Photo by: Will Gentry
In order to assist students with their transition to college, AT&T Oklahoma awarded a $15,000 grant specifically to fund Oklahoma Christian University’s Bridge Program on Jan. 29.
The transition from high school to college comes naturally to some students; however, the challenge of juggling independence, time and academics can be a frustrating and stressful period for first-time college students.
The Bridge Program began in 2006 with a total of 13 students and has grown to over 100 students today.
Senior Karissa Wheeler started out in the bridge program as a student and is now working as a mentor in this student-based program.
“The Bridge Program is for students with a low ACT score but have come to college anyways,” Wheeler said. “The goal of the Bridge Program is to help students to get comfortable in college and to provide mentoring and tutoring to help them make it in college. A lot of our students have been told there is not a point to come to college, but they come anyway.”
Jo Griffin works with fundraising for the Bridge Program.
“This is the second time that AT&T has funded us for this program,” Griffin said. “They were really interested in a program that helped retention. When I first visited, I told them how the Bridge Program helps to ready students who maybe aren’t quite ready for that transition from high school to university life and they really liked that idea.”
Griffin has developed a good relationship with AT&T over the years.
“I was visiting them about funding another project, and that’s when they said their interest is really in working with students who are trying to get ready for college, and I thought the Bridge Program sounded like a good fit for them,” Griffin said.
The program is free for students who come into college with a low ACT score or they can opt in the program for a one-time fee.
“What the grant is primarily for is for paying our mentors so that we can afford to pay them,” Bridge Program assistant Lannea Pemberton said. “It’s not going to change anything, but it is going to help the program to continue. We are hoping that we can keep getting it from AT&T because without the mentors the Bridge Program wouldn’t exist.”
Student mentors work one-on-one with the students enrolled in the program with schoolwork in all subjects. There are currently 17 mentors that work in the Bridge Program and five of them are graduating this spring.
“The mentors work each week with the students enrolled in the program and help them with any homework they have,” Pemberton said. “They also work in the intermediate algebra and college algebra classes that are on the ALEKS programs. They are in there to answer questions and help the professors, so that there is more help for all the students.”
Pemberton enjoys seeing the students and mentors develop relationships with one another outside of academia.
“It’s really cool because a lot of our students and mentors have really good relationships, and they get to know each other,” Pemberton said. “They’re friends after the students are out of the program or after the mentor graduates.”
Pemberton speaks of the process of applying for the grant.
“Jo Griffin found out about the grant two years ago,” Pemberton said. “She went through the process of gathering the information and figuring out what exactly we would use the money for. We looked at our budget and came up with a grant request proposal together.”
AT&T makes sure the grant goes to a program that fits their criteria.
“One of the things that they look at is if the program has a diverse student body in the program,” Pemberton said. “They try to do a program that will really benefit all types of students.”
Donors and grants fund the Bridge Program and make it possible to continue helping students.
“Basically we operate because there are donors who believe in us and our vision,” Wheeler said. “If it wasn’t for donors and businesses like AT&T then we wouldn’t be around, and Oklahoma Christian wouldn’t have a way to reach these students on campus that need this help.”
Sophomore Sarah Radell is in her last semester of enrollment in the Bridge Program.
“They just helped me so much with transitioning,” Radell said. “In high school I had a really good GPA, but I did horrible on the ACT. I’m thankful that Oklahoma Christian will still take our low ACT scores and will help us out through the Bridge Program.”