Monday, November 02, 2009

Bridges Family Weekend

This past Saturday, October 31st, the Lambda class was honored during halftime at the Furman vs Appalachian State football game. The Lambdas, pictured below, graduated from the Bridges program this past summer. Dr. David Shi, president of Furman University, and Dr. Gary Clark, Director of Athletics, congratulated the students as they stood on the field and were applauded by all of the football fans.

Saturday was Bridges' first annual Family Weekend. The day was sponsored by Furman University Athletics department and by Michelin. Bridges held a tailgating tent outside of the soccer stadium from 10am until kick-off at noon. The students were encouraged to bring their family and to stay for the football game to watch their peers receive such a tremendous honor.

Although the day was dreary, with on and off rain throughout the tailgating and game, approximately 140 students and family attended. Brunch was catered by Sticky Fingers and was delicious.

Thanks to all supporters and fans of Bridges to a Brighter Future, the program is able to touch so many lives because of your kindness. Many thanks to Herb Johnson, Director of Community to Relations at Michelin. This event allowed students the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and to receive the satisfaction they deserve!

Friday, June 26, 2009

What, Two Weeks Over Already???

As you know, we are now halfway through the 12th Bridges to a Brighter Future summer program! It has been an exceptional two weeks, with lots of exciting things happening in every aspect of the program.

In the classroom, the students have learned about everything from how dancing relates to math, debating hot topics without speaking, learning about natural disasters, and writing in fun and engaging ways.

We've already been on two field trips. Wednesday, the older students got the opportunity to tour USC. Afterwards, the girls went to Columbia College while the guys toured the football and baseball stadiums at USC. The Nus visited St. Francis and United Way, and were treated to Spill the Beans after Larkins!

Highlights of the program during the last two weeks include the kickball tournament, pool party at the President's House, Career Night, and Bowling.

We can't wait for the students to return Sunday! Many more exciting things are planned; another field trip, the Fourth of July celebration, and the end of the year trip, which is still a surprise! Hope everyone catches up on sleep :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

What a Weekend!

The first weekend at Bridges was a blast! The weekend began Friday night with the kickball tournament, which was really fun, really hot, and extremely humid. Later, the students had movie night in Burgess Theatre, where they watched Transformers and had the "real feel" of a live movie theater, with popcorn, soda, candy, etc.

On Saturday, everyone got up early, had breakfast on the hall, and divided up for the different activities planned. The Lambdas and Mus split up into four different groups, and left campus to complete community service. This year, the organizations that Bridges students volunteered for were: Safe Harbor, Diligent Hands Gracious Hearts, North Greenville Food Ministry, and Stephen's House. The students spent a good portion of the day giving their time in order to help others.

The Nus, though, stayed on campus and went through the Furman Ropes Course--which every first year class goes through. The day began with icebreakers and teambuilding activities. After lunch, the students began the high ropes course. Their were three different options for the students, and most completed all three. The most appealing, the tight rope shuffle, was quick and fairly simple. The most nerve racking, the paper pole, had everyone holding their breaths. The students worked together well and cheered each other on in order to show their support. Each learned something new about himself/herself.

Saturday night was bowling at the Wade Hampton alley. Everyone had lots of fun and many strikes and spares were made. Saturday was a very eventful and enjoyable day!

On Sunday, the students were given the chance to sleep in a little before parent visitations began. Most students left campus with their families to eat out and pick up essentials for the next three weeks. After the students returned, everyone shuttled over to the President's House, for the annual pool party. The day ended in the parlors with a game/movie night.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

This past Wednesday was field-trip day! The two older classes, Lambdas and Mus, split up for their first college tour, with half visiting the Greenville Technical College campus and the rest staying at Furman, touring the dorms and buildings and getting insight from faculty and staff. The students met for lunch and then headed off to Anderson University.

The Nus, on the other hand, spent the day in downtown Greenville, learning the history and completing a scavenger hunt. Mr. Grills, art teacher in the program, lead a tour at the Upcountry History museum. Also, the Nus toured the Greenville Drive stadium and were able to walk on the field. The students really enjoyed the day, a big favorite being lunch at Mellow Mushroom.

All of the kids arrived back on campus in time for dinner. They then had a little relaxation time before Evening Activities. Another long and exciting day down, many more to go!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Off to a Great Start!

The Bridges students checked-in Saturday, with the two older classes (Lambdas and Mus) arriving between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., and the Nu class all getting moved in exceptionally early and on time!

The Lambdas and Mus left before meeting the new students; they headed off to the Leadership retreat at the YMCA Camp Greenville location near the North Carolina border. The students hiked their way to camping grounds and went through many icebreakers and team building routines--a Bridges tradition.

As the older classes were heading off, the Nus started pouring in, and were enthusiastic about the four weeks ahead of them. The Nus had a while to get settled in before they headed off to their own set of icebreakers and team building routines with Justin Boudreau, an acclaimed author and motivational speaker.

