Teresa M. Wilson
Teresa Wilson was born and raised in Bridgeport, Conn. After graduating from Harding High School, she attended Hampton University for Business Management. She served as a Legislative Aide to the first African American Woman Connecticut State Senator, Margaret E. Morton. Teresa was the first African American to serve in the Office of the Mayor in the City of Bridgeport for then Mayor Thomas W. Bucci. She worked as a Secretary in the Superintendent of Schools Office in Bridgeport for 12 years for Superintendent James A. Connelly; as a secretary for the Board of Apportionment and Taxation for the City of Bridgeport, and a former Board Member of the Charles Smith Foundation. She is a former secretary to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance-(I.M.A.), and the Bridgeport Pentecostal Ministers Association. Teresa grew up in Messiah Baptist Church; served for five years as the Director of the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church Children’s Choir, served on the Audio Ministry at Mount Aery Baptist Church for two years. For the past 25 years, she has been a member of the Christian Cultural Center-(CCC) in Brooklyn, New York. She served on Mayor Bill Finch’s Transition Team, served as a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education Graduation/Dropout Rate Adhoc Committee, the Warren Harding High School Planning and Management Team, Les Treize Women’s Organization, The Links, Board of Education Teacher Recruitment Committee, the Central High School PTSO, the Bridgeport Education Alliance, the Board of Education Student Engagement and Activities Committee, and CAAB-College Access Alliance of Bridgeport (CAAB), Board Chairman, Capital Prep Harbor School, etc.
In 1993, Teresa co-founded the Smart Start College Preparatory Program based at Hall Neighborhood House, along with Mr. Sandy Harden. She served as Director of the program from 1997-2002. In 2001, she started a non-profit college preparatory program called The Village Initiative Project, Inc.-V.I.P. College Preparatory & Life Skills Program, Inc., of which she has served as Executive Director for the past 20 years. The program exposes underserved students to the benefits of higher education through weekly college prep workshops, and college tours. Between the two programs, thousands of students from Bridgeport, CT area schools have graduated from, and are now attending colleges across the country, such as Temple, UConn, Morehouse, Emory, Boston College, Bryant, Hampton, Clark Atlanta, Adelphi, Hofstra, Howard, Quinnipiac, Johnson C. Smith, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State, Winston Salem State, St. John’s University, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Texas Southern, Florida A&M, and others. The program holds at least 3 college tours per year in October, November, and April. We believe in the Mark Twain quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
The V.I.P. College Prep Program’s enrollment during the 2018-2019 school year exceeded 250 low to moderate income, primarily African American, and Latino students. 117 students from Connecticut schools (3 buses) attended the Howard University Homecoming College Tour in 2018, the program’s “premier” tour. Ten of the 15 volunteer staff members are alumni of the program. Many alumni have flourished in the workforce and have distinguished themselves as lawyers, teachers, social workers, nurses, a marine biologist, three doctors, and one student who was a 2012 State Senate candidate in Atlanta, GA. “God is Good!”
The V.I.P. Program was awarded a $20,000 Federal ACT Grant in 2010 to assist in building the organization’s capacity. It also receives Community Development Block Grants; Priority School District Grants; and in 2011 was awarded a $120,000 Afterschool Lighthouse Grant for the purpose of early exposure to the college process for 5th to 8th grade students. In this capacity, V.I.P. is in the position to employ some of its students. The program has received numerous Community Service Awards from the CT Office of the Attorney General, the CT General Assembly, Office of the Mayor, Bridgeport City Council, Greater Bridgeport Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, The Cape Verdean Women’s Social Club, Les Treize Women’s Organization and others. V.I.P. is a recent recipient of Governor Malloy’s Youth Violence Prevention Grant for the next two years.
Teresa is third out of eight children; the daughter of Edith Caciopoli and the late Edward S. Kennedy. She is happily married to Samuel N. Wilson, Jr., CPA. They have five children and six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Calvin M. Jones II, Alumnus
Assistant Director, Counselor/Chaperone
Bullard Havens Regional Technical High School Graduate.
North Carolina A&T University-B.S. Marketing Graduate.
Vice President, People’s United Bank
Treasuer Rho Upsilon Chapter Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Capital Prep Harbor Charter School Board of Directors.
Kara M. Turman, Alumna
V.I.P. College Prep Program is an integral part in the lives of students in the Greater Bridgeport area, fostering growth, learning, and travel. During my sophomore year of high school I was introduced to the Smart Start College Prep Program. Through Smart Start I attended numerous college tours, made lasting friendships, gained a wealth of knowledge and life skills. Smart Start had a tremendous impact on my life. Every college I applied to my senior year of high school, I was able to visit. I am grateful for the guidance I received. It is a blessing to give back as a current V.I.P. Counselor. Currently, I am a Human Resources professional. I graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana, with a B.A. in English Literature. I received a Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven.
Brittanni Cogdell, Alumna
V.I.P. is so important for students. It is not just the preparation for college, but the preparation for life that makes it so important. As an Alum and now Counselor, V.I.P. is definitely credited for helping me become who I am today, both professionally and personally. I graduated from Central High School, The University of Connecticut, and Fairfield University.
B.A. Human Development and Family Studies
M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling
6th Year School Counseling
LPC-Licensed Professional Counselor
Sandra Borges Langston
My relationship with V.I.P. began when my daughter was a member while in high school. V.I.P. encouraged her academic achievements and provided positive, life-enriching experiences. It offered her a great place to help prepare her for college. I now volunteer at V.I.P. because of the positive impact it has on preparing today’s youth for academic (college) and professional (career) success.
Graduate of Albertus Magnus College
Jonathan Brown, Alumnus
The Village Initiative Project, Inc.-V.I.P. College Prep Program, has molded the lives of many children in the Bridgeport, Connecticut area, providing them perspectives of life after high school. My journey in the V.I.P Program began in 2005 as a freshmen at Central High School. V.I.P has provided me with a better outlook on education and life skills. The caring, charismatic and family-oriented culture of V.I.P is what kept me on the right track to do well in school. The saying, “It Takes A VILLAGE To Raise A Child”, holds true when you are a part of this family. After V.I.P., I went on to graduate from the University of Connecticut where I obtained my B.A. in Mathematics, B.A. in Education and my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. I currently teach mathematics at James J. Curiale School located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a Senior Class Counselor with The V.I.P. Program.
Crystin Engram, Alumna
My connection with The V.I.P. College Prep Program started as a student myself. I started the program in 2012 as a sophomore attending Platt Tech in Milford. As a Bridgeport youth, it has truly been amazing to watch the growth of V.I.P. and now as an adult, to be a part of it. Even now, I get to see my own family be a part of the program and testify how much it has impacted their lives. As a youth, V.I.P. offered me fellowship, community, and accountability. I went on to graduate from Mercy College, Magna Cum Laude, with a B.S. in Sociology, and a minor in Criminal Justice. I went on to graduate from Sacred Heart University with my Masters in Social Work. I currently work as a School Social Worker for Bridgeport Public Schools, providing counseling and connection services
Yaaser Abdulgalil, Alumnus
Central High School, UConn Graduate.
Yaaser followed in the footsteps of his older sister, Aahlam, and joined V.I.P. in high school attending many college tours. He is now with Lockheed Martin and serves as a V.I.P. Counselor.