News Release

DEC. 14, 2010


FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT BETSY O’CONNOR AT 203-339-6318 OR LAURIE NOE AT 203-332-5255

Early Childhood Education Partnership Forming Between Bridgeport, Rural South African Communities
HCC playing pivotal role

Team of SpECE SpecialistsCUTLINE: A team of early childhood education specialists from the Bridgeport area will visit South Africa’s Royal Bafokeng Nation next month to observe and interact with the early childhood organizations associated with the Royal Bafokeng Institute. Shown with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch (far right) are team members (from left to right) Lindsey Davis, a kindergarten teacher with Bridgeport Public Schools; Heather Ferguson, a speech and language pathologist with the Bridgeport Public Schools; Dr.  Laurie Noe, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at HCC, who will lead the training for the six member team that South Africa will then send to Connecticut; Rotarian Tim Bartlett, executive director of the YMCA, the largest community-based school readiness program in the Bridgeport; Donna Thompson-Bennett, coordinator of Bridgeport’s Parent Leadership Training Institute; and Rotarian and Associate Professor Dr. Barbara Welles-Nystrom of Fairfield University who is directing the development of a new Early Childhood Education Master's Program. (Click image for high-resolution)

BRIDGEPORT – The Bridgeport early childhood education community is forming a partnership with several communities in rural South Africa to share ideas and best practices, thanks to $110,000 in Rotary grants.

The goal of the grant is to improve the quality of early childhood education practices in both South Africa and Bridgeport.  Housatonic Community College, home of a nationally acclaimed early childhood laboratory school that President Clinton described as “what every child in America needs,” will play a pivotal role in the partnership.

“We’re excited about being a part of this grant and excited about being able to utilize the multiple talents we have in the Bridgeport area,” said Julianne Reppenhagen, governor of Rotary International District 7980, at a Dec. 13 news conference at HCC. “Housatonic, the Bridgeport Public Schools and Fairfield University are pulling together their skills and expertise in early childhood education in this group effort.”

As part of the grant, a team of early childhood education specialists from the Bridgeport area will visit South Africa’s Royal Bafokeng Nation next month to observe and interact with the early childhood organizations associated with the Royal Bafokeng Institute.

A team of South African specialists will visit Connecticut in March. Among their goals is to gather information to be used to help create an early childhood education lab school in the Royal Bakofeng area. As part of the visit, the South African contingent will spend three days at HCC attending workshops and discussions and conducting focused observations at HCC’s nationally accredited lab school.

HCC President Anita T. Gliniecki noted at the news conference that the grant will enable HCC to develop two online early childhood education courses for incoming students from both countries. The grant will also fund the creation of an online discussion board that will link preschool staff in South Africa with their HCC laboratory school counterparts for ongoing communication and collaboration.

At the news conference, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch outlined the value of this international partnership. “Through this international dialogue,” he said, “we’re all going to improve: Connecticut will improve, South Africa will improve and Bridgeport will improve.”

The six-member team from Bridgeport will be led by Rotarian and Associate Professor Dr. Barbara Welles-Nystrom of Fairfield University who is directing the development of a new Early Childhood Education Master's Program; Dr. Laurie Noe, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at HCC, who will lead the training for the six member team that South Africa will then send to Connecticut;  Rotarian Tim Bartlett, executive director of the YMCA, the largest community–based school readiness program in the Bridgeport; Donna Thompson-Bennett, coordinator of Bridgeport’s Parent Leadership Training Institute;  Heather Ferguson, a speech and language pathologist with the Bridgeport Public Schools; and Lindsey Davis, a kindergarten teacher with Bridgeport Public Schools.

Housatonic Community College provides an affordable and accessible education through two-year degrees, transfer preparation, and certificate programs, as well as a wide variety of continuing education and personal/professional enrichment seminars and workshops.  In addition, HCC offers employee and occupational training for businesses, municipalities, government agencies, and professional associations to help develop the educated and skilled workforce required to meet regional business and industry needs.  HCC is nationally recognized as an “Achieving the Dream” institution.  To learn more, visit the college’s website at: www.hcc.commnet.edu <http://www.hcc.commnet.edu> .

HCC is located at 900 Lafayette Blvd. in downtown Bridgeport, less than 150 yards off I-95 (Exit 27) and Rte. 8 (Exit 1), a block from the Arena at Harbor Yard. Free parking is available in the Housatonic garage.