Upon the return of the Lambdas and Mus Sunday evening, they joined the Nus, spending Monday with Mr. Boudreau. Now you may think that 3 days with one person can be a little dry, but not with this guy. Each student really enjoyed the different activities that Mr. Boudreau planned for the program.

After a day inside with Justin Boudreau, the classes went out to E-field for a few more icebreakers to get to know one another. The event ended with a massive square dancing routine that the Lambdas and Mus learned on their retreat and taught to everyone else.

Tuesday was the first day of classes. The students spent 50 minutes in each class: Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, and English. This year, the Bridges program welcomes a couple of new teachers: Ms. Jada Kidd and Cara Mathis (English), and Mr. Bobby Black (Social Studies).
After classes, the students attend electives of their choice, which include Pottery, Men of Honor, Ladies of Distinction, Forensics, Theater, Documentary Film Making, and Music and Video Production.
In the evenings, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the students continue with activities of their choice, participating in several different electives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bridges 2009

The Bridges to a Brighter Future 2009 summer program began just a few days ago for the students, but Bridges staff and counselors have been on campus a little longer...

On Sunday, June 7th, the counselors checked in, excited to meet the newbies and eager to find out what was in store with training and meeting new students. Needless to say, little sleep was gotten (if any at all) during that first night. But hey, they were just preparing their bodies for the next few weeks of late nights and early mornings.

Counselor training started at 5 o'clock Monday morning, with everyone loading up and heading out to Charleston for sea kayaking. The counselors were gone for a day and a half, and when they returned each had enough bug bites to play connect the dots (at least 3 games worth)...guess the Off! didn't affect the bugs this year.

Training continued throughout the week with CPR certification, conflict resolution, etc., etc., etc. With check-in getting closer and closer, the counselors and Mrs. Swartz were getting more and more eager to see the students, and rushing to get the last minute details done. The residence halls were coming together amazingly, with each based on a different television station--From ESPN to GSN, and then Discovery Channel to time for commercial breaks in between.

With just a few hours left before the students arrived, everyone decided to get at least a few minutes of sleep for the weeks ahead.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bridges Receives National and Local Awards

On Thursday, April 16, Bridges to a Brighter Future was awarded the Summer Excellence Award by Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning! This highly competitive national award recognizes outstanding summer programs that demonstrate excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting positive development for young people. The Excellence in Summer Learning Award seeks to find and draw national attention to exemplary programs which provide and expand access to high-quality summer learning experiences for all young people. Eighty programs across the country applied for the prestigious award.
“Bridges to a Brighter Future stands out as an exemplary summer learning program, especially for teenagers,” says Ron Fairchild, executive director of the National Center for Summer Learning. “The program builds academic success, self-confidence, leadership, resiliency and life skills. It tries to meet individual student needs and creates a culture of high expectations. This program is a perfect example of the kind of educational innovation that closes the achievement gap.”

Click here to read the special winner's bulletin.

Pictured are Bridges director, Tobi Swartz, and Bridges graduate, Casey Crisp holding the Summer Excellence Award at the National Summer Learning Conference in Chicago, Illinois.


At the Diversity Leadership Awards Dinner held on Tuesday, May 5, Bridges to a Brighter Future was awarded for their outstanding achievement in promoting diversity in the Upstate. The program received the Diversity Leadership Award as an Outstanding Non-Profit organization. Bridges works very hard to develop diversity understanding within the students and promote diversity within the program. Bridges creates young diversity leaders who influence their peers and change the world! Click on links for articles about the award:

Greenville News

GSA Business

Pictured from left to right: Harvey Choplin (Summer Academic Coordinator), Linda Cook (Program Assistant), Chris Cunningham (Student), Tobi Swartz (Director), Karina Rodriguez (Student), Jarrod Hall (Student), Bashia Gandy (Student), and Aleen Sepulveda (Student).

The Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards are presented by The Riley Institute at Furman University.


Friends, supporters, and partners united together to nominate Bridges to a Brighter Future for the Giving Back Award, sponsored by G-The Magazine of Greenville and The Community Foundation of Greenville! Of all of the non-profits and individuals nominated, G received the largest number of nominations for Bridges to a Brighter Future! Therefore, on April 23, Bridges was awarded the Reader's Choice Award at the Giving Back Awards Gala.

Thank you to all of our wonderful friends, supporters, and partners for nominating us for this award! We are so thankful for you!

Pictured at the Giving Back Awards Gala from left to right: Dr. Brad Bechtold (Director of Continuing Education), Tobi Swartz (Bridges Director), Bobby Black (Bridges Teacher), and Linda Cook (Program Assistant)

See a clip of the special award presentation to Bridges to a Brighter Future:

Friday, April 17, 2009

For My Students...

I will miss seeing you today! Here is a video to bring Chicago to you. The video from the award is not that great-I should not have given Eli the camera (smile)!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reader's Choice Award!

Thanks to our many supporters who wrote letters to G-The Magazine of Greenville, Bridges to a Brighter Future received the Reader's Choice Award! We are featured in the March/April Issue of the Growing by Giving Annual Guide to Charitable Events insert. Bridges will be recognized at the Giving Back Awards on April 23. Thank you supporters and G Magazine! Thank you also to our staff and students who work hard to have a phenomenal, life-changing program!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thank you Michelin!!!

