Tag Archives: Kolbe Cathedral High School

Bedford Backs Leah’s Birthday Bash

Pirate costumes, swords, crowns and scepters; a life-size Glinda the Good Witch cutout; Alice in Wonderland costumes for this spring’s production — all that and more is moving from Bedford Middle School to Kolbe Cathedral High.

Bedford is happy to give it up. The props and costumes are headed to a photo booth at “Leah’s Birthday Bash.” The annual carnival — raising thousands of scholarship dollars — is one of the most important dates on the Bedford calendar.

Leah Rondon

The event honors the memory of the 6-year-old daughter of longtime science teacher Colleen Rondon. When Leah died in a tragic accident 2 1/2 years ago, Bedford teachers rallied to hold the first carnival. The middle school staff will be in full force this Saturday (February 3, noon to 4 p.m.).

Current and former BMS students, including Jamie Mann and Jasper Burke, perform too.

Visual arts teacher Lynne Karmen, library media specialist Kelly Zatorsky and costumers Paula Lacey and Elisa Smith Pasqua are all helping with the elaborate production — complete with tripods and LED lights.

Science teacher Jason Frangenes and math teacher Laurie Gray again runs the ping pong toss. Last year, Frangenes provided hundreds of goldfish as prizes.

Theater teacher and stage director Karen McCormick — who helps supervise the moving of all those props and costumes to Kolbe — says the Bedford faculty dives in to help because they believe so strongly in the event.

“We all want to support Colleen,” McCormick adds. “It’s a great way to keep her daughter alive.”

Rondon’s husband Henry is Kolbe’s principal. The carnival’s proceeds benefit the Leah Rondon Memorial Scholarship Fund.

(Kolbe Cathedral High School is at 33 Calhoun Place, Bridgeport. For more information on the carnival, click here.)

 

Unsung Hero #14

As a new school year begins, it’s appropriate that this week’s Unsung Hero is a former teacher.

Generations of Staples High School students revered Gerry Kuroghlian. For nearly 40 years, “Dr. K” — his doctorate was from the University of Illinois, with an undergrad degree from the University of Virginia — taught Westport teenagers how to write, how to think, and how to act.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

His challenging classes like “Myth and Bible” were as demanding as college-level courses. But he never forgot that he was working with still-unformed boys and girls. His greatest delight came from helping mold them into active, concerned citizens of the world.

Kuroghlian was totally invested in the life of Staples. If there was a play, concert or athletic event, he was there.

He never missed an Eagle Scout ceremony, celebratory dinner or parent’s funeral either.

When Kuroghlian retired in 2008, some people wondered how he’d fill his days.

They needn’t have worried.

Kuroghlian quickly became one of Mercy Learning Center‘s most active volunteers.

He taught ESL at the heralded Bridgeport women’s literacy and life-skills center. His new students — women from Mexico, Bangladesh and all points in between — loved him.

He returned the admiration.

“These are heroic people,” Kuroghlian says admiringly. “They’re moms, housekeepers, breadwinners — they do it all. They’ve got multi-tasking down to a science.

Kuroghlian calls these women “the best students I’ve ever had. They get up, get their kids ready for school, catch a city bus, and arrive promptly by 9 a.m.

“No one is ever late. No one ever has not done the homework,” he says admiringly. “They’re motivated to learn, and they’re completely unafraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something. They’re amazing.”

After class, the women work on computers. They also go on field trips. When Kuroghlian took them to a library, they learned how to get library cards for their kids.

Kuroghlian is equally involved at Kolbe Cathedral High School. He spends most afternoons at the Bridgeport private school, as a tutor, SAT and ACT advisor, and college application essay guide. Thanks in part to his help, virtually every graduate for nearly a decade has gone on to college.

Gerry Kuroghlian works with a Kolbe Cathedral senior on his college essay.

At Kolbe, Kuroghlian organizes cultural field trips to Fairfield University and New York City. Just as he did at Staples, he attends sports events, chaperones the prom, and continually shares his philosophy that it is the responsibility of each individual to make a difference.

