20 Grads in 20 Days: June marks a huge anniversary in Connecticut. Twenty years ago this month, Governor John Rowland signed the law allowing public charter schools to exist in the state of Connecticut! To celebrate, we’re profiling 20 public charter school graduates every day for the first 20 days of June. Enjoy reading about our charter schools and the stellar kids they're educating.
As Tasia Courts finishes her eighth grade year at Park City Prep in Bridgeport, she’s insistent that her growth as a student and a person has come in large part from the culture and values of her charter school.
Responsibility, excellence, and perseverance are a part of life at Park City Prep, and she’s deeply aware of how important those values are, and that she would’ve missed out on them had she attended Thomas Hooker, her neighborhood school. “These are skills that you can use throughout your life, way past graduation,” says Tasia.
Along with Park City Prep’s core values, Tasia’s teachers have been a lifeline during her time at the school. That’s especially true of her favorites, Ms. Bertrand and Ms. Wikander, who both go beyond the role of teacher and strongly support their students by understanding what’s going on in their lives. “They’re relatable and understand where we’re coming from,” says Tasia. “If we’re having a bad day, they will allow us to take some time to relax.”
Those educators helped Tasia come to recognize and overcome her biggest challenge in high school: realizing that you don’t have to be perfect at everything you do. “I would stress myself out because I felt like 100 was the only grade I could get,” Tasia recalled. “I’d get a 90 and I’d feel like I was going to fail at everything I do. It took me time to realize you can’t always be perfect.”
In that same vein, she takes inspiration from her role model, Malala Yousafzai, the young Afghan girl who was shot by the Taliban for touting the importance of girls’ education and consequently went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s trials have helped Tasia look on the bright side of things.
“I read Malala’s memoir and it made me realize that someone always has it worse than you. I learned to not dwell on that things that aren’t going 100% well, and instead focus on the things that are.”
That said, Tasia’s work ethic and focus in school have paid off, helping her secure a 1st place victory in this year’s science fair. After learning about the digestive system in class, she decided to figure out which food group dissolves first in stomach acid.
“Hydrochloric acid and pepsin are two of the main substances that are in stomach acid, so I created a mixture of those and I took one food from each group and placed it in the mixture. After 24 hours, I was able to see which dissolved fastest.” Grains, such as rice, wheat, and bread won out.
But Tasia doesn’t want to be a scientist; her dream job is a to be a criminal defense lawyer. “Ever since I was younger I have been very argumentative and I believe I should be able to be paid for one of the things I do best.”
She’ll continue working toward that goal at St. Luke’s Private School next year. She’s both nervous and excited for the change, because the school is in New Canaan. “It’s hard for me to imagine myself in an environment where there are so many people I won’t know well. And it’s hard to think that I can actually connect with them because of where I come from. But when I took a tour, I felt warm and welcomed and it’s something I want to be a part of.”
According to Tasia, students at Park City Prep “come from all walks of life, really showing you about the diversity of the world and helping everyone be open minded about other cultures and beliefs” so she’s more than prepared to step out of her comfort zone next year.
Her parents have also helped foster her maturity and self-reliance. To them she says: “Thank you for allowing me to take risks, knowing when to step back and not coddle me, and allowing me to be independent and make my own mistakes,” says Tasia. “If I didn’t make those mistakes I wouldn’t have the morals and values that I have today.”
As she prepares to spend most of her time outside of Bridgeport, Tasia reflected on the community she calls home.
Tasisa sometimes participates in a church program called “I-Serve”, where she works to clean up neighborhoods around the city. “It doesn’t really matter what age you are, you can always do something to help out,” she says. “People really do notice a young person working in the community. It makes a difference.”
Along with the positive impacts of volunteer work, Tasia hopes to see a safer Bridgeport in the future. “There’s a lot of crime in Bridgeport now, kids, closer and closer to my age, are dying because of violence. If there were more opportunities like afterschool programs, there wouldn’t be such high crime rates, especially in my age group.”
Finally, as Tasia prepares to leave Park City Prep, she has a strong message for new students: Do your homework.
“Some people around me think it’s okay to say, ‘I didn’t do that homework because I thought I wouldn’t need it for the final,’ but then grades come out and students are wondering why they didn’t do as well as they hoped,” she recalled. “Our teachers will ask them if they did their homework for the section they missed, and the students say no. Homework teaches you responsibility, and prepares you to do well on your tests.”
Tasia already has responsibility, excellence, and perseverance down pat. She’s bringing those Park City Prep values to St. Luke’s, where she’s sure to succeed.