Tobi Williams, a senior psychology major at UMSL

Tobi Williams will graduate from UMSL on May 18 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A 2009 graduate of the highly successful Bridge Program for high school students, Williams credits Bridge and UMSL for pointing her in the direction of a successful career. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When her mother proposed a program that included Saturday morning classes, Tobi Williams reacted like many high school sophomores.

“I said I was 100 percent against the idea,” said Williams, now 22, and about to graduate from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “But the UMSL Bridge Program ended up being a really great experience for me in so many ways.”

Located at UMSL, the Bridge Program offers a Saturday Academy for ninth through 12th graders designed to build strong academic proficiency in math, science, writing and other areas critical for the successful transition to college. Founded 27 years ago, 100 percent of Bridge students are admitted to college.

“I was attending a private high school for girls and the curriculum was college prep,” Williams said. “But Bridge helped me learn what college was really going to be like. I learned about time management and how to get things done.”

Williams also learned a lot about herself.

“I had always gone to private, predominantly white schools,” she said. “I was one of the only African American kids for a long time. Bridge, which serves predominantly African American students, gave me a different perspective.”

What she discovered at Bridge were classes filled with good students, who were hard working and successful, just like her.

When she graduated from high school, Williams headed off to the University of Missouri–Columbia. But after two years, she returned to St. Louis. She enrolled right away at UMSL.

“I loved the smaller classes, and my grades improved,” she said. “My mother graduated from here, has earned several degrees and now is a school principal”

In a program known for its standouts, Williams will do exceptionally well in life, according to those who have worked with her.

“Self-motivation, accountability and commitment are key factors placed upon students that participate in Bridge,” said Natissia Small, assistant dean of students and head of precollegiate programs. “Tobi is a wonderful example of a student who met the program’s expectations. I am certain that she will obtain her master’s degree and overall achieve lifelong success.”

Williams will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology on May 18, right on time.

“I’m very proud of myself for doing it in four years,” she said.

She plans on going to graduate school, hopefully in California. She’s going to take this next year to perhaps work for Teach for America. She has her goals set. She’s looking at marriage and family counseling or sports psychology as possible professions.

“I’m really close to my family, and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from them with other people,” she said.

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel