The bilingual Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport aims to engage students, give them leadership skills, and expose them to the world outside their classrooms. TAG teacher Ana Batista’s seventh and eighth graders got all that and more on a recent trip to the State Capitol where they had the opportunity to be recognized on the House floor, meet state representatives from Bridgeport, and have their photo taken with Governor Ned Lamont and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.
The Greater Bridgeport Latino Network organized the trip for the students on Bridgeport Day at the Capitol, which began with State Rep Christopher Rosario showing them around the building and explaining the work of the legislature. The students were then ushered onto the floor of the House, where they saw Bridgeport’s newest State Rep. Antonio Felipe, a former Cesar Batalla student himself, sworn in.
And that wasn’t the last of the day’s impressive moments. Legislative staff told the students that Governor Lamont would be available to meet with them too, and, as they waited outside his office, U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes came out the door. Lamont introduced the former National Teacher of the Year to the students, saying, “This is the greatest teacher in America!”
“It was really a great day for the students,” said Batista, who also serves as Bridgeport Education Association Vice President. “We teach local government, and now they get to see state government in action.”
The eighth graders in the group also had a firsthand look at the federal government during a trip to Washington earlier this spring.
Eighth grader Priscilla Vargas said the D.C. trip was a great way to learn about the country’s history, especially for some of her classmates who are interested in becoming involved in politics.
Fellow eighth grader Ashley Cruz isn’t sure she wants a career in politics, but says, “I want to do something I believe in.” She’s working on an essay for a competition that asks students to write about what they believe an American is, and she’s choosing to focus on equality. Speaking about U.S. immigration policy she says, “I believe there’s a better way. We can change the U.S.”
Almost seventy percent of students in the bilingual TAG program speak another language in addition to English, and the children all learn either Spanish or English as a second language through instruction in the program. Each cohort of students is pulled out of regular classes one day per week to take part in the TAG program, which focuses on project-based learning.
Legislative Assistant Milagros Acosta, who showed the students around the Capitol, told them to keep up their studies in both English and Spanish, saying, “It has helped me tremendously to be bilingual—to be able to read and write in English and Spanish—and Portuguese.” She works for State Reps Christopher Rosario, Edwin Vargas, and Juan Candelaria, who each represent cities with significant Spanish-speaking populations (Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven respectively) and therefore need an aide who can communicate with constituents in Spanish at a professional level.
One of the things students most appreciate about TAG is that it gives them an opportunity to get involved with community service. With the help of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network, the students were able to plan a blood drive and are organizing to help keep a local neighborhood clean.
While in Hartford, the students showed off both their leadership skills and concern for their community during a visit to CEA headquarters, where they saw the Sandy Hook memorial. CEA Executive Director Don Williams shared with the students some of tCEA is currently engaged in, and asked for their input on education issues of concern to them. Some of the issues students raised included the need for more nutritious school lunches, the difficulty of getting one-on-one assistance from teachers in classes with many students, and the challenge of keeping up on school work using chrome books that the district doesn’t have the funds to properly maintain.
If you’re planning a visit with your students to the Capitol and are interested in also stopping by CEA, please let us know.