The Bridge Partnership, a 13-day summer academic program at BSU for New Bedford's Roosevelt Middle School students, is underway. Through the end of July, a total of 150 students attending in two separate sessions will live in a university residence hall, take day and evening courses with BSU faculty and staff, and tour educational, cultural and historic sites in Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.
"You are embarking today on an educational experience that is like no other in the nation," said BSU President [b]Dana Mohler-Faria[/b], as he welcomed the students and their parents at a dinner on the first day of the program.
President Mohler-Faria told the students BSU worked closely with Roosevelt Principal Darcy Fernandes to design a learning program that includes a host of exciting educational opportunities. "You will meet a group of very talented instructors, engage in first-rate academic exercises, and have access to the latest learning resources," he said. "You've chosen to spend a good part of your summer vacation to be part of this experience and you will not be disappointed."
Coordinating the partnership is [b]Mark Conrad[/b], assistant to the vice president of external affairs at BSU, who is also a visiting lecturer at Boston University. "Our overall focus is to reduce the dropout rate for students at the Roosevelt Middle School, which serves an inner-city clientele of young people who come from a disadvantaged background and for whom, for many of them, English is a second language," he said.
Prior to joining the BSU staff last year, Mr. Conrad had worked with the National Urban League on programs to help children from low-income families struggling in school.
Mr. Conrad said the program has its origins a year ago in a conversation between President Mohler-Faria and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang. "The school system in New Bedford is experiencing significant problems. Dr. Mohler-Faria approached the mayor because he wanted to use the resources and talents of the university to be of help," he said.
Thus, the program was conceived. BSU chose to work with Ms. Fernandes on the program because the university had such good experiences coordinating activities with her in the past, said Mr. Conrad. "We knew how innovative and progressive she was as a school administrator," he said. "We had a conversation with her and she was enthusiastic about the possibilities of a partnership."
Although labeled a "summer" program, the academic support does not end when summer is over.
"In the fall, we'll be mentoring the students when they return to school, and our intent is to continue our support them in the years immediately ahead," said Mr. Conrad. "We'll be working closely with the mayor of New Bedford and the school principal to maintain a presence in their academic studies. This will be done on a weekly basis."
Next summer, the students will return to BSU for another summer session. "We're looking closely at expanding this program to include children from schools in other nearby cities," said Mr. Conrad. "This is only the beginning." (David K. Wilson, '71, Office of University Advancement)