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Kendall Elementary’s real-world path to college begins in 2nd grade

Though their college days may be a decade away, the second- and third-graders enrolled in Norwalk’s Kendall College & Career Academy are already advancing toward higher learning.

On any given day, that could mean creating buildings from LEGOs, handling hoses at the fire Department, or playing soccer at Kendall Elementary School, all in the name of education. 

The academy is directed by Fatima Toor, literacy instructional coach for Norwalk Public Schools. The young students are mentored by Share the Hour, a group of high school volunteers from Norwalk and Westport recruited and organized by founder Brooke Saporta, a junior at Staples High School.

Having worked with the children of incarcerated women who were struggling in school, Brooke was already a seasoned volunteer. She decided she wanted to do more. Community activist Laura Garcia, a family friend, introduced her to school Superintendent Alexandra Estrella, who connected Brooke with Fatima. Esterella “helped us set up my dream,” Brooke says.

That dream also has another name: project-based learning, a teaching method in which students learn by doing. Those LEGO buildings, for example, were constructed after a session with an architect. The soccer game followed a PowerPoint video on becoming a professional player or coach. It covered team makeup and strategy, a coach’s duties, and the importance of practice. The students also read a book about Pele, the Brazilian soccer star. They wrote stories about soccer, with the help of their high school mentors.

Brooke Saporta, left, and Fatima Toor Photos: Bob Giolotto
Share the Hour founder Brooke Saporta, left, and Fatima Toor, literacy instructional coach for Norwalk Public Schools. Photos by Bob Giolitto.

In another project, students were tutored by a professional photographer, who provided them with cameras to take their own pictures. Woven into that experience was a lesson in social justice; the photographer is also an activist who uses photography to foster civil rights.

A recent field trip organized by Share the Hour took 16 students to Fire Department headquarters. Norwalk’s bravest gave them a tour of the station, where they handled hoses, tried on helmets, and learned what happens when a call comes in.

Brooke hopes to build the program, in keeping with its mission statement: “Expand no-cost, barrier-free literacy growth opportunities to struggling underprivileged kids at the age when the biggest impact can be made.”

Brooke has set up a website where volunteers can sign up: www.sharethehour.orgShare The Hour is also on Instagram. 

Through Share The Hour Brooke Saporta has created a community where everyone—students, volunteers, and professionals—come together and benefit.

Photos by Bob Giolitto for NancyOnNorwalk.com

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