The Bridge Partnership, a two-week academic program at Bridgewater State University for middle school students from across the region, is wrapping up another successful year.
The program, which is in its second year, allows nearly 200 students the chance to spend part of their summer on campus experiencing college life. The students live in a university residence hall; take courses with BSU faculty and education majors, as well as their own teachers; and tour educational, cultural and historic sites in Massachusetts.
The idea is to give the students a unique college-immersion experience, said Fred Clark, executive vice president and vice president of external affairs, the division that oversees the program. “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.
The program expanded this year, up from 130 students, and now includes students from the Roosevelt and Keith middle schools of New Bedford; various schools in Brockton, chosen through a program with the local YMCA; and Boston’s Dearborn Middle School.
The original concept of the program came from President Dana Mohler-Faria. While visiting schools in New Bedford two 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. Nearly all of the students were on or near academic probation.
The idea became a reality last summer.
Mark Conrad, assistant to the vice president of external affairs and coordinator of the Bridge Partnership, spoke about the opportunity it gives the participants. “We give the students a curriculum that is fun and exciting, and it gives them an opportunity to do the fun things they don’t normally do in class.”
Kaia Monteiro, 13, gave the program credit for helping her in many ways. “The program helps me have more confidence in my abilities in school and it has also helped out with my social skills.”
One of the main highlights for the students in the program their involvement in BSU’s aviation program. Students are able to put their math skills to use in the classroom, and eventually go up in an airplane out of BSU’s flight school, located at the New Bedford Regional Airport. While in the air, students use the skills they’ve learned to map a segment of the area.
The program also includes an array of field trips, including visits to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts College of Art, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Museum of Science, Bristol Community College and a Brockton Rox game. Since parental involvement is a key part of the program, there’s also a barbeque and graduation ceremony attended by the students and their families.
“President Mohler-Faria’s goal for the program is that all kids can succeed, just because you come from a poor family or economically challenged community that you still have the chance to succeed and for us to be able to open up those doors where they can open their minds to an educational experience,” said Mr. Conrad.
Mr. Clark said he’s enjoyed seeing the results of the Bridge Program up close.
“Truly the most rewarding moments I’ve had in my two years at Bridgewater have been watching the transformation of these young people and hearing them talk about a diff future of themselves,” he said. “It’s hard to have an experience more rewarding than that.” (Story and photos by Shawn Finn, ’13, University Advancement)