Michelin North America sponsored a very special event for Bridges to a Brighter Future on Saturday, February 14, 2009. Michelin purchased 100 tickets and provided pizza for Bridges students and families to attend the Furman v. Davidson Basketball game. Our students and families were very excited to attend this event together, as well as celebrate 10 graduating classes of Bridges to a Brighter Future. This event followed our monthly Saturday College program.

Bridges to a Brighter Future received special recognition at halftime. On the court to celebrate this recognition was Mr. Herb Johnson of Michelin North America, Dr. David Shi, President of Furman University, Dr. Gary Clark, Furman Athletic Director, Tobi Swartz, Director of Bridges to a Brighter Future, and nine Bridges graduates who are now enrolled at or have graduated from Furman University, Rosa Rivera, Dean Bailey, Victor Orozco, Cierra Riddle, Casey Crisp, Jorge Jimenez, Giovanna Gomez, Bree Alexander, and Sebastian Barbosa.
Here is a picture of Mr. Herb Johnson with the students:
The announcement made at halftime was:

Today Furman University is celebrating 10 years of graduates from the Bridges to a Brighter Future program. Bridges is a college-access program for high school students in Greenville County whose potential outdistances their circumstances.

Bridges began in 1997 and the first class graduated from the program in 1999. To date, 174 students have graduated from Bridges to a Brighter Future. 100% of those students graduated from high school and over 92% enrolled in colleges and universities in the State of South Carolina and beyond.

On court today to celebrate the life-changing impact of this program are: Dr. David Shi, President of Furman University, Furman Athletics Director Doctor Gary Clark, Herb Johnson of Michelin North America and Tobi Swartz, Director of Bridges to a Brighter Future. Joining them on-court are the Bridges graduates who are now enrolled at or have graduated from Furman University. Please welcome:

Rosa Rivera
Dean Bailey
Victor Orozco
Cierra Riddle
Casey Crisp
Jorge Jimenez
Giovanna Gomez
Bree Alexander
Sebastian Barbosa

Michelin North America is committed to education and particularly increasing the educational attainment of students in Greenville County. Michelin North America is proud to support this life-changing program and the program graduates who are making their dreams come true through higher education. Many of those graduates are attending today’s game as guests of Michelin North America and the Furman Paladins. Let’s give them all a big Furman round of applause for a job well done.

THANK YOU MICHELIN! This was a wonderful event for our families and we appreciate your generosity! Here are a few pictures of our families enjoying the game:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lakeshia Ellis Recieves MLK Scholarship

Bridges Student, Lakeshia Ellis was awarded the Coretta Scott King Scholarship at the MLK Dream Weekend Diversity Banquet on Friday, January 16. She will use this $2,000 scholarship at USC Upstate this Fall 2009.

We are very proud of Lakeshia. She is a survivor! She endured great challenges as a young child to succeed as a young adult. She attends Carolina Academy where she is enrolled in dual credit college classes, is on Student Government, and maintains a part-time job. She is in the top ten of her class and is determined to succeed! Congratulations Keshia!

Pictured with her mom, Barbara Ellis:

Video of the award presentation:

Monday, January 05, 2009

Tymeco Gregory: A Leader on the Field and In the Classroom

Bridges student, Tymeco Gregory was one of five offensive lineman selected for the 2008 Associated Press South Carolina All-State High School Football Team. Ty is a Senior at Greer High School and graduated from Bridges in Summer 2008. He was an amazing Bridges student! Ty was on the Bridges Leadership Team and was selected as one of the Co-Valedictorians of Bridges.

The Greenville News published an article on December 23, 2008 about Ty's selection for the All-State Team. Here is an excerpt from the article written by Bob Castello:

Gregory, who played in the North-South all-star game, helped the Yellow Jackets to more than 400 yards rushing per game. Greer coach Will Young called Gregory "one of the finest offensive lineman I've had the pleasure to coach." "He's not only a good football player, but he's a good person and a good student," Young said. "He's probably one of the best all-around kids we've got in the school. If you asked any of our players who our leader was, they'd tell you it's Tymeco Gregory."

We agree! As a student in Bridges to a Brighter Future, Ty carried himself with integrity, superior maturity, and character. He was held in very high regard by the faculty and counselors. Ty was also highly regarded by his Bridges peers. As a result, they selected him for participation on the Bridges leadership team. I worked closely with the leadership team throughout the summer. My respect for Ty grew daily as I witnessed him single-handily manage very difficult situations with maturity and sensibility. For example, the other males on his hall had gotten a little out of hand one night and did not respect the counselors’ directions and discipline procedures. The next night, Ty held a student-only meeting where he requested his fellow hall mates to respect the counselors, follow the rules, and make good decisions. It is very difficult to stand in front of your peers and tell them what to do, especially when you are telling them to “be good.” Ty is exceptional! We can't wait to see how he uses his leadership skills in college and beyond.