Bridge Partnership Hits Milestone
News & Events
Five years ago, when Talyah Gonsalves received a school flier about BSU’s new Bridge Partnership Program she tossed it in the trash.
“I didn’t want to be away from home,” the New Bedford resident said of the two-week program that’s held on campus each summer. Then she admitted with a smile, “I thought I was too cool.”
A guidance counselor from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, where Talyah attended, called her house and convinced her to sign up for the program. The verdict?
“I loved it,” said Talyah, now 17. “It was the best.”
This summer, she is working for the Bridge Partnership as a program assistant, and in the fall will enter BSU majoring in biology.
“I’ll be familiar with the place and there’ll be people here I know,” she said.
This summer The Bridge program celebrates five years of changing lives like Talyah’s. The original concept of the program came from President Emeritus Dana Mohler-Faria. While visiting schools in New Bedford several years ago he imagined the possibility of having students from gateway cities come to BSU to have an experience that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
President Frederick W. Clark Jr. embraced the program from the start and is still its biggest booster.
“The goal is to try to nudge them academically toward proficiency, but more important, at the same time to give them a sense they belong in college,” he said.
Each summer there are two two-week sessions, where middle school students from Brockton, New Bedford and Boston are brought to campus for an immersive college experience. Monday through Thursday the young teens spend five hours per day in the classroom, studying biology, writing, robotics and other topics, much of it involving hands-on learning. There are also field trips: to BSU’s Flight Training Center in New Bedford where they become young pilots for a day, as well as other local colleges, a Brockton Rox baseball game and roller-skating.
The experience produces noticeable changes in the young participants.
“Last year I was really shy, but I learned to open up,” said Janaya Costoso, a Brockton student who will enter Southeastern Regional Vocational-Technical High School next month. It’s her second go-round with the Bridge program, and she was glad to come back. “It’s because of the bond I had with the PAs (program assistants), it’s like another family,” Janaya said.
The PAs are mostly BSU students who have opted to spend the summer working with the young people in the program. There are 34 in all, many of them return summer after summer. These older students also serve as mentors, letting the youngsters know the ins and outs of being a college student.
That’s one of the things Alex DaCruz, 14, from the Roosevelt Middle School in New Bedford, was interested in learning.
“I wanted to experience college,” he said, adding: “Next year, I’m definitely coming back. These past two weeks have been the best time I’ve ever had.”
His classmate Josia Rice, 14, heard from his brother, Joel, how great the program was. Josia wants to play in the NFL, but would also consider a career as a mechanical engineer. He felt like a CSI investigator during one of the biology classes, he said.
“I think I learned a lot there, doing blood analysis,” he said.
The Bridge Partnership is more than just two annual summer sessions. Jillian Lucchetti, who oversees the program, spends time throughout the school year working with future program participants and students who have graduated from it. She helps this latter group with their studies, assists with college applications and does anything she can to help them stay in school and continue to succeed. When July rolls around and the youngsters arrive on campus, Ms. Lucchetti’s the one responsible for keeping things on track. A lot of work? Sure. But she says the payoff is great.
“It’s only two weeks that the students are here, but to see the changes in them makes it all worthwhile,” she said. “It’s awesome.” (Story and photo by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)