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Bridgeport Youth Summit Opens Up Career, College Opportunities For Youth

Rina Bakalar, a United Way consultant, works with her volunteers for the Bridgeport Youth Summit’s Port of Opportunity on Friday at Webster Bank Arena.
Rina Bakalar, a United Way consultant, works with her volunteers for the Bridgeport Youth Summit’s Port of Opportunity on Friday at Webster Bank Arena. Photo Credit: Roy Fuchs

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Bridgeport Youth Summit’s Port of Opportunity, an all-day career exposition will introduce 1,500 middle and high school students, and older youth not currently attending school, to career and college opportunities in their own backyards.

The event will be held Friday at Webster Bank Arena.

This program is the product of over a year’s work by more than 65 people. It was created under the auspices of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, led by Rina Bakalar, a United Way consultant, and is supported by Presenting Sponsor Bank of America along with many other corporations and nonprofits.

Its mere size and scope “will mark a new direction in supporting Bridgeport youth,” Bakalar said.

She told 150 volunteers that this is the first in what she hopes will be an annual event that will start to “close the opportunity gap and the achievement gap.”

Port of Opportunity implements the vision of Bridgeport Prospers, whose vision is “to work as a community of stakeholders to have a positive, measurable and sustainable impact on outcomes for all children and families from cradle to career.”

Each student will visit their choice of the 25 Resource Tables staffed by companies from Sikorsky to PepsiCo to NBC Sports. “At NBC they will learn you don’t have be in front of the camera to win an Emmy,” she said.

Bridgeport Police and Fire Departments will be recruiting. And Bridgeport’s EMT service will be among the health agencies and professions on hand.

The kids will also hear Mayor Joe Ganim, Schools Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz and motivational speaker Dr. Adolph Brown. And the students, will be entertained by rapper G Money.

Housatonic Community College will present programs that lead directly to well-paying jobs. One of the most prominent is its Advanced Manufacturing Center, a gateway to jobs paying $35,000 to $40,000.

There will be participation sessions around Leadership, and another around Public Policy. The latter will bring in speakers from the mayor’s office, the City Council, the General Assembly and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes' office.

At the end, participants will answer three questions: What does the ideal school would look like? If you had $1 million to spend on Bridgeport, how would you use it? And every neighborhood should have…

The ideas and conclusions will be posted on Vision Boards, then organized for a presentation to city and school officials.

United Way of Coastal Connecticut serves Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

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