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.
Kimone Heywood found her way to Bridgeport from Jamaica in the third grade, but she says she didn’t find her true home until joining Bridge Academy in the seventh grade.
“Bridge to me is my whole life. It’s where I met my friends and really figured out who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses. If I didn’t come here, I would be a totally different person.”
Attending Bridge has also taught Kimone about advocacy and the importance of standing up for what you believe in. She realized when attending Bridgeport’s Fight for Fairness March last year that she would have to fight not only against perceptions of the school, but structural inequality.
“I think that maybe they think that because we’re a smaller school, we need less money.” Not the case, says Kimone, though she does credit Bridge’s smaller environment as a major contributor to her success.
“People think that just because the school is smaller, that it would be easier, but it’s actually harder because everyone’s always on you to make sure you’re doing your work, and completing assignments on time. When you’re in a bigger school, teachers forget your name. Here I feel like they actually care about me.”
Kimone’s favorite teacher, Ms. Downy, was one of those people who made it clear that they cared. As a freshman year science teacher, Ms. Downy was the one who sparked Kimone’s love of science. Now, as she graduates and heads to UConn, Kimone plans on majoring in biochemistry as she works toward becoming a pediatrician.
That profession marries two of Kimone’s passions: science and kids.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pediatrician because I’ve always been surrounded by kids. I’ve been babysitting since I was nine.”
Graduating and heading to college will be a big deal, since she’ll be the first in her family to do so.
Still, as “cliché” as it sounds, Kimone’s family is very important to her and her mom is her biggest role model. “As much as she irks me, she’s the only person I can truly say, other than my teachers, has never given up on me,” says Kimone. “If it wasn’t for her, half the time I wouldn’t try in school or try and have a better life. I know she sacrificed a lot for me and my brother to be here, and I don’t want it to go to waste.”
Kimone’s family also led her to give back to the community, especially though her church. She has participated in the Crop Walk for Hunger, annual Bridgeport Community Cleanups, and through the Rotary Youth Leaderships Awards she and her peers worked to propose Hearts for Homes, an organization that would work to support homeless shelters in the community.
“It’s really sad the number of people who are hungry and starving,” says Kimone. “Volunteer work shows that there’s still a chance for humanity to regain the original values on which this land was founded on, and that was to help boost each other up and make a better society.”
Still, with everything she’s accomplished at Bridge, that chip on her shoulder continues to be a driving force. Her message for those who don’t believe in Bridge Academy, her and her peers, and other children in the Bridgeport community: “You’re more than a statistic of Bridgeport, or just a number, or a dropout, or a teenage mother. Graduation year, I have the satisfaction of knowing, through all the headaches, and the essays, and the science homework, I made it.”