Bridges to a Brighter Future is celebrating its 25th year and welcoming its 25th class of students when it kicks off a four-week residential program in June. The nonprofit organization provides Greenville County high school students with the support and guidance needed to overcome barriers, graduate from high school, and pursue their college dreams.
In 1997, Greenville native Mamie Jolley Bruce had a vision to create a program to help underserved students at three Greenville County high schools. In the summer of 1997, 21 students from Greenville High, Carolina High, and Southside High attended the first four-week summer academic enrichment program at Furman University. Since this first class, known as the Alpha class, Bridges has expanded to a year-round program and has served more than 500 students.
In 2000, Bridges expanded to include all 14 Greenville County high schools and four charter schools in its residential summer program. In 2005, it added a Saturday College program, which provides year-round tutoring and academic support for its students. Through an anonymous gift in 2010, Bridges introduced the Crossing the Bridge program, which offers one-on-one support for students as they enter college to ensure a smooth transition and retention.
“Bridges continues to strengthen the support it provides students to ensure their post-secondary success,” says Jolley Bruce Christman, Ms. Bruce’s daughter and current chairperson of the Bridges Advisory Council. “Mom would be so proud to see the many accomplishments of Bridges students and the impact the program has had on their lives and the Greenville community.”
While much has changed in the past 25 years, as Greenville continues to grow, so does the population and the number of students facing poverty and personal challenges negatively impacting their academic success. Poverty, homelessness, instability, and other difficulties at home are stressors that are linked to high dropout rates among high schoolers. Designed to help students gain confidence and discover their strengths, Bridges enables its students to overcome their adverse conditions in order to excel in school and stay on the path to college, career, and financial stability, thus breaking the cycle of poverty for future generations.
To commemorate the 25th year milestone, Bridges is kicking off a fundraising campaign to raise $25,000 and inviting its alumni to share stories of how the program impacted their lives – then and now. The 25th anniversary stories will appear on Bridges’ website and its social media sites (bridgestoabrighterfuture.org and facebook.com/BridgestoaBrighterFuture).
“We love to share stories from our students because they are a true testament to the life-long impact of the Bridges program,” Silver said. “There are so many of our alumni who have returned to Greenville following college and pursued careers that allow them to give back and serve the community. Because of these alumni, we can say that supporting Bridges is truly supporting Greenville.”
Just a few examples of those alumni include Nalisha Henry, graduate of Greenville High School and Furman University, who currently works as the Director of Community and Partner Relations at the United Way of Greenville County and serves on the Bridges Advisory Council. Erik Ortiz, graduate of Carolina High School and Furman University, serves his community as a researcher at Prisma Health. Erik was active in college both as a Bridges counselor and president of Furman’s Hispanic student organization. Desiree LaFreniere, graduate of Travelers Rest High School and Winthrop College, teaches government and economics at Carolina High School. She dedicates time volunteering for Bridges in order to pay it forward for students like her.
“Bridges highlighted the incredible power that an education could make in disrupting my own generational cycle of poverty,” LaFreniere said. “I chose teaching so that I could be an active participant in the lives of students who are underserved like I was.”
Bridges to a Brighter Future at Furman University is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations from the community to support student needs, underwrite program expenses, and provide scholarship funds. Contact Carrie Silver at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about partnership and giving opportunities. For more information about Bridges, its programs and success rates, please visit www.bridgestoabrighterfuture.org.
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About Bridges to a Brighter Future:
Bridges to a Brighter Future is a nonprofit, college access program established in 1997 to transform the lives of Greenville County students whose potential outdistances their circumstances. Through a comprehensive program focused on underserved students with college aspirations, Bridges provides educational access, builds self-confidence, strengthens leadership skills, and opens the door to other opportunities to help students break the cycle of poverty through post-secondary education. For more information about Bridges, visit www.bridgestoabrighterfuture.org.
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