KSU Bridges program gives students chance to help in community

Jessica Renner

Incoming freshmen mentor children at King-Kennedy Center

The Bridges program at Kent State helps incoming freshmen who need extra support before coming to college in the fall.

Now the program is enabling its students to give back to others.

This summer 12 Bridges students are mentoring at the King-Kennedy Center, a Ravenna organization focused on helping underprivileged citizens in Portage County, as part of their College Writing I course.

Beverly Neiderman, lecturer in English, is teaching the course and said the program benefits the students, community and the university.

“It is a chance for the university to connect to an outside source,” she said.

Not only do Bridges students take classes at the college level for actual credit, but they also have opportunities not offered to other students, Neiderman said.

Neiderman said the service-learning program is possible thanks to a grant from the Ohio Learning Network, a federally funded program that helps to expand educational opportunities in Ohio.

The Bridges program ties together service and learning projects to create a cohesive learning experience that is stronger with all of its components.

Neiderman said the service portion of the Bridges class is the King-Kennedy Center mentoring. The learning aspect is the writing assignments done for class.

“The students take the skills they learn from the service they are doing and apply it to their writing,” Neiderman said.

Neiderman said the students are focusing on the theme of choices.

The students help the children they are mentoring make proper choices and learn how to make good advances for themselves as well.

Bridges student Bryce Alexander said he worked with middle school-aged children and said he felt good about the work the King-Kennedy Center does.

“The King-Kennedy Center is a good thing for kids to have,” Alexander said. “They need a place to develop and to stay out of trouble.”

Gabrielle Sebben, another student, also enjoyed the mentoring. She found it easy to help and relate to 17-year-old girl she was paired with.

“We talked about the processes to get into college,” Sebben said.

Student Darshan Patel wanted to help children with topics he never had help with.

“When I was little I didn’t have help with college,” Patel said. “Talking to kids about college starts them off with a good background.”

The child who Patel mentored was an 11-year-old who aspired to play in the NFL. Patel encouraged him to maintain good grades in high school and college to get where he wants to be.

Neiderman said her students were hesitant when first mentoring but became more relaxed with a little time. She said the Bridges program has helped her students to gain better access to higher education, and now it is their turn to do the same for others.

“They realized that they had a very good experience,” Neiderman said. “It is a chance for them to give back to somebody else.”

Contact social services reporter Jessica Renner at [email protected].