Graduates of the University of the Virgin Islands Summer Bridge program were honored Wednesday night at joint teleconferenced events held at the school’s St. Croix and St. Thomas campuses.
The Bridge program is a five-week intensive course for at-risk students transitioning from high school to college. The goal of the program is help students avoid having to take remedial courses their freshman year.
“In essence it will save them an entire year and a couple thousand dollars [of tuition] just by taking this program and completing it successfully,” said Becky Kelleman, one of the program’s teachers.
Students focus on improving their reading, writing and math skills. This year they also took a speech and film analysis course and a “college success” class, which taught them academic survival skills such as the proper way to take notes.
The federally funded program is open to all Virgin Islands students, whether they plan to attend UVI or leave the territory for their education. The course is offered free of charge.
Just more than 100 students took advantage of the program this summer, 56 on St. Thomas and 52 on St. Croix.
Kelleman said that students’ proficiencies varied greatly at the start of the course, but all saw improvement.
“Many of them have either eliminated a semester or an entire year of remedial classes, which is a phenomenal result,” she said.
At the beginning of the ceremony, UVI President Dr. David Hall told the students that the work they did this summer was an important investment in their lives. He said that it was not enough just to go to college; students must excel in their studies to make the most of the opportunity.
Hall said he hoped the program would provide them with a “roadmap for success.”
“We want each one of you to be successful,” he said. “Because when you are successful, then the entire territory is successful.”
Shari E. Wiltshire, the program’s St. Croix campus coordinator, told the students that it was not just what they learned this summer that would help them, but also the bonds they made with each other.
“These 50 students sitting before us are going to be each other’s reminder that they have committed themselves to higher education,” she said. “They will see each other through it, just like they saw each other through the Bridge program.”