For these teens, success is spelled B-R-I-D-G-E

Mark McDaniel gets a big hug from his mother, Yvonne McDaniel, at the March 10 closing ceremony honoring more than 500 students who completed Saturday Academy classes at UMSL's Bridge program. His mother also completed the special Saturday Academy for parents that focuses on how they too can prepare for the college enrollment process. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When she was a sophomore in high school, Seria Fields described herself as “a very timid individual.” Now a high school senior, she recently walked up to a podium at America’s Center in St. Louis and addressed nearly 2,000 people like a pro.

“I credit the Bridge program for giving me the confidence and leadership skills I needed to do that,” she said. “When I was invited to speak, I knew right away my answer would be yes.”

The Bridge program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis held its closing ceremony March 10 for this year’s Saturday Academy class. More than 570 students from high schools throughout the St. Louis region attended this year’s Saturday Academy. Two Saturdays a month, from October to March, students are immersed in classes in math, science, written and oral communication, personal and professional development and college planning.

Many students enroll in the program as high school freshmen. What they gain from those years seems to have both short-and long-term results. Bolstered by a dedicated group of teachers and supported by their parents who also attend the Saturday morning classes, Bridge students excel. And they’ve been doing it for 26 years.

“The success of the Bridge program is founded on a dedicated team of individuals who demonstrate a genuine concern and passion for those we serve in the community,” said Natissia Small, assistant dean of students and director of the Bridge program. “This type of commitment must be displayed when parents entrust you in guiding their student’s future.”

Small said the Bridge program has a 100 percent matriculation rate to college for its students who represent more than 90 public and private schools throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

“We are appreciative that the St. Louis community continues to find value in the program,” she said. “It is our mission to ensure that all students served are primed to overcome barriers that could impede college access – the true mission of the UMSL Bridge program.”

Fields will graduate from Riverview Gardens High School May 23 and transition to college. Like so many of her Bridge friends, she has an impressive record to work with. She’s in the National Honor Society, is an officer of the student council, a student ambassador and sits on the superintendent’s junior advisory panel. She is the valedictorian of her class.

“I want to be a civil engineer, specifically construction management, so I’ll be building roads and canals,” Fields said. “I’ve been accepted at Mizzou and I’m very excited.” She’s already earned 15 college credits through a dual enrollment program with St. Louis Community College and hopes to earn a few more this summer.

Graduating senior Mark McDaniel is just as focused. He’s senior class president at Imagine College Preparatory High School and is headed for Howard University in Washington, D.C. in the fall, where he will major in political science. He plans on attending law school and from there going into corporate law.

“Bridge was an academically enriching program that complemented what I was learning in high school,” McDaniel said. “I loved the fact that it helps parents adapt to the college process. It helps them help you.”

McDaniel said he hasn’t spent a lot of time away from home, but is very excited about going to school in the nation’s capital.

“I hope to make connections, meet a lot of different people who can help me advance on my path to a good career,” he said.


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