BRIDGEPORT - Bassick High School
On April 1, over 1500 students and young people attended “Port of Opportunity,” a youth summit for ages 12 - 25, in three tracks (middle school, high school and out of school youth) running from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. The day was to showcase careers that young people probably don’t know about, share very real possibilities for significant salaries, empower youth voices for policymaking, inspire youth to dream, and to let youth know that Bridgeport is a city of opportunity.
The event included workshops. Speakers included city and state representatives, Mayor Ganim and Senator Chris Murphy. Dr. Aldolf Brown (Doc Brown) was the keynote speaker who was inspirational and wove many messages together with humor, dance and music. In between laughing, skits, and dancing from their seats he had them thinking about respect, achieving goals and literally as well as figuratively being challenged to look in the mirror, using Michael Jackson’s song as a theme.
The venue’s skyboxes were used by various businesses including the trade unions to showcase job opportunities. Healthcare careers were featured as fast growing and highly diverse career areas. A college fair gave students exposure to higher education options. Homeland Security had their command post set up to demonstrate diversity of their careers.
Mike Daly, CT Post Editor described the event as, “….there was the buzz of a crowd of 1,500 teenagers from city high schools and middle schools, the thump of the DJs and the rapid-fire inspirational patter of keynote speaker, Dr. Adolf Brown on a day that the arena packed the electricity of a combination tent revival, college fair, career day and, well, an early start to the weekend.”
CommPACT was involved in several ways. A city-wide t-shirt design contest was held at in February to not only feature student’s artistic talent but to use this as a way to start excitement about the event. Kingsley Ossei, a Family and Community Cadre member at Bassick as well as coordinator for My Brother’s Keeper and CT Against Violence, Donna Pfrommer of United Way, and Demetri Smith, a Bassick graduate, worked collaboratively with Jocelyn Ault with this part of the event. Without Demetri, the design that ended up being very popular would not have happened. He has the vision of a teen and the knowledge of the popularity of “beast mode” messaging the 8th grade artist, Tyler Garner, created. He worked with the design to adapt it to t-shirt use. The visioning concept that is used by CommPACT became integrated as a way to help students speak out about what they felt is needed to support youth- with three questions:
1) What would you do if you had $1 million to use for youth?
2) What would you change about your neighborhood?
3) What you do to improve your school?
The feedback has been enlightening and shows the depth of caring students have for their community. It will be reviewed and integrated into the policy statements from workshop participants.
This event is part of a comprehensive initiative for collaboration across the city, something that is recognized as a Bridgeport weakness. Many of CommPACT’s community partners as well as the schools and students were engaged in this. Bassick was there in force with Principal Marjorie Coble leading the effort and volunteering hours with her husband the night before. Bridgeport Prospers is a community-wide collaborative of stakeholders working in concert to have a positive, measureable and sustainable impact on outcomes for all children and families from cradle to career. The goal of the conference is to help youth start to understand the value they have, to focus on their assets and to become motivated to engage in their future as well as that of Bridgeport. Bridgeport Prospers is based on using the nationally recognized STRIVE Together Collective Impact model and what the CommPACT team saw in Cincinnati as part of their success with their Community Schools initiative. There has been tremendous coordination between different non-profit members, the business community, the school district, police and city government. Strong relationships have been built across Bridgeport, showing that there is tremendous support for our youth, not just in the schools.
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