Profile: Bridgit Cusato-Rosa: From Camden "Revolutionary" to KIPP Principal

ByNoah Zucker
Principal Bridgit Cusato-Rosa speaks to her students at an assembly.

CAMDEN, NJ – Bridgit Cusato-Rosa, a Camden native and the principal of the KIPP Lanning Square Middle School, didn’t always know she wanted to be an educator.

“I was going to be a revolutionary,” she said.

But after graduating from Drew University, where she studied Latin American politics and Spanish, Cusato-Rosa needed to save more money for her dream of going to law school.

“I had done one of my senior papers on bilingual education and I did my field work visiting a school in Newark, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “Middle school is the roller coaster of life. That’s why I love everything about it.”

She started working at the school fresh out of college and hasn’t left the world of education in urban New Jersey since.

When Cusato-Rosa decided to pursue her law degree through night classes at Rutgers-Newark after four years of teaching, she moved to a local charter school.

She was skeptical of charter schools at first but found the resources available to her there allowed her to grow as an educator and prepare to take on leadership positions.

After 11 years of teaching in Newark and receiving her law degree, Cusato-Rosa found her calling revolutionizing middle school education in Camden.

“No one wanted to come to Camden, so that made me even more determined to come to Camden,” she said.

In 2012, she became the principal at Freedom Prep in Fairview and in 2015 she arrived at KIPP Lanning Square Middle, where she is the founding principal.

She was excited about the project because it would be a renaissance school rather than a traditional charter school. That means it prioritizes students within the neighborhood.

“If you move into this area, this is the school you’ll go to,” Cusato-Rosa said. “That’s what it should be.”

She said the format fuses her prioritization of community, something she loved about teaching at a public school in Newark, with the enhanced resources available through charter schools.

But for community members, Lanning Square is more than just a school. It’s also home to a health clinic where families can come for check-ups and a food bank. It also hosts a wide variety of athletic and creative activities students can pursue outside the classroom.

That multi-faceted approach helps instill a sense of community at the school, she said, leading to open lines of communication between parents and educators.

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