Catholic Schools Develop Strong Community

Every other week, students at St. Ann Academy in Bridgeport can be found engaging in team-bonding games and drills. This exercise is part of a new positive climate initiative that St. Ann has kicked off this year.

Wingman is the name of the program, created in 2015 by Ian Hockley and driven by the death of his six year old son at Sandy Hook, Dylan Hockley. The primary goal of the initiative is to recognize children for their unique and individual strengths, improving self-image and self-confidence while strengthening camaraderie and developing a stronger community. Ian Hockley feels, “A key strength of the Wingman program is that the students have full ownership of the program content and delivery.” Student leaders at St. Ann Academy, who call themselves the “Wings of Light,” began their student training last May to pave the way for their school-wide program launch this month.

The Wings of Light chose acceptance, compassion, perseverance, and empathy as the values of focus. Butterflies and a lighthouse were selected as symbols to represent their project. Mrs. Patricia Griffin, St. Ann Principal, explains, “Butterflies represent change and the lighthouse embodies a guiding light to safety.”

The Wings of Light unveiled Wingman in their own words to an assembly of 180 students. Student leaders, Nancy Ortiz and Mairead Siemer, stated, “We joined Wingman to bring a positive change to St. Ann. Wingman should be a way of life. We should live by the philosophy of always being inclusive of everyone, and being able to work as a team with any age group. Remember – we may be the Wingman leaders, but you are all part of the Wingman program.”

Following the assembly, students began their journey of building a stronger school community. Students engaged in team and trust building activities appropriate for each grade. Ian Hockley was present for the kick-off meeting and recalls, “The next 90 minutes were full of laughter and cheering. At the end, everyone threw themselves wholeheartedly into a cheer, probably heard right across the Blackrock neighborhood. I look forward to visiting St. Ann Academy in November as the program gets into full swing. This is an amazing group of young people that will surely change the world.”

Afterwards, Mrs. Griffin reflected on the day, “Wingman has made a difference in all. It is amazing to me how in a very short time a community can be fully engaged and committed to a shared vision.” St. Ann Academy is one of the four campuses of Catholic Academy of Bridgeport and serves students in grades Pre-K to Grade 8.