He also arranged for over 1,000 books to be donated to the library.

In his spare time (!), Kuroghlian works with national education organizations, cancer and diabetes groups, the Westport Library and United Church of Christ.

Nearly 10 years after “retiring,” Dr. K. shows no signs of slowing down.

Why should he? He’s continuing the work he loves: Showing teenagers how to make their mark on the world, by doing it himself.

(To nominate an unsung hero, email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Lynn U. Miller)

Leah Rondon’s Birthday Bash

In August 2015, Westport mourned the loss of Leah Rondon. She was struck by a car, while playing at a friend’s house.

The daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon played soccer, basketball and softball, and was the Ansonia Boys & Girls Club “Girl of the Year.” She loved reading, and proudly listed all her summer titles on the refrigerator.

She was just 6 years old.

Despite this unimaginable tragedy, Colleen’s energy and enthusiasm has not wavered. She teaches children with passion and pride.

Leah Rondon

Leah Rondon

On February 4, Leah would have been 8 years old. Her mother has created a Birthday Bash. She’s determined to make it a day of joy, not mourning.

She’s also determined to make Leah’s birthday mean something. So she and her husband — an administrator at Bridgeport’s Kolbe Cathedral High School — are growing a scholarship in Leah’s name.

The Birthday Bash this coming Saturday (February 4, 12-4 pm) features a carnival with games, crafts, face painting, raffles and entertainment. The event takes place at Kolbe Cathedral.

Performers — many of whom are from Westport and Weston — include Jamie Mann (who has performed as Billy Elliot in 60 shows from New Hampshire to Florida), Stephanie Greene, Zoe Lieberman, Claire Vocke, Brody Braunstein, Chloe Manna, Lola Lamensdorf, Cate Steinberg, Leif Edoff (8-year-old pianist), Jasper Burke, Isabelle Katz, Lucas Lieberman, the award-winning Westport Dance Center company and more.

All proceeds benefit the Leah Rondon Memorial Scholarship Fund. It’s awarded to a graduating female Kolbe Cathedral student. For more information, click here.

And if you can’t make it to Leah’s Birthday Bash but want to donate to her fund, click here — then scroll down just below “Events” in the center of the page.

Bill Mitchell, Gerry Kuroghlian Earn Kudos From Kolbe

Westport is filled with men and women who give and give, then give some more. When there’s a job to be done or an organization to help, they’re the first to volunteer.

But it’s hard to imagine any 2 people who do more, in more ways, than Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian.

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

Bill — a 1961 graduate of Staples High School — remains connected to his alma mater through Staples Tuition Grants, Players and sports. He’s been president of Rotary, deacon at Saugatuck Congregational Church, honorary chair of Homes With Hope, and a board member of the Levitt Pavilion, YMCA, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Sacred Heart University and the Jewish Home for the Elderly. He’s offered his store — Mitchells — to help raise millions of dollars for groups like Near and Far, and the Inner City Foundation.

Gerry — a Fairfield native with a Ph.D., who spent nearly 40 years as a Staples English teacher, where he influenced thousands of students and colleagues — now serves as an ESL instructor at Mercy Learning Center, and a master’s degree student teacher at Sacred Heart.

But both men have found some of their most meaningful volunteer opportunities at Kolbe Cathedral High School.

The Bridgeport private school — 80% of whose students need financial assistance — has a proud record. Last year, every graduating senior was accepted to college. Together, they earned $15.2 million in scholarships and aid.

Bill and Gerry’s contributions to their successes are profound.

Kolbe Cathedral logo

In 1999, Bill joined Kolbe’s Shepherds program. He sponsored and mentored freshman named Marques Brown, providing one-on-one support (and cheering at his basketball games). They became lifelong friends. In 2010, Marques — now a successful adult — established the William E. Mitchell Humanitarian Award, for a Kolbe graduate with “concern for others, compassion, a positive attitude and a big heart.”

