The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition (BCAC) is certainly one of the more vigorous non-profit organizations in Bridgeport.
Each year, parents, educators, administrators, elected officials (particularly the Bridgeport Board of Education) and others look forward to the organization’s annual State of the Child in Bridgeport report, which quantifies exactly how the city’s education system shapes up in critical areas.
BCAC grades the system in six major areas: child poverty, early care, education, child health, housing and child safety. There are numerous subcategories examined in each area as well.
The group then grades the school system versus the state and also with respect to how the city fared in each category compared with previous years. For the record, in comparison with the state, Bridgeport notched 15 Fs.
However, BCAC did give the school system two As in the child health category, an A in the percentage of children on HUSKY with well-child checkups and an A+ in the percentage of 2-year-olds screened for lead poisoning.
The good news is, despite being one of the poorest cities in the state, Bridgeport is making progress in some areas. BCAC administered four Fs in that area but also handed out four outstanding grades.
The system netted As for exceptional improvement in juvenile arrests and the percentage of students meeting the Connecticut Mastery Test goal in reading, and pulled down A-pluses in lowering juvenile arrests for violent crimes and lowering the infant mortality rate.
BCAC also publishes a variety of reports and informational materials throughout the year. Among them are the organization’s “2011 Children’s Legislative Agenda,” “Hiring and Keeping the Best: How Can Bridgeport Schools Recruit and Retain High Quality Teachers?,” “What’s New with School Suspensions in Bridgeport Public Schools” and its own annual report.
BCAC is certainly not afraid to tackle any issue concerning child advocacy, nor is it afraid to embrace the local business community for support of its mission. Each year BCAC hosts its annual awards breakfast, which also features a highly regarded speaker. Last year, at the 25th anniversary breakfast, the featured speaker was Newark mayor and media darling Cory Booker. At this year’s breakfast, held recently at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, best-selling author Wes Moore took the helm for the event.
There were many impressive aspects of the breakfast, but one that stood out was the sponsorship of the event by many local businesses.
These included: The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Services, Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, PC, The United Illuminating Company and Southern Connecticut Gas, AT&T, Forstone Capital, People’s United Bank, Pullman & Comley, Aquarion, Blum Shapiro, Career Resources, GE, Main State Ventures and TD Bank. Whew, that’s quite a list. And it doesn’t even include individual sponsors or nonprofits. But it does demonstrate how committed the community is to the work of this organization.
The groups were also treated to an excellent program. Mayor Bill Finch and BCAC Executive Director Mary Pat Healy welcomed the sold-out crowd and stressed the importance of the group’s work.
Eventually Moore strode to the dais, where he presided over the audience whose responses alternated from stunned silence, tumultuous laughter to thunderous applause. Moore, author of “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” delivered a powerful address emphasizing the life-and-death impact that choices and responsibility play for both individuals and society.
Moore made the crowd laugh several times with quips such as, “I told my publishers this was a terrible name for a book; I mean, you don’t see books called ‘The Other Stephen King,’ do you?”
But he was deadly serious as well, pointing out the importance that organizations such as BCAC provide around the country.
“For those of us who live in the most precarious places in the country, our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one,” he told the audience.
“The fact is: public servants — the teachers, mentors and volunteers who work with our youth — are as imperative to our national standing and survival as our armed forces.”
In a one-on-one conversation with Moore, I discovered he is a passionate but down-to-earth guy.
He picked off my Worcester, Mass., accent and noted that he still has his native Baltimore in his heart also. He talked about how he was still a Baltimore Ravens fan and then we discussed the NFL lockout for a bit.