Contact: Mary Beth Mollica.
In the year 2000, our congregation voted to adopt this struggling inner-city school in Bridgeport, CT. Since then, church members have supported the staff and students of Beardsley Elementary School through volunteer work and financial donations for special projects and urgent needs. Most importantly, our volunteers become mentors, tutors and readers for grades K-6. Over the past 12 years, our congregation has provided bi-annual Read Aloud Days, opera and theater, job coaching, financial seminars, art, book clubs, myriad school and teacher supplies, winter coats, backpacks, clothing, many new and used books, scholarships, swimming lessons, musical instruments, anti-violence training, Principal for a Day, speakers, participation in work days, an annual Pot Luck Supper and a Teacher Appreciation event.
- Lynn Medoff ~ TUCW Volunteer, First Grade Tutor
I spent two mornings a week at Beardsley School during the 2015-16 school year tutoring reading and volunteering in the library. I worked closely with a first grade teacher and taught reading skills to four students who were struggling.I loved this work. I loved the connection I developed with each of my students as well as with many of the teachers and students in the school. I loved planning ahead to make sure that each tutoring session was interesting and tailor-made for each student. And I loved the children’s thrill and burst of self-esteem that came after working hard and developing their readings skills.My life was greatly enriched by this experience. This work is so meaningful. The children I worked with were needy and having a hard time, but at the same time so dear and appreciative of my attention and their progress. It’s wonderful to be needed and to contribute to the life of a child.
- Lenora Harris-Field ~
Former TUCW Member, Volunteer Reader
I have always believed our commitment to Beardsley School is a shining example of TUCW’s mission to Inspire, Act, and Connect. I had the privilege of being part of the original team of people who led our initial partnership with Beardsley. Our group of 4-5 would meet on a monthly basis with the Beardsley leadership team to determine the optimal way to make a difference in this amazing Bridgeport school. We started with readers in the classrooms and tutors for teacher identified students in need of extra support. What a pleasure to walk through the halls of Beardsley to see many smiling and familiar faces of TUCW volunteers so engaged with these students. My involvement changed as I balanced a full time career, raising kids, and family needs. However, I always found time to do the annual Read Aloud Day in the spring and yearned for more time with the children.As time evolved, I found the gift of time to spend a weekly visit as a library volunteer and reading in Mrs. Giff’s first grade class–what a joy. It is in giving that we receive and for me, that has always been the case with Beardsley School. With our recent move to NC, I really missed my fellow Beardsley volunteers and the children, so lucky me–our Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham has a partnership with the Hispanic Center and I have been tutoring a wonderful 2nd grader every Monday–love it!!
- Nancy Fishkin ~Volunteer, Second Grade Reader
It has been my pleasure working with a second grade class at Beardsley School for the last 2 years. In my experience, the children are bright, eager, extremely helpful and receptive. For me, the highlight of working with the class comes in the Spring when I introduce BINGO to them. They seem to be at the perfect age to recognize letters and numbers quickly and they all get a chance to take turns being the “caller” and the person who “puts the balls on the master board”.This interactive activity allows skills such as leadership, speaking before the class, confidence building and inclusion. Since it is a game of luck, not skill, they are playing without competing against each other. Add a healthy snack to the mix and it’s something we all look forward to!I have found the adage “when you give, you get more back” to be true. The thing I get most from my volunteering at Beardsley is JOY…It is so much fun for me to walk into the classroom every Tuesday morning and get the smiles, the affection, the “hi Miss Nancys” from all the children…it’s amazing to me what can be communicated through a hug and a smile.
- Marjolijn de Jager ~ TUCW Volunteer Reader
When I first participated in the Read Aloud Day at the Beardsley School, I had the great privilege and joy of being assigned to Peggy Lynch’s 3rd grade class. A (retired) teacher myself, I have strong feelings about what makes a good teacher and saw its perfect example in Mrs. Lynch — caring and respectful of her young charges, calm and totally present to each of them, warm and yet disciplined — it was lovely. So much so that I decided then and there I would keep reading and in her classes specifically, if she’d have me. This has now been going on every other week for almost eleven years! The feeling of joy and the sense of privilege remain, even though the students change each year, of course. But not Peggy Lynch! How lucky her kids are. And how lucky I am!’
- Tom Comer ~ TUCW Volunteer and Painter Extraordinaire
Book room for small ones
Anita asks, Can we build?
We could! Came out great!
- Sal Mollica ~ TUCW Reading Tutor
~ The What and How
This fall I will begin my tenth year as a reading tutor. When I began, I requested eight-year olds because I vividly remembered how much I enjoyed my children when they were that age. Eight and nine year olds are generally in third grade. I also decided to work every year with the same teacher, Peggy Lynch, who has been terrific in choosing the kids that will gain the most from our sessions. For this reason, when Mrs. Lynch “graduated” several years ago from teaching third grade to fourth grade, I stayed with her. It’s been a great relationship.Early on I experimented with length of sessions and number of students in each session. I have settled on two 45 minute sessions with two students each. Usually the boys (usually boys these days) are buddies and there is a great dynamic between them as they struggle, help each other and even get a laugh together.We begin each session with the boys telling about something they did of significance the previous week. I want them to express themselves and focus. There is a great poignancy in this for me because these boys are not allowed or encouraged to “play outside.” It’s too dangerous on the streets. I usually hear about a new video game or sometimes a birthday party, but sometimes I hear about a trip to a home country, usually in Central America. I admit I allow myself to preach to them from time to time.“Sit in front of the class and ask and answer questions.” “Choose your friends wisely.” “Be constructive, not destructive, and know the difference.” I tell the kids that in third grade they are learning to read. In fourth grade and beyond they are reading to learn. We then read together and discuss the material. Non-fiction is my favorite, but I think both the fiction and non-fiction material under the new curriculum has gotten much better since I started. It’s much more sophisticated and demands thought and discussion. My current favorite story is about a letter of apology written by a girl who causes a ruckus when her pet snake escapes in the library. Whose fault was the escape? And is the letter a true apology? I loved it and you would too.