Bill continues to aid Kolbe by securing speakers for fundraisers, sharing networking contacts with students and staff, and providing leadership opportunities for all.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Gerry’s volunteer work includes national education organizations, cancer and diabetes groups, Westport Library and United Church of Christ.

But Gerry spends nearly every afternoon at Kolbe. He’s a tutor, SAT and ACT advisor, and college application essay guide. He has arranged for 1,000 books to be donated to the library.

Gerry also organizes cultural field trips to Fairfield University and New York City. He attends sports events, chaperones the prom, and continually shares his philosophy that it is the responsibility of each individual to make a difference.

Now Kolbe Cathedral is giving something back to these 2 very giving men. On Sunday, May 1, the school’s annual “Making a Difference Celebration” celebrates Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian.

It’s a fundraiser, enabling Kolbe to continue making a difference in the lives of teenagers.

They — and their school — are just a few miles from Westport. It’s a journey Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian take often.

What a difference it makes.

(Kolbe Cathedral’s Making a Difference Celebration begins at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 with a mass at St. Mary’s Parish in Greenwich. Dinner at Gabriele’s Steakhouse in Greenwich follows at 6:30 p.m. For more information, or to make a donation in honor of Bill Mitchell or Gerry Kuroghlian, call J0-Anne Jakab at 203-368-2648 or email jjakab@kolbecaths.org.)

Bill Mitchell with Marques Brown (Kolbe Cathedral '03).

Bill Mitchell with Marques Brown (Kolbe Cathedral ’03).

Gerry Kuroghlian and Bryan Tacuri. The Kolbe Cathedral senior has been accepted at 7 colleges, including Fairfield, Sacred Heart and the University of Connecticut.

Gerry Kuroghlian and Bryan Tacuri. The Kolbe Cathedral senior has been accepted at 7 colleges, including Fairfield, Sacred Heart and the University of Connecticut.

 

Special Carnival Honors A Very Special Girl

Last year, all Leah Rondon wanted for her 6th birthday was dinner with her parents and brothers, and Peachwave for dessert.

This year is different. Leah was killed in August, just a few days before starting 1st grade. Her death devastated her hometown of Ansonia — and Bedford Middle School, where her mother Colleen is a much-loved science teacher.

Leah Rondon's 6th birthday treat.

Leah Rondon’s 6th birthday treat.

Leah’s birthday is soon. To honor her memory — and give something back to others — her family will celebrate with a carnival for elementary school children.

It will be held next Saturday (February 6), from 12-3 p.m. The site is Kolbe Cathedral — the Bridgeport High School where Leah’s dad, Henry, is principal.

The carnival includes games, food, raffles and entertainment. Kids everywhere (and their parents) are invited. Admission is free — but money spent on tickets for individual events will go to a scholarship fund, for a senior girl at Kolbe hoping to attend college.

Colleen says: “We hope this will be a great time for kids and their families, during an otherwise dreary and cold time of year. We are ready to memorialize our daughter in a happy and positive way.”

The Rondons’ world was rocked when Leah — riding in a wagon at a friend’s house — was struck by a car. They knew that joyous occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Leah’s birthday would be tough.

“Leah was always having fun,” Colleen says. “We have so many memories of her enjoying the regular routine of a child’s life: going to school, playing in the yard, attending camp, competing in soccer, basketball and softball.”

Leah Rondon

Leah Rondon

In just 6 1/2 years of life, Colleen says, Leah made her mark. “She was fun-loving and joyful. She made other people laugh and be happy too.

“Having a carnival to provide some fun for other kids continues to bring those joyful memories to us. Raising money to help high school students continue their education is a bonus.”

Most students at Kolbe Cathedral need help for college.

Colleen hopes that the girl who receives scholarship help from the carnival will be like Leah: someone who loves school, is involved in it, and is genuinely kind to others.

And like Leah, she will be a winner.

(If you can’t be at the carnival on Saturday but would like to help, there is a “Donate” button on the upper left side of the Kolbe main home page: http://www.kolbecaths.org. Hat tip: Julia McNamee)

 

 

Mercy!

