.
GSEAP did just that by designating classroom space for 85 Bassick seniors who took their courses on campus on alternating Friday mornings. Mathematics teacher Nicole Survilla explained, "Being able to learn at Fairfield was a unique experience for my students because it allowed them to see the opportunities that exist beyond high school. It’s difficult for my students to envision a life in college. For them, higher education can seem far off or even unobtainable, but being at Fairfield and sitting in the seats of college students allowed them to envision themselves attending college in the future."
Initially the only commitment GSEAP made to the Bassick students was to provide classrooms, however Fairfield professors and students volunteered their time and energy to extend additional support. Several GSEAP faculty members, including Dr. Susan Franzosa, professor of Curriculum and Instruction, and Barbara Welles-Nystrom, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction, integrated activities into their coursework to support Bassick students.
“Five students in my undergraduate Philosophy of Education course completed their service learning assignments through the Bassick partnership,” explained Dr. Susan Franzosa. “Two provided individual tutoring in math and three mentored small groups of Bassick students on-site in Bridgeport. Along with providing valuable community service, our Fairfield students were able to put theory into practice. They experienced first-hand the challenges of urban schools and gained a more realistic understanding of the needs and aspirations of the students, as well as the teachers at Bassick. Unanimously, they found the experience transformative.”
Professors from the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering also organized opportunities for their students to work with Bassick students throughout the fall and spring. Dr. Uma Belaji, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering, worked with Fairfield student club officers of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) to work with Bassick students. Dr. Belaji shared, “The SWE officers enjoyed their time with Bassick student so much that we decided to write a grant proposal to SWE Program Development seeking funding to develop future programs to expose young students, especially young women, to engineering.”
And the collaboration didn't stop there. Fairfield Athletics provided 100 tickets to a basketball doubleheader at Webster Arena and Jim Fitzpatrick, assistant vice president of Administration and Student Affairs, provided discounted breakfasts in the dining hall. In addition, Bassick High School requested tutoring help and Fairfield biology students answered the call by providing tutoring services during a six-week program on Saturdays.
To top the success of this partnership, Mr. Shaun Smith, principal of Bassick High School, recently announced that six students who participated in the program have accepted admission to Fairfield and plan to attend in the fall. “Our students are the forgotten kids,” explained Principal Smith. “In poverty, these are the people who are forgotten and have to struggle to get out of that. Education is something that can get them out. This partnership has allowed students to go on campus, see dorms and sit in classrooms and say, ‘I can be in this seat.’ The impact was enough for them to see the possibility of overcoming their struggles, and to bridge that gap to start opening their eyes to opportunity.”
Robert Hannafin, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, explained, “The most rewarding part for me is knowing that the lives of some of these fun and talented students will change. The kids were great. And I want to thank the Bassick faculty; the work they do every day inspires me. We will continue to explore new ways to collaborate with Bridgeport schools."