It is not everyday that you see a large group of middle school students walking through a college campus, but you would have seen exactly that on a recent Saturday in November, as Beyond the Bell’s 8th Grade Academy visited Bridgewater College.
College visits are a key component to this high school and college readiness out-of-school time program and serve as a “hook” for the 35 8th grade students who are participating from Skyline and Thomas Harrison Middle Schools this year. The college visits are more than your run-of-the-mill campus tour and are designed to provide students with a taste of the entire college experience.
In the most recent trip to Bridgewater College, 8th Grade Academy members met with college students, participated in a teambuilding activity, ate lunch at the dining hall, and cheered on the Eagles at the football game! One 8th Grade Academy student shares what they learned from their first college experience, “College is a great way to start your career if you want to be more accomplished in life and I am going to take harder classes so when I get to high school I can get an advanced degree.”
Stephanie Wilson, director of Multicultural Services and Service-Learning at Bridgewater College, explains why she continues to partner with Beyond the Bell’s 8th Grade Academy (now in it’s third year), “Our goal at Bridgewater College is to open doors of possibilities and engender a love of learning and devotion to something greater than self. It excites me to be a part of a partnership that brings the possibilities of obtaining a college education to so many. What is most amazing is to see the connection between the Bridgewater College and 8th Grade Academy students.”
In addition to college visits, 8th Grade Academy utilizes a blend of character building, writing instruction and consistent involvement of positive adult mentors to help its young people understand what they need to do now in order to successfully transition to high school and achieve their goals in the future.
8th Grade Academy meets two days per week after school in addition to numerous Saturdays throughout the year. And the number of young men who will have completed the program will nearly double from 35 to 70 once this year’s cohort finishes in May.