Monday, July 31, 2006

Something new!

One of the things that comes with the end of another year of Bridges is a great deal of pictures! With so many pictures, we decided to change the hall display in the office to reflect the new and exciting things happening in the program. Here are a few of the new pictures:

Look for student poetry later this week!

Some words from the banquet

After a week's vacation at the office, things are back in motion! Almost all of the supplies are organized, and DVD copies of the video slideshow have gone out to the students, but the work is never finished in preparing for the next year of Bridges! In the coming weeks, we'll be updating the blog with student poetry, art, and more information about Saturday College...and of course more pictures! But first, here is an excerpt from Mrs. Swartz's closing remarks to the Thetas at the banquet, on the theme of love:

Now, I as I look out at you, I don’t see those people from three years ago. I don’t see the glasses, braces, insecurity, fear, or doubt.

As I look at YOU, I see, I feel, I think, and I touch LOVE. Not that fluffy, fake, kind of, ‘I love because I have to love you” love.

But love that grows over time.

Love that comes from seeing you at your lowest low and witnessing you crawl you way back up to your highest high.

Love that comes from sharing your heart breaks and your triumphs. This kind of love is AGAPE love,

Agape is one of several Greek words meaning, “love.” Agape is love that is:
· divine,
· unconditional,
· self-sacrificing,
· active,
· thoughtful, love.

I feel this when I look at you, all of you.

But my question for tonight is, “Do you feel this when you look within yourself?” Do you feel that Agape love? Is the love for yourself unconditional?

It is hard to love yourself unconditionally when the world around you only shows conditional love.

If you clean the house-you get love.

If you get good grades-you get love.

If you are pretty-you are loved.

If you do exactly what is expected-you are loved.

If you have the right clothes-you are loved.

If you drive the right car-you are loved.

This is conditional love-you get it based on what you do. So we grow up thinking that no one can love use unless we do something for them to deserve the love. Many people in our lives say, “I love you” and then reject you the next day.

The thing is, that we are so used to this conditional love that when someone loves us unconditionally, we believe it can’t be true. We think and we know that this is just going to be one more person that let’s us down. But I am here to tell you tonight that I won’t let you down, Bridges won’t let you down and we will always love you.

But loving you, it is not enough for you to succeed. Theta’s, I am here to tell you that LOVE, Agape love, unconditional love, whatever you want to call it LOVE, it comes from you first.

You have to love yourself unconditionally first before you can receive or give love to someone else.

Unconditional love is an unlimited way of being. Loving yourself unconditionally will remove so many barriers from you life. It is a dynamic, powerful energy that lifts us through the most difficult times.

Knowing that if all else fails and you are left standing alone, you still have YOU. You still have that powerful unconditional love that will get you through.

So, stop seeking love in all of the wrong places. You can’t get unconditional love from someone else, if it doesn’t start in you first.

I know without any doubt in my mind that you will each go forth and do great things.

It was a very powerful speech, and it still resonates clearly, several weeks after the program has ended. Look for picutres from out new hall display later today!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Award Winners!

With the week drawing to a close, let's take a look at some of the award winners from last week's banquet:

Valedictorians, for academic excellence and service in and out of the classroom:
Ne'Kosha Flanningan
Jonathan Riascos

Humanitarian Award, for excellence in service and friendship throughout the program:
Maria Negrete
Jorge Jimenez

Chandler-Huse Scholarship winner-a 1000 dollar scholarship for the student's first year at the college of their choice:
Lauren Whitner

Teacher of the Year:
Mr. Bernard Frost

Senior Superlatives also went out to the Thetas, and they looked something like this:
Funniest-Tenealya Littlejohn and Long Huang
Friendliest-Thanh Ho-le and Jorge Jimenez
Most Likely to Succeed-Maria Negrete, Ne'Kosha Flanningan and Jonathan Riascos
Best Smile-Janet Uribe and Osita Obi
Best Dressed-Lashawnda Harkness and Hernan Ochoa
Best All Around-Charnele Handy and Jonathan Riascos

A peek at the closing comments coming soon!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More Pictures!

The last batch of pictures are here! (This set has some from week 3 that were too good to pass up!)

Look for more updates later in the week!

The Last Week: Noise, Tears, and Hope

Bridges to a Brighter Future 2006 is officially over, but let's take a moment to recap the last week.

Stomp!: Throughout the program, students received a nalgene bottle as a reward for doing great things, large and small. This tradition is known as the "incentive bottle" program, and it gets the students fired up during morning assembly. However, this year an extra incentive was attached to the bottle-every student awarded a bottle was entered into a drawing to see Stomp at the Peace Center! After all was said and done, over 20 students and counselors went to the Peace Center and got a chance to experience Stomp, most of them for the first time!

