I am a college student and intern at the Northeast Charter Schools Network -- but even though I am not a full-time employee, I have a unique perspective on the charter school movement. That's because I'm the only one here who's a charter school grad -- which means I understand just how critical and life changing this work truly is.
Growing up, I was the only one of my three sisters who attended a non-district school. I was lucky enough to attend New Beginnings Family Academy (NBFA), a public charter school located in Bridgeport, CT from third grade through eighth grade. My mother knew sending me to this charter would ensure that I would be given the best education possible and keep me safe.
New Beginnings gave me a great education without financially burdening my family (charter schools are free public schools open to anyone). Because of my school’s longer school day and school year, my mom did not have to worry about me hanging out on the streets unattended after school, or getting into trouble -- something a lot of kids in my community often did. Knowing that I was safe gave her a great sense of relief.
And although my mother did not go very far in her schooling, she did everything she could to ensure I received nothing but the best.
At a young age I noticed there were significant differences between my charter school and the district schools my older siblings attended. I had a bigger workload than my older siblings. I was taught both social and educational skills that have contributed to my success in college.
If there is one lesson I will carry with me throughout my life it is that significant learning cannot occur without a significant relationship. At New Beginnings we were more than students and teachers - we were a family and we were expected to treat each other like family. My teachers took the time to get to know me. They knew my personality, my background, but more importantly they knew my potential. My teachers insisted that I become the best version of myself possible. They pushed me on a daily basis to reach my goals.
New Beginnings was able to raise both my self-esteem and my academic achievement. New Beginnings’ teachers did not simply teach a lesson, rather they made sure to mentor, stimulate, and engage all students. I was constantly reminded of how receiving a quality education would not only change my life but it would change the lives of others around me. I was empowered on a day-to-day basis to overcome the obstacles that were placed in front of me. My teachers would always tell me that I deserved the education I was receiving and excuses were just tools of the incompetent. These talks became a part of me; they created a confident young women who refused to settle for anything less than greatness.
My teachers also always stressed the importance of college. In fourth grade we began choosing potential colleges we may attend someday. We even went on college tours while in elementary school and I knew I wanted an institution that mirrored both the teaching style and values of New Beginnings. My choice to attend Fairfield University was due to the similarity to my charter school. Both Fairfield University and New Beginnings both have a small teacher per student ratio that allows instructors to get to know their students on a personal level. Like New Beginnings, Fairfield University challenged students to step outside of their comfort zone.
Many low-income African-American and Latino students face significant disparities in access to quality education opportunities. I have always been invested in ensuring a better community and way of life for the generation after me. Providing low-income students with a great education can open doors and provide a pathway out of poverty. Public charter schools are constantly working to bridge the achievement gap. My decision to intern for Northeast Charter School Network stemmed from my belief that all students deserve a quality school in their neighborhood, a school that empowers them to move beyond their circumstances.
My hope for this internship is to help spread awareness about what charter schools are doing for their students -- and to learn how to spread that message from a communications and public relations standpoint. And it’s so much easier to communicate a message when you have real life experiences and truly believe in the work.