In the past few years, students at one area school have:
- Sewn pillows for new mothers of preemies at St. Vincent’s Hospital to hug, because they can’t hold their own babies.
- Helped American troops in Iraq: buying 80 phone cards, creating Easter baskets, decorating bunnies, buying special snacks and writing letters.
- Thrown an appreciation “tea party” for their teachers, and entertained them with songs and dance.
- Provided holiday baskets, plus gift cards for gas, food and clothes, to mothers and children who were victims of domestic violence; they also educated their school about the issue.
- Danced at 24 nursing homes — and the Barnum Festival Road Show.
Pretty impressive, huh?
Even more impressive when you learn that they’re students at Curiale School, in inner-city Bridgeport. The boys and girls in grades K-8 “don’t have much themselves,” teacher Arthene Lauzon says. “But they bring in nickels and pennies, and raise what they can, however they can. They are very special kids.”
Lauzon is a very special teacher, too.
She’s lived in Westport for 38 years — and raised 2 kids as a single mom. But her heart belongs in Bridgeport.
The Bridgeport Education Fund recognizes Lauzon’s work. On May 3, she and 8 other educators will be honored with an “Inspiration Award” at the Downtown Cabaret Theater. Each will receive a Tiffany crystal apple — and a $1,000 professional development certificate.
Lauzon — in her 7th year at Curiale, after working at 2 other Bridgeport schools, and Foundation High School in Milford for children with severe disabilities — is reluctant to talk about her award.
But she loves taking about her students.
“I don’t think people realize how awesome these kids are,” Lauzon says.
“I hear in people’s voices: ‘Oh, you teach in Bridgeport.‘ Well, all these kids need is someone to care about them. Once they know that, they’re yours. They’ll do anything you want.”
Lauzon knows that many Westporters are scared of Bridgeport — including young children who live there. “We take them on field trips, and people are amazed how great they are,” she says.
“But they’ve never given them a chance to prove otherwise. They’re judged by where they live. They have so much goodness and kindness. And no one ever sees it.”
Though some have emotional and/or learning problems, Lauzon’s students participate avidly in class. They’re equally involved in Lauzon’s after-school activity: the Kids Care Club.
The service organization draws youngsters who, by all rights, should be on the receiving, not the giving, end of help. But help others is what they do — with joy.
Lauzon runs a tight ship. Three absences without a very good excuse is grounds for dismissal.
With no adult volunteers, she empowers 7th and 8th graders as leaders, and 4th graders as mini-leaders. They create projects — in addition to those listed above, they include assembling ornaments for residents of Darien nursing homes, and participating in a walk-a-thon to raise funds for soldiers — and follow through completely.
Lauzon purchases many supplies herself (including outfits the group wore last year), and brought in silver and china for the tea party honoring teachers and administrators. (A master baker, she also contributed amazing cakes and desserts.)
So what was Lauzon’s reaction when she learned she’d be honored as one of Bridgeport’s true “Inspirations”?
Though honored to have been nominated, by peers, she says, “I asked the principal to keep it quiet. I figured they’d just mail me a certificate.”
Instead, she’ll be honored at a special ceremony at the Downtown Cabaret.
After which, no doubt, she’ll return to Curiale and start working on her next Kids Care project.
(Click here to reserve a spot at the May 3 Inspiration Awards ceremony — or to donate funds.)