Bridge to the Future: College Prep and Leadership Academy

Issue Date: 
July 27, 2015

A group of 94 high school students gathered on the University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus recently for a weeklong immersion into college life. 

Representing 12 states, the high schoolers made the campus and Nordenberg Hall their home from July 12-17 for The Bridge College Prep and Leadership Academy. They came from as far away as Wisconsin and Louisiana, and as close as Pittsburgh’s nearby neighborhoods.

Summer Rothrock in the Division of Student Affairs leads the Pitt program. She says the academy’s goals are two-fold: to help high school students navigate the application process at any university or college, and to provide a leadership development experience that helps students thrive wherever they land. 

For some, the campus where they aim to land is Pitt. For others, it is not. But all Bridge participants enjoy a mix of rigor and fun, just as they will in college.

Twelve Pitt undergraduate students served as academy counselors, accompanying student groups throughout their day. The student counselors are integral to the program’s success, noted Rothrock, who is assistant director of leadership development and Greek affairs in Pitt’s Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development. 

“I don’t think I can say enough about how helpful they are. They are up with students for breakfast. They’re doing duty rounds at 1 a.m. to make sure everyone is safely in the building. They’re solving problems nonstop,” she said.

This year’s academy agenda offered breakout sessions on topics such as problem solving, college preparation, financial aid, diversity, and planning for success. Some students took the SAT and ACT college entrance exams during their time here. Others attended sessions on resume building and participated in a service project. Students were offered the chance to create leadership action plans and to conduct mock interviews.

A significant aspect of The Bridge’s success can be attributed to the campus that gives the program a home. 

“It’s so crucial that we have so many great partners at the University—from dining services to housing, the accommodations in Nordenberg Hall, catering services, the Pitt police, and student health services,” said Rothrock. The Bridge program was initiated two years ago by Senior Vice Chancellor Kathy Humphrey when she served as vice provost and dean of students.

In addition to campus activities, The Bridge offers excursions around Oakland, a trip to Dave & Busters in Homestead, a talent show, field games, a movie and game night, and a campus scavenger hunt.

“We developed The Bridge not as a recruiting tool for Pitt, but to serve our community, because we could not find a program in Southwestern Pennsylvania that helps students bridge the gap between high school and college,” said Linda Williams Moore, director of the Cross Cultural and Leadership Development office. 

“We have received very positive feedback from participants and parents the past two years,” she added. “We’re thrilled to meet a need in our region and share our expertise with young people no matter where a student decides to enroll.”