Chris Wieland, Khaliah Kelly

Campus isn’t completely new to first-year students Chris Wieland and Khaliah Kelly, both of whom participated in UMSL’s precollegiate Bridge Program as high school students. (Photos by August Jennewein)

For Chris Wieland, the biggest struggle was writing assignments. For Khaliah Kelly, it was time management.

The two University of Missouri–St. Louis freshmen spent many a Saturday morning on the UMSL campus when they were still in high school, sharpening their skills in certain subjects and reviewing material in others.

They were making the most of UMSL’s Bridge Program, which provides precollegiate services to hundreds of St. Louis youth and their parents each year to help them successfully prepare for college. In the meantime, Wieland and Kelly got acquainted with the university – a place they decided to return to as undergraduates this fall along with 15 other Bridge participants.

Khaliah Kelly

Khaliah Kelly

“My mom always had me involved with outside-of-school, still-school-related activities,” said Kelly, a graduate of McKinley High School and now a biology major. “[Bridge] was a great way to network and grow academically. And you get to know the campus.”

Kelly decided to attend UMSL as a college student after first intending to go out of state and then having second thoughts.

“UMSL was the best bet,” said Kelly, who plans to become a pharmacist. “It’s really close to home, and at the end of the summer I realized I didn’t want to leave.”

Commuting to campus from Black Jack, Mo., she’s become a member of the UMSL Cheerleaders, attending practices bright and early and often enjoying breakfast with fellow cheerleaders before the day’s classes begin.

Wieland stumbled across Bridge online while researching college scholarships and took advantage of the program during his senior year at Francis Howell Central High School, where he also earned college credits through the Advanced Credit Program. He wanted to go into engineering, and as he looked at educational options in the region and got more familiar with campus through Bridge, UMSL began to make the most sense.

Chris Wieland

Chris Wieland

“At UMSL I just had more opportunity to pay for college by myself, which was important,” Wieland said. Now enrolled in the Pierre Laclede Honors College and focusing on mechanical engineering, he is also enjoying the independence and camaraderie of living on campus.

“I didn’t really know anybody here, and then as soon as I moved in I got to meet my roommates who are awesome guys,” said Wieland, who hopes to one day land a job at Boeing. “From that first day I just felt so welcome.”

Both Wieland and Kelly acknowledged the impact of Bridge scholarship opportunities on their decision to attend UMSL and also spoke highly of the precollegiate program’s instructors and content. Natissia Small, assistant dean of students and the director of Bridge, noted that the program drew a record 900 applicants this fall and has maintained a 100-percent college attendance rate among participants.

“Accountability is a huge component for participants and an important commitment for us as an institution to ensure access and earlier awareness,” said Small, whose staff welcomed another 610 high-school students into this year’s Saturday Academy along with their families at a kickoff event Sept. 27. “They are immersed in math, science, intensive writing, personal and professional development, and college planning – all aimed at preparing students for college and lifelong success.”

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.