Minority students get the tools needed to build a bridge to their future.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Now entering its third decade, a Youngstown State University program is being credited with helping scores of minority students get started in college and sticking with it.
"It's our way to make sure they get an excellent start," Jonelle Beatrice, director of YSU's center for student progress, said of the Summer Bridge program.
The nearly weeklong effort, run by the center, engages participants in activities intended to ease the social and academic transition from high school to college.
That passage can be especially tough on minority students, many of whom are coming from tough economic conditions and homes where they are the first in their family to attend college.
When considering state universities with open enrollment, the rate of minority students who return for their sophomore year is just over 40 percent, Beatrice said.
Summer Bridge has elevated that figure closer to 50 percent among its participants, which typically number about 20 per year.
About the program
The effort strives to give incoming YSU freshmen a boost by sharpening their study and computer skills, offering test-taking and time-management tips and sessions on improving their writing ability.
The program spills outside the classroom, too.
Participants negotiate an obstacle course that challenges their daring and helps them develop team-building savvy.
They also are given tours of the city and shown area restaurants and recreation venues, such as Mill Creek Park.
Participants stay in a residence hall at YSU during the program, which maintains a rigorous schedule. Their day starts at 6 a.m. and concludes with "lights out" at 11:30 p.m.
All incoming YSU minority freshmen are invited to apply for Summer Bridge participation, which is free.
YSU funds the program using state dollars designated to help students succeed in college.
A student's acceptance in the program is based on an interview to determine whether prospective participants will be committed to the effort, which continues after summer ends. Participants agree to take the same three classes in sociology, English and reading and study skills during the fall semester.
Sharing the three fall classes helps cement the bonds that Summer Bridge sought to establish in August, Beatrice said.