Gerry Kuroghlian may be the most passionate person I know.

For over 40 years, his passion was teaching English. Generations of Staples students were inspired by his incredible enthusiasm for Shakespeare, his “Myth and Bible” course, writing, and everything else associated with the school.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Gerry retired 4 years ago. His passions now are helping seniors at Bridgeport’s Kolbe Cathedral High School with their college essays, and tutoring at Mercy Learning Center.

Mercy — also in Bridgeport — provides basic literacy and life skills training to low-income, under-educated, marginalized women. It’s an amazing organization, and dozens of Westporters donate their time and energy there too.

Over Thanksgiving, Gerry and his wife Ellen were enjoying a stay at the Hawthorne Inn in Concord, Massachusetts. They began chatting with another family. Gerry mentioned Mercy Learning Center. The family wanted to know more. Gerry happily told them all he knew. That was that.

Until this week.

Mercy Learning Center called to tell Gerry they’d received a $10,000 donation from strangers. It was the family he’d told all about Mercy.

Some call it a miracle.

I call it the kind of thing that happens when Gerry Kuroghlian spreads his warmth and passion with whomever he meets.

Mercy Learning Center

“Dr. K” Gives Back

When Gerry Kuroghlian retired in 2008 after 43 years as a Staples English teacher, he knew he would not spend leisurely hours playing golf.

If you know “Dr. K” — and everyone in Westport does — you’d know he’s not a leisurely guy.  And he is definitely not a golfer.

Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian

As soon as he left Staples, Kuroghlian headed in the opposite direction:  to Bridgeport, the city where he was born and spent his early years.  Following the lead of Westporters he knew and admired — Dick Leonard, Doris Shiller and dozens of others — he volunteered at Mercy Learning Center.

Last year he taught GED classes at the much-heraled women’s literacy and life-skills center.  This year he’s teaching English as a Second Language — influencing (and learning from) women from Mexico, Bangladesh and all points in between.

“These are heroic people,” Kuroghlian says admiringly.

“They’re moms, housekeepers, breadwinners — they do it all.  They’ve got multi-tasking down to a science.

Kuroghlian calls these women “the best students I’ve ever had.”  They get up, get their kids ready for school, catch a city bus, and arrive promptly by 9 a.m.

“No one is ever late.  No one ever has not done the homework,” he says admiringly.  “They’re motivated to learn, and they’re completely unafraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something.  They’re amazing.”

After class, the women work on computers.  They also go on field trips.

Kuroghlian recently took them to the library.  They paid particular attention to the children’s section, where they learned how to get library cards for their kids.

“These woman are totally motivated to improve the lives of their children,” he says.

But Mercy Learning Center is only part of Kuroghlian’s rich life.  He also volunteers at Kolbe Cathedral, the small parochial school in Bridgeport.

Westporter Bill Mitchell got Kuroghlian involved.  Mitchell is a “Shepherd” — someone who provides financial assistance and mentorship to a student during his 4 years at Kolbe — and when he introduced Kuroghlian to the school and its students, “Dr. K” was hooked.

The English instructor works with all 60 seniors on their college essays.  He offers an objective eye, and a lifetime of experience in helping the Bridgeport teenagers bring personal, individual voices to their writing.

“They’re great kids,” Kuroghlian says.  “They’re unbelievably polite, with firm handshakes — boys and girls.  They all have jobs, and do an incredible job balancing school, sports and work.”

Having watched Bridgeport decline so far from its heyday, Kuroghlian feels good about his current work — and the women and teens he works with.

“In Bridgeport, education is seen as a privilege — not something to take for granted.

“As a teacher, I’ve never felt more valued.  I’m rewarded not with money, but with thanks.

“The women at Mercy want a better life for their kids, and the kids at Kolbe want a better life for themselves.

“They all realize that education is their only way out, and they’re all killing themselves to get an education.  It’s a wonderful environment to be in.”