~ The Why
This is always the harder question. I love the kids and interacting with them. I really learn a lot from them. Do they learn a lot from me? I truly don’t know. It’s hard to quantify. But I do know that we develop a relationship and they open up, and I enjoy that. I like feeling part of the school and part of the students’ lives. Maybe I will have a positive effect. I hope to do this another ten years for my sake.
- Tara Oliwa ~ Special Education Teacher, First Grade
Dana Voght ~ First Grade Teacher
We have been so blessed to have two volunteers join our weekly routines. Over the years, they’ve become a major part of our classroom. They’ve done so much to enhance our students’ learning. Not only do they come to support in academics, they’ve also played a major role in being a staple in young lives. Since our classroom volunteers tend to work with the same children throughout the year, there are strong bonds built. They are genuinely missed when they aren’t there. It truly is a wonderful experience for all.
- Meghan Esteva ~ Sixth Grade Teacher
I feel that words cannot accurately express the gratitude I have for the work my volunteer has done in my classroom and in the school as a whole. She establishes a wonderful rapport with my students each year. They look forward to her visit every week where she reads aloud to them and spends time getting to know them, and connecting to them as people. She is a trusting adult that the students look to as a mentor, friend and support. She goes above and beyond, selecting books for the students that connect to the content they are learning as well as books that relate to their individual interests. She also supports my teaching and planning, providing resources that complement and enhance the curriculum. With the limited materials and support that are available in our school, her help is truly invaluable.
- Patty Bridgforth ~ Home School Coordinator
Dear Unitarian Church,
I would like to applaud all who helped Beardsley school’s children and their families. Through all of our many years, working together… whether it be in the Library or knitting scarves and hats and mittens to help keep the children warm, for all of the office supplies, and toiletries, to the Summer Bags! Our parents were so appreciative of everything. For most of our parents this helped to ease their burdens. It was indeed a GREAT BLESSING, especially around the Holidays. Felicity and all of her elves always made families cry with JOY to be able to give their children gifts, and not just the children! If they had pets, well, the pet got something too!It is with a heavy heart I will not be returning this school year due to budget cuts. Again, Thank You. It was a pleasure working with ALL OF YOU.
- Laurie Giff, ~ First Grade Teacher and Site Coordinator
I have been lucky to have met and gotten to know many of the wonderful Unitarian Church volunteers who have partnered with Beardsley School over the last 15 or so years. I remember meeting Ruth Fine many years ago and hearing her ask if we needed any volunteers in our Lighthouse Afterschool Program. Her granddaughter ran a wonderful ‘girls only’ book club, and it was a tremendous success. Church members also have sponsored students to attend the Lighthouse Afterschool Program when their parents were not able to afford the tuition.During the school day, Sal Mollica would have a small group of my grade partner’s students outside my classroom door while he would not only work on reading skills, but also the social skills of handshaking and looking a person in the eye. His wife, Mary Beth, worked up in the first grade hallway with struggling readers.I have had so many fantastic people come in through my classroom door as well, to help support my students, both in third and first grades. Readers and tutors came in weekly, monthly or whenever they could, giving their free time to help my students be academically successful. One woman in particular, Ginny Levin, had been coming for many years to read to my third grade students. When I was moved to first grade, she made the change with me. My students always enjoy when Ms. Levin comes to visit (so do I – a favorite book of mine is called Unfortunately – I always get a kick out of the way my students react to it when she reads it to them.) Anita Pfluger and her library crew work tirelessly to provide a monthly supply of books from our school library. Someone always comes up and replaces these books and places them on the shelves for my students reading enjoyment.The School Governance Council has a Church member attend our monthly meetings to help encourage parent participation through academic nights held periodically during the school year. Not only did the Church allow us to use their BINGO equipment for such an event, Sal Mollica was our BINGO caller on one cold February evening last year. I hope that this wonderful partnership continues for many years to come as we work with one common goal in mind: supporting Beardsley School students to become lifelong learners!
- Theresa Welch ~ School Librarian
The Unitarians have an enormous impact on the Beardsley students through their service in the library. Thanks to the countless hours put in by volunteers, they have added over 2500 books to our collection. Additionally, they have brought in authors to speak to the students and inspire a whole new love of reading. However, most impressive is their tireless work that brought a dedicated picture book library to fruition. A run-down unused computer lab has been transformed to a bright, welcoming space for young readers to foster their love of learning and reading. Thank you volunteers for all you do!!!
CLICK HERE for the Beardsley School Committee’s charter.