By: Jake Crouse, Copy Editor
Freshmen Mutaz Sarhan and Fabby Gonzalez dreamed of attending a school like Furman all their lives. Thanks to Bridges to a Brighter Future, their dreams have become their realities.
For many students, the prospect of attending college is determined by university price tags. Financial aid often makes or breaks the opportunity for a student from a low- to middle-class family to attend college. However, many lower class and first generation college students also face personal, social, and cultural barriers to college enrollment and these are the harder ones to break.
The Bridges to a Brighter Future program has been helping high school students in Greenville County overcome these obstacles by providing mentors and leadership education sessions since 1997. The organization has grown from a four-week summer program for three high schools in Greenville County into a comprehensive tutoring and transition program that guides students all the way from ninth grade until their college graduation.
Furman has partnered with Bridges to a Brighter Future since its Alpha class began in 1997. By providing its campus for the three summer programs the students attend during high school, Saturday College sessions, and other advising meetings, Furman has become a leading group in the success of the Bridges to a Brighter Future program. Furman’s Riley Institute also helps connect Bridges students to professionals in the upstate during the Crossing the Bridge, a program in which provides support for students during their college years to encourage successful retention and graduation.
Where Bridges students end up is varied and wide, but this year, two returned to Furman.
Sarhan felt that he was very smart in school, but lacked the self-confidence and social skills that are necessary for an enriching college experience.
“When I started Bridges, I realized that you really can’t succeed in life with such qualities, so my friends from Bridges tried to help me get out of my shell,” Sarhan said.
For Gonzalez, college was something for which she hoped but did not have high expectations of achieving.
“Going into freshman year of high school, a post-high school education was always a dream but never a reality,” Gonzalez said.
Both students assert that their friend groups were the most helpful part of the program. Without them, they believe that they might not have been able to accomplish the things that Bridges taught them.
“The friends I have made in Bridges are lifelong friends,” Sarhan said. “They allowed me to become so confident in myself that I ran for Student Body President at my school.”
Bridges to a Brighter Future meant so much to the two that they plan to help other high school students in the program each Saturday College while at Furman.
“I hope to serve with Bridges to the extent of my power,” Gonzalez said. “I hope to inspire other Bridges students to follow their dreams and never give up.”