Unification News for April 2003

Bridgeport International Academy Develops New Programs

by Joy Garratt

As Bridgeport International Academy, formerly known as New Eden Academy, prepares for its seventh year as an educational institution, new plans are being made for the 2003-2004 school year. The following is an interview with Dr. Hugh Spurgin, principal, Bridgeport International Academy, based on the most frequently asked questions.

How has Bridgeport International Academy (BIA) changed?

Our state approved, college preparatory school began in 1997 and has had four graduating classes. In order to focus on academics, two years ago we rented out most rooms in our dormitory and became primarily a day school. We now have a core day student population and have arranged home-stay opportunities for several international students. This was a successful move. We are proud of the academic achievements of our students and the quality of our character education / community service program. In 2001, one BIA student qualified as a National Merit Finalist.

Second generation students from the Bridgeport community make up the majority of our student body, although there are several non-Unification pupils, including two Seventh Day Adventist students. Also, we have established a home-stay program with local host families in order to accommodate international students who are enrolled at BIA. We have found this more stabilizing and economical than living in dorms; home-stay students have a family environment in a local home, while mingling with the growing and exciting second generation community in Bridgeport. An active World CARP chapter at the University of Bridgeport (UB) has a dedicated group of college students who provide Service for Peace activities, Sunday worship service, Friday evening gatherings, and sports activities.

Is there a way for students who do not live in Connecticut to enroll at BIA?

Yes! We found that running a high school dormitory is expensive since it requires providing meals, entertainment, transportation, medical attention, recreational activities and staff on a 24 hour basis. A core of families who live near UB are willing to host youth; for those interested in such an opportunity, we will seek a local family for them. This year we had seven home stay students. We may again open our dormitory to international students whose parents are willing and able to pay a substantial fee to cover the additional costs.

Who are your teachers? What courses do they teach?

Bridgeport International has a solid core of full-time teachers and adjuncts who teach foreign language, fine arts, and physical education courses. Most faculty members are graduates of Unification Theological Seminary.

Joy Garratt, the academic dean and English/world history teacher, is completing her master’s degree in educational leadership and brings 15 years of professional training and experience teaching K to 12 both in America and Korea to our school. Tatiana Vyazikina, who graduated from a teacher’s college in Uzbekistan and taught there, works with Joy as an assistant teacher and monitors self-study, correspondence courses, and distance learning. .

Anthony Martinez, M.D. teaches health, biology, earth science, genetics, and oceanography, and serves as the Academy’s medical doctor when health care is needed. Ambroise Katundu taught mathematics and physics in the Congo (formerly called Zaire) prior to graduating from UTS. Ambroise brings an in-depth understanding to the range of math and physics courses he teachers and assists BIA students taking calculus courses at the UB with their questions as well.

Nora Spurgin, in addition to serving as the dean of students, facilitates our character education and community service course which includes 25 hours of service per semester and discussions and presentations on values, ethical issues, and social and religious topics. Recently, students gave presentations on social issues, and the faculty presented the lives and teachings of the founders of the major world religions, including Unificationism. Two months were also focused on marriage and family life preparation. In addition, Mrs. Spurgin teaches a course entitled College and Careers to prepare students to take standardized tests, complete college applications, and discover their own skills and career interests.

Along with my duties as principal, I enjoy teaching courses in U.S. history, American government, and modern world history. With an M.S. in education, Kenya Sohn, the computer administrator, teaches several computer and computer graphics courses. As a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, he serves as the instructor for the BIA martial arts course. Kum Taek Oh, a master ceramist, teaches a much enjoyed, well-attended ceramics class in a university studio outfitted with pottery wheels and kilns.

For our Korean, Japanese, and Spanish courses, we have three adjunct instructors Yeonsil Choi, Michiko Kim, and Maria Balbin respectively. Students wanting to study other languages are able to enroll in university courses. Robyn Dilg, who has taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in Spain, is the primary instructor for our Intensive English program for students whose native language is not English.

What are some of the unique aspects of BIA?

Many BIA students have studied in a variety of languages, countries, methods and schools. As a small school, BIA can properly credit students for their varied past educational experiences and .offer students an opportunity to tailor their academic curriculum and social experience into one in which they will thrive. While students must meet strict graduation requirements, we are flexible in our curriculum, offer personalized instruction, and provide opportunities to make-up courses through correspondence and distance learning courses

Our course offerings would not be complete without mentioning the wealth of opportunities available at the university. BIA has a special arrangement with UB and Housatonic Community College for juniors and seniors to take a maximum of four university courses per year which means 12 or more college credits. This enables BIA students to broaden their horizons with a variety of English, science, mathematics, computer, psychology, foreign language, music, and fine art courses. They will receive both high school and college credit (this may vary by college). Thus, it is possible for a student to graduate from BIA with nearly one year of college credits – a tremendous financial benefit. Also, graduates of BIA receive a 30% discount in the costs of tuition at UB

Please describe your computer system.

BIA utilizes an NT network system for all of its computers, including those in the classrooms, the offices and the computer lab; thus, all computers have monitored-access to the Internet. We have just installed fourteen new study carrels and are preparing to purchase new computers for each carrel in the student computer lab. The computer lab is used for classroom instruction, multi-media presentations, self-study, independent research, and access to the distance learning curriculum. All students are taught computer skills and various software applications. We believe that an education is not complete without technological skills.

What are the Academy’s plans for 2003-04?

Every year we develop new course offerings, upgrade our computer technology, and provide teachers with opportunities for professional development.

Several BIA teachers attended training in Phoenix in how to use a state-of-the-art, computerized curriculum called Switched on Schoolhouse (SOS) developed by Alpha Omega that exists in paper, CD ROM and online versions. We are pleased that it incorporates a general backbone of religious values without impinging on the specific subject matter of most of the courses, although we will also continue to use a variety of other educational curriculum. We have two plans for the SOS distance learning curriculum: (1) to provide a greater variety of self-study courses for BIA students who need to take courses that we are not able to offer to them at the moment; and (2) to provide the foundation for a distance learning program for students doing home-schooling anywhere in the world.

We intend to expand our ESL program for international students whose native language is not English. ESL students also take a variety of other courses as they are mainstreamed into the regular curriculum step-by-step.

What have your alumni been doing since graduating from BIA?

Students from the graduating classes of 2000, 2001, and 2002 have been accepted by or are attending Bucknell University, Cornell University, Fordham University, George Mason University, Ithaca College, Mt. Holyoke College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Temple University, Montclair State University Honors Program, and the University of Bridgeport. Students with outstanding SAT scores have received a combined total of hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarship money.

Many students have chosen to do community service and volunteer projects following high school and are still in the process of applying to college. More than twenty former BIA students have jointed STF or ETF for either one or two years.

Do you offer scholarships?

We try to keep our costs as low as possible. At the present time, we do not have the resources to offer scholarships.


BIA intends to hire more teachers in the near future. Our Academy has a particular need for English and ESL teachers, although we will consider applications from both experienced and second generation teachers in a variety of disciplines. If you are interested in helping to build a college preparatory school in an exciting, dynamic location or in attending BIA, please write to Dr. Hugh and Mrs. Nora Spurgin, Bridgeport International Academy, 400 Linden Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604; phone (203) 334-3434; send an email to biahighschool@hotmail.com; or consult our website at http://www. bridgeportacademy.org.

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