04:17 AM

Connections and confidence: Summer Bridge Experience helps scholars prepare for Ohio State

Autumn semester is less than a week away, but more than 100 Buckeyes are getting a head start on the new school year as they finish the 2017 Summer Bridge Experience.

The mandatory, three-week session is part of the Young Scholars Program (YSP) and is designed to help incoming freshmen succeed at The Ohio State University.

“The more involved that they are, the more connected they become, the more confidence they build up while being here,” said Chila Thomas, assistant director for the Young Scholars Program.

YSP identifies and serves academically talented first-generation college students from economically challenged backgrounds who live in nine of the largest urban school districts in Ohio: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lorain, Toledo and Youngstown.

During the Summer Bridge Experience, YSP students interact with faculty and staff, take classes and are introduced to campus resources and student organizations. The classes don’t count for credit but familiarize the students with the academic challenges ahead. Students live in campus residences and eat in student dining halls.

While the classes are rigorous – it’s not all work for these students.

“We partner with student wellness and rec sports. So in the evening they may go swimming, they may play Battleship, they may go climb the wall at the ARC, they can play basketball, volley ball, dodge ball, things of that sort,” Thomas said.

Thomas, a first-generation college student and Ohio State graduate, understands the pressures on first-year students.

“Every freshman student, no matter how privileged or disadvantaged they are, they have a first-year transition in college. Everyone,” she said.

Young Scholar Omari Gaskins

But the bridge experience and the Young Scholars Program are helping students attend Ohio State and, when they are on campus, reach their potential. YSP, administered through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, has served over 3,000 students since its founding in 1988.

The students in the program are some of the best and the brightest. They are required to complete a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and maintain a high school GPA of 3.3 or above. Students receive financial aid in the form of federal and state grants, work-study and the Young Scholars Award.

Omari Gaskins is finishing the Summer Bridge Experience this week. The Dayton native said the Young Scholars Program has him looking forward to the start of the new school year.

“YSP really takes care of you to make sure you feel welcome. They provide you with so many resources – financial aid, tutoring and other things students might not normally get,” he said.

At a school as large as Ohio State, time spent with the Young Scholars Program and the Summer Bridge Experience has helped Gaskins become more comfortable with campus.

“I know there are a lot of people at Ohio State, but YSP makes you see that you are more than just a number,” he said.

For Thomas, the start of the Summer Bridge Experience is one of her favorite days of the year.

“I have two favorite days on campus: move in day for Summer Bridge and graduation day,” she said.