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Possible Free College Education A Perk At City School

Hartford’s new Schools: Global Communications Academy


December 01, 2008

Dymonic Tann is still deciding which college she wants to attend: Princeton or Harvard.

Tann, a fifth-grader at the Global Communications Academy on Tower Avenue, can have her pick of schools — as long as she gets accepted. That's one of the perks of attending the academy, which joined with Say Yes to Education, a nonprofit foundation that promises urban students a free college education if they make the grades to get there.

"When my mother signed up, she didn't know they paid for college," Tann said, smiling.

It's the first time Say Yes has made its offer to an entire school; usually the organization picks groups of students at a time. The last time Say Yes worked with Hartford students was when it promised to fund college for a fifth-grade class from Annie Fisher School. That program ended in 2005.

"I don't think they believe that we pay for college. And that's understandable," said Connie Coles, the director for Say Yes in Hartford. She works in the Global Communications Academy, providing support programs to help the students become eligible for college.

Although the possibility of a free college education is a bonus and may offer some students their first real hope of getting a higher education, some parents said they chose to send their children to the Global Communications Academy because of its focus on international studies.

The school is applying to become an International Baccalaureate program. IB schools teach students from a global perspective, with two languages taught, starting in kindergarten, and a third offered for ninth- through 12th-graders. Other international themes are sprinkled throughout the course work.

For example, a kindergarten lesson on the weather might look at the differences between weather in Hartford and weather in Jamaica, said Principal Darlene Pugnali, who was the principal at an IB school in Mexico City before transferring to Hartford. Details — down to the carpets, which are large maps of the continents — reflect the global perspective Pugnali said the school tries to create.

Instead of having a typical curriculum, the school wraps its lessons around six themes: who we are; where we are in place and time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves; and sharing the planet.

Teachers mold the state and district requirements into those categories. For example, a science lesson might fall under the theme "how the world works."

In an academically struggling district trying to remake itself, the combination of IB's respected educational model and the chance to provide hundreds of children with college tuition is well received.

"If you keep saying [students] can't do stuff, then they never will," Coles said.

• The concept: Global Communications Academy is applying to become an International Baccalaureate school — a program used in 2,437 schools in 131 countries. IB schools focus on teaching students to become global citizens who speak at least two languages and learn from an international perspective. Say Yes to Education, a nonprofit organization, has paired with the school to offer free college tuition to all students who graduate from the program, as long as they entered the school by the third grade.

• Grades: Kindergarten, first and fifth in the 2008-09 school year, adding grades each year until there is kindergarten through 12th grade

• Hours: 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Friday

• Enrollment: 216 students for 2008-09, with full capacity expected at 1,092

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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