Theta Day: Something ultra top secret happened on Tuesday, and the Theta students were given a special treat-unfortunately, since it IS top secret, we can only tell you that it happened, but hopefully the pictures can help you figure out what it was!

Talent Show: Tuesday night was the annual Talent Showcase, and it was a roaring success! This year two of the students helped to host the event, and acts ranged from piano and poetry to the step and hip hop routines, not to mention the two skits at the end of the night that served as a great send up to all of the fun and trials we've had throughout the summer. One of the highlights of the night was "Stomp 2", a percussion display by some students who were inspired by seeing Stomp on Sunday night!

Field Trip: This week, everyone went up to North Carolina to go White Water Rafting! For most of the students this was their first time, but they took the challenge head on, and it was awesome. All told, the group rafted for roughly 4 hours before stopping for lunch and heading home-all in all, Bridges 2006 was beginning to come to a close.

Friday: The last day of camp is full of emotions, and it starts from the moment the kids wake up. The first event of Friday was a reflection of the work done in class, which ranged from an emotional reading of a personal narrative to presentations of houses and science projects. After that the students ate their last meal in the dining hall, and then they were given some time to get ready for the banquet. Parents and students alike were in fine form as they poured into the Younts Conference Center. Furman's photographer came to take pictures of the students and staff before the banquet, and soon the Thetas entered the banquet hall and the crowning moment of the program got underway! The two valedictorians gave the opening remarks, followed by the presentation of the humanitarian awards, the Chandler-Huse scholarship, and awards for the leadership team and for academics. After that, parents were given a chance to leave before the counselors and Thetas gave their reflections of camp. This portion of the program was the most emotional part of the night, as almost all of the students and staff members were eventually crying due to the powerful nature of the change in the students' lives. The video yearbook was the final part of the banquet, which was a good opportunity for the students to look back fondly at the four weeks that changed their lives. With Bridges all but over, the after party in the parlors was all that was left, and it was a great chance for the kids to see each other one last time. And with that, Bridges to a Brighter Future 2006 was over.

After a day off, the office is back in motion, getting everything settled and ready for the fall, and the new Saturday College program-more on that later!
Look for pictures soon!

Friday, July 14, 2006

End of the Road.

After 4 weeks of ups and downs, tonight is the banquet that signals the end of this year's Bridges to a Brighter Future program. Even though the program is over, keep checking back as we recap the last week, talk to more students, look forward to the new "Saturday College" program during the school year, and of course show more pictures!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Week 3: All About Water!

We're reaching the home-run stretch in Bridges to a Brighter Future, but first let's recap the third week:

International Food Night: After a restful day at home, the students came back with food that represents their cultures, and we created a International buffet! The food ranged from fried chicken and macaroni and cheese to a bread that one student described as "like corn bread...only better!" and empanadas. Other students brought rice, tuna casserole, as well as desserts like homemade strawberry banana pudding, chocolate cookies, and cake. Needless to say there was a lot of food to be had by all! After that the students played cards, watched movies and had a karaoke party, giving them one last rest before classes started up again!

The 4th of July: With the campus closed to the public, all of the Bridges classes crowded into one building for the day, with exciting plans for the evening. After classes ended, the students had a catered dinner in the dorms and had an ice cream feast, which was supposed to be followed by fireworks-but that almost didn't happen! A terrible rainstorm almost called off the festivities, but it cleared up in time for an awesome fireworks display!

Field Trips: This week, the field trips were all about water, continuing the unintenional theme for the third week! The Kappas went to Brevard College in NC, followed by a trip to Sliding Rock, quite literally a wet rock that you slide down! Some students were reserved about the cold water and the dip, but the highly supportive atmosphere of Bridges prevailed, and virtually all of the students and administrators on the trip ended up going down the rock. The Thetas and the Iotas began there trip hours before the Kappas woke up-the bus for Myrtle Beach left at 7 am! They went to the beach to scope out Coastal Carolina University, before heading to the beach. For some students, this was the first time seeing the beach or the ocean, and it was truly awesome for everyone involved to share that experience with them.

Visitors: Thursday was an important day for the Bridges to a Brighter Future program, since visitors from Elon came to watch the program at work, in order to begin their own enrichment program! Word is spreading fast about the work we're doing and how awesome the students are, and the Elon visitors were greatly impressed with what they saw, from the classroom to the efficiency of the administration. We wish them the best of luck in getting their program started, and hope that they the kind of success we have experienced!

Sing and Dance-Off: Friday morning, the students wanted to show their appreciation to the counselors, who have worked tirelessly these past few weeks to make everything run smoothly for the students, so they had all the counselors get on stage during morning assembly: for a contest! The guys and the girls had to sing karaoke to see which hall got an extended curfew. Some hilarious singing and dancing ensued, but at the end of the event, it was determined that while the girls won, all the students would get to stay up to watch movies in Furman's movie theatre!

