Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Crossing the Bridge-Dreams Become Reality

The past week has been one of dreams becoming reality. Many of the Bridges students have already received Admission to college. That in and of itself is awesome! However, the Furman family has literally changed two Bridges students' lives by offering admission and one Hollingsworth Scholarship!

Jonathan Riascos-Montoya was awarded the Hollingsworth Scholarship this morning by Jeny Bishop. Jonathan attends Wade Hampton High School. He and his mother are from Colombia. His mom has endured unbelievable things to take care of Jonathan, providing a loving and nurturing environment. She continues to work 12-hour days on the night shift to provide for him. He was awarded a $42,000 financial aid package. His mom said, "This is more than I could make in two years."

After overcoming shock, Jórge Jiménez, a student at Blue Ridge High School cried for 15 minutes after finding out he had been admitted to Furman. Jórge, is one of eight family members. He works 40 hours a week to support his family (literally). He too, has endured unbelievable circumstances to achieve.

I know that Furman is going to be a perfect place for these two young men to grow and develop. Since their first year in Bridges to a Brighter Future, they talked about coming to Furman. This is a dream come true, not only for them, but for their families.

These were the moving words of program director Tobi Swartz. Stay tuned for more good news!

About those scarves, part 2...

So the scarves from last week have finally found a home! Last Friday we took them to the Miracle Hill headquarters on Wade Hampton Blvd, and they will go out to women and children throughout the upstate! Have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

About those scarves...

Remember the post about Saturday College? Remember those scarves? Well, here a few pictures of the students making them! Tomorrow they will reach their home at Miracle Hill Ministries near downtown Greenville. Miracle Hill sponsors shelters for men, women and children in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, and we are proud to send our students' work to them. More on the delivery as it happens.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A full year of Bridges, part 1

In order to get you closer to the inner workings of a year in the life of the Bridges program, we're going to start at the beginning. Last week the annual educator breakfast was held at Furman University, where guidance counselors and principles from the School District of Greenville County meet to hear from Mrs. Swartz about Bridges. In addition, they were given the nomination forms for the Lambda class! Each year around 80 students are given the chance to apply for Bridges. They are selected by members of the community, guidance counselors and teachers, and students currently enrolled in the program. In the end, only 23-25 will be selected, but right now it's wide open! More on the application and interview process soon.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Counselor Profile-Joel!

A few weeks ago, we asked Joel Leagans, Furman Senior, Counselor and all around nice guy a few questions regarding his experiences with Bridges to a Brighter Future and Furman in general. What follows are his (very candid!) answers:

1. How has Bridges shaped your experiences at Furman? Has it changed your goals or career aspirations? Bridges has been the highlight of my entire Furman experience. I honestly do not know where I would be in life right now if I hadn’t gotten into Bridges. Working at a lumber mill or attending law school are definite, miserable, possibilities. This program made me realize how much I love working with students, and people in general, and that going into education was truly my calling. I switched from pre-law to education because of this program and I have a gut feeling that I am going to be much happier in my life because of it. That moment when you realize what you want to do for the rest of your life is a great feeling that I hope each and every one of you gets to experience. Getting good grades and attending college all open the doors to different possibilities and opportunities that can put you in places you never thought possible. That is what Bridges is all about.

2. Since you've been a counselor for 2 summers, how has your experience changed from year to year?
I was not as "on the ball" the [first] summer as I wished I could have been. Coming into the summer I really didn’t know what to expect or how to handle a lot of the situations I would be faced with. Training was good but nothing can replace experience. My first summer was much more challenging and I don’t believe I stepped up to the plate like I should have. I wasn’t as involved in the day to day activities of the students and just not their for them like I would later wish I had been.
This summer was amazing and probably perfect. The fact that nobody went home almost speaks for itself. Every single one of the counselors contributed something to the overall success of the program and worked as a cohesive unit for the whole month. I personally felt like I put all of myself into the summer as I could as well. I am extremely proud of everything that the students and counselors accomplished and hope that this will serve as a good foundation for the future of the program.

3. What's your favorite thing about Bridges? The most challenging?
my favorite thing would have to be the last night when everybody mends bridges, lets it all out and says goodbye. The last night is when everything really comes together and we recognize what the students have accomplished.
The most challenging thing was my first summer figuring out how to balance discipline with being a friend. I didn’t realize that I could discipline relentlessly and still be the students friends until my second year so that first summer I probably chose to be a friend before being the person in charge which was a hindrance at times.

We'll hear more from Joel in 2007. More to come!

Finished in 2006

Last Saturday marked the last Saturday College of 2006, and so far it has been a resounding success! Well over half of the Bridges students have made it to every Saturday College, and the tutoring and team building workshops have helped them stay focused and excited for next year's Bridges experience. In addition, the group got the chance to make scarves as a community service project. These scarves are headed into the Greenville community, and we'll keep you posted on their final destination. Stay tuned!