Brown, Sharmon [faculty advisor, Department of Communication Studies]
education, University of Rhode Island, college
The project that came to be known as URI Student Bridge began with my amazing college experience and my desire to share that experience with others who were making the decision of whether to begin a college experience of their own. I have been very fortunate to have the funding and motivation to attend college, and have had many opportunities that I know others may not ever have. There are many options and opportunities that are available for graduating high school students. Many choose to begin a career with a high school education and never even consider the idea of college. The reasons for each individual are as unique as the individual themselves, and probably vary from lack of funding to underestimation of their own abilities. The Manhattan Institute conducted research from 1991 through 2002 to determine the graduation rates of the nation's high school students as well as the college readiness rate of each state. The graduation rate during these years stayed the same at about 71 percent, while college readiness increased, but only to 34 percent. This is 29 percent of students who do not even graduate and 37 percent of students in the nation who graduate high school without the skills necessary to attend college. While these statistics are merely numbers and carry a margin of error, they make one resounding point -- not enough students are being educated about higher education opportunities or students simply aren't prepared enough for college. This was one point that was a driving force in my proposed URI Honors Project. My goal was to encourage more in-state students, especially those who may have never even considered higher education, to attend the university or any of the other state schools that are available to all types of students. It was not my intention to impose my personal opinion of higher education on anyone. Rather, I intended to simply make high school students throughout the state aware of the opportunities available to them individually, so that they may make an educated decision as to what path is best for them. I wanted high school students to know that even though they may not have the funding, education or desire to attend college immediately; there are ways to obtain these important factors. Throughout the course of two weeks, I held two programs for two 15- to 20-student groups from Exeter Job Corps. I compiled a group of diverse and involved volunteers from different areas of campus who served as mentors to the students from Exeter Job Corps. The first portion of the program was an informational session. The high school students sat and listened to three URI student speakers who discussed their experiences at the University including the topics of financial aid, organizations, sports, and on-campus jobs. They also heard from two speakers from the University – Victor Gaspar of Enrollment Services and Natalie Nascimiento from URI’s Providence Campus. They spoke about financial aid, scheduling, and night classes. Finally, after a short question and answer session, the Job Corps students shadowed the URI students to one of their courses in order to see what a college class consisted of. After hearing from actual college students and from URI staff about overcoming certain barriers between themselves and college life, I hoped that the students would form some type of motivation to look further into pursuing a college career.