Wilfrid Laurier University is devoted to excellence in learning, research, scholarship and creativity. It challenges people to become engaged and aware citizens of an increasingly complex world. It fulfills its mission by advancing knowledge, supporting and enhancing high-quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and emphasizing co-curricular development of the whole student.
Building Bridges to Success
Our community is committed to serving marginalized youth in our cities. Building Bridges to Success (BB2S) specifically targets students with the grades and potential to succeed in higher education, but who lack the confidence to pursue it. BB2S can help these young people increase their confidence and clarify their personal vision in choosing an education, a career and a successful, productive life. This opportunity provides authentic interactions which increase the student’s sense of belonging and feeling welcome.
Detailed research on the impact and outcomes of BB2S has been conducted over the 5 years of the program. That research shows that BB2S is having a tremendous impact on the participating youth, as well as their friends and families. Our data reveals that the students feel a stronger commitment to their education, have increased their likelihood to pursue further education, and have improved their time management skills. They have also gained higher independence, academic competence, self-efficacy and self-esteem.
The results are demonstrated in their academic achievements as well. The BB2S students averaged three grade points higher than regular first-year Laurier students taking the same Sociology course.
Beyond the tremendous value to the individual participating student, there is also a “halo effect” upon the friends, family and broader community of the students. As the students share information about the expectations of university life, including the academic and social aspects, their friends and family can begin to consider enrolling in college or university themselves. The students can also offer a better understanding of the financial and academic support that is available to others.
“I didn’t have anybody older than me that I knew who was in university and could mentor me throughout the whole entire process. I know other people who maybe their parents went to the school they were about to go to, or older siblings, but I was the first to be going to university in my family so I didn’t have much knowledge about it besides what I would read online. So I thought, well, this is probably a good change to go see what university is like and get mentored through the Building Bridges program.”
“I think maybe it created a chain of students that were motivated to go to university. I know some of the people that I was telling about Building Bridges didn’t actually think university was an option at first. And then [during their participation] they were like, on my gosh . . . this is such a great place. They started to become more motivated, so, maybe it kind of created like a domino effect where one person goes and they realize all the benefits of Building Bridges and all the benefits of university, and then they tell the next person which motivates the next person and the next. So yeah, I think that’s the greatest benefit.”
The main funder of the program provided a fixed amount of support per year. However, the demand from students exceeded this amount. The grant from The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation filled this gap and allowed us to accept all qualified students who applied to the program. The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation grant helped to make it available to all who applied at that particular time.
This program has completed so future funding is not required.