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Summer course serves as bridge from high school to college

photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick

GRCC — In an upstairs classroom in GRCC’s Sneden Hall, Dana Sammons, head of the mathematics department, showed East Kentwood 2021 graduate Shi’Ann Moore how to complete a statistics problem.

Shi’Ann was eager to learn. If she scores high enough on a math placement test, she  will be able to take the college-level math course as a GRCC student in the fall. To prepare, she is working to fill in a few gaps she has noticed in her learning as a result of the pandemic. 

“I am relearning things, and it’s all clicking all over again, so now I feel more comfortable moving forward,” she said.

Shi’Ann is enrolled in Bridges to College-Raider Ready, a free, five-week course that meets three hours on Monday through Thursday mornings to help 2020-21 high-school graduates in Kent and Ottawa counties prepare for college at GRCC or anywhere else. Students receive a $500 stipend and use of a GRCC laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot. 

“During my senior year I did a lot of virtual (learning),” Shi’Ann said. “I feel like there was a large disconnect in what I could know, what I should know and what I am knowing now. I think the Bridge program will give me a push and let me see what it’s like again to learn in person, ask questions and all those types of things.”

A Much-Needed Boost

Molly McKinney, project coordinator for Bridges to College, said local K-12 superintendents expressed interest in having a program to help graduates coming out of the pandemic to prepare for college. 

“They were seeing that some students weren’t able to be face to face all the time, and they wanted students in the classroom getting some math, reading and writing help.”

On top of that, students in the program are working directly with GRCC navigators to learn what to expect in college and to make sure they have all their paperwork ready. “The idea is to get people into our classrooms and to get them comfortable with the idea that, ‘Hey, these are some of the things you may have missed during your senior year,’” McKinney said.

With increased comfortability, the hope is for students to not only start college but go on to finish. “We are trying to build them a sense of community when they are here. That’s because there are a lot of studies that show that students are more successful when they find that community on campus,” McKinney said.

From left, Shi’Ann Moore, a recent East Kentwood graduate, jokes with Dana Sammons, math department chair, after being helped with a problem Shi’Ann was struggling with

Ninety students are enrolled in the course, 60 in Grand Rapids and 30 at GRCC’s Lakeshore Campus. A second session runs July 12- Aug 12 ,and students can apply here.

Shi’Ann said she is already feeling more ready for college and to begin her education toward a degree in social work.

“I was really scared. When I was ending my senior year I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt like I missed so much knowledge that I should know, and I forgot so many things I learned my junior year, so it’s like I need somewhere to start where I can refresh my memory. … Now I feel more comfortable and I feel more confident in my abilities.”

Along with boosting her academic skills, Shi’Ann also hopes to join a study group and access free tutoring. She was able to complete her financial aid application and submit it right on campus.

“I’m really grateful for the program,” she said. “I’m trying to get  a lot more people to come to the program. It’s such a huge advantage, especially for everyone going through the pandemic. Virtual learning was so much harder than in person.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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