Working at the Car Wash: Saturday was the day. KFC on Laurens, Chick Fil-A on Woodruff, and Burger King on Haywood were the locations. The event: the first annual Bridges Super Car Wash Challenge! Each class took a location, supplies, and a few counselors, and got to it! The students washed practically EVERYTHING-from a charter bus to a pickup truck belonging to a neighboring business, they washed their hearts out, and the results speak for themselves. All told, the students raised over 1000 dollars to offset the costs of the program! An amazing acheivement from some amazing students! That evening, it was a relaxing night at the bowling alley, not a bad way to spend the last Saturday of the program!

MORE Water: After parent visitation ended on Sunday, it was time to watch the final game of the World Cup! However, that was only the beginning of the day, since the annual Bridges Field Day was next. The students did a variety of activities, not the least of which was the water balloon toss. Field Day led into another relaxing night for the students, in preparation for the last week of class!

More student profiles coming this week, and don't forget about the pictures-those will be up tomorrow!

A Little Bit About Classes

Here's a quick update on what's happening in the classroom:

Math: The students began Bridges working on fundamentals, but now they're working on math magazines, complete with ads and equations, and a math masquerade, where the students imitate famous mathematicians, from Da Vinci to Einstein. The students have really thrown themselves into it, listening to audio files of the mathematicians' voices, and creating elaborate costumes. This week the students are presenting their work!

Science: The Science class this year has focused on forensic science, which is the field of science that involves detective work and solving crimes. The students have been working on several different cases, ficitious murders that they have to solve, as well as performing skits and doing field work, and they are getting closer and closer to cracking the case!

English: It's all about the presentation in English class! After Glenis Redmond finished with the students, they've been working on a variety of projects. The Iotas presented detailed poetry posters and are working on descriptive writing, while the Thetas are working on using Powerpoint to make a persuasive speech on a topic of their choice. The topics range from security in schools and the merits of paying college atheles to the death penalty and the nature of advertising. Finally, the Kappas are writing personal narratives about experiences in their lives that have changed them, in addition to watching the movie "The Education of Little Tree", which details the life experience of a Native American child growing up in the 19th century.

Art: Art has been moving at a clip, with all three classes nearing the end of their projects. Between learning how to water color, drawing faces and figures, and the ins and outs of 3-D design, the art class is busy! By the end of the program, we'll have 29 watercolors, 25 sketches of people and faces, and 18 model houses on our hands!

College Planning: Every week, the College Planning class gets the older students ready for college visits, but this week all 3 classes visited a school, so some extra preparation was in order! In addition, they have been working on the ins and outs of filling out applications, and all of the students have to give a speech about their future, from what they see in their future to what they can do to make that future a reality.

Social Studies: Debate, debate, debate! That's been the name of the game in Social Studies. They began with a discussion of Israel and the troubles in the Middle East, but have moved on to topics such as immigration and flag burning (they debated that on the 4th of July!). Many students not normally interested in Social Studies have been invigorated and stimulated by these open ended debates.

More on the 3rd week soon!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Student Profile 1!

This year, Bridges to a Brighter Future is serving 74 students from all over Greenville County, and we've decided to highlight a few to give you an idea of what the program is doing for them. The first is Samantha Jones, a rising sophomore at Riverside High School. Samantha was so excited about the chance to come to Bridges that she practically fainted when she found out she was nominated. When asked why she was so excited, Sam said that she had a special bond with her nanny, who went to Furman. For years, Sam and her nanny went to all sorts of Furman events and sports games, and this has given her an overwhelming desire to go to Furman. She said that getting nominated for Bridges pushed her to bring her grades up and encouraged her to keep at her studies to make it into the program. Her grades were suffering because of a rare illness that took her nanny's life. Sam has been in and out of the hospital for a while, and this school year was no exception. This past year has been one full of hardships for Sam, but things have really been looking up for her. She's reached a healthy and stable condition (her illness is permanent, but is no longer putting her in danger), and her grades have come up, and with Bridges, she has even more support. "I've never felt more supported in my life" were her words on being with the Bridges program. The students here accept and support her, and she can't get enough of her experiences with the program. From NCBI, which opened her eyes to the conflicts and troubles of her classmates, to Science class, which she loves (Sam wants to be a psychologist), Sam has truly blossomed in her time at Bridges-she has really opened up and Bridges is giving her a chance to shine, and her life can only get better from here! Perhaps the best news of all is that she still has another 2 years to learn and grow!
Look for more student profiles later this week!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Week 2-Pictures!

Here are pictures from week 2!

Look for student profiles this week!