Graham School helps strengthen and expand College Bridge program

Since 2006, the University of Chicago has opened its campus and classrooms to academically advanced public high school students who take select college courses for free year-round. Now, thanks to new support from the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, students in the University’s College Bridge program are set to receive additional assistance to help them prepare for the rigors of college.

The Graham School, which has long provided administrative support for College Bridge during the summer, will assume all advising responsibilities during the summer and the academic year. It will increase the number of College Bridge advisors, who will coordinate directly with students at every stage of their experience. It also will look to increase the $200,000 in scholarships it contributed to Summer Session students in 2016, which will enable the summer program to serve more students.

UChicago offers College Bridge through a partnership among Graham, the College and the Office of Civic Engagement.

“College Bridge has become a highly valued resource for Chicago families who want more challenging options for their high school students,” said Derek Douglas, vice president for civic engagement. “With this new commitment and enhanced partnership with the Graham School, students will have access to an expanded advising corps that will be able to offer more perspectives and time to help ensure that they can get the most out of the unique opportunity that the program offers."

As the Graham School steps up its role, the Office of Civic Engagement will continue to provide community outreach, while also contributing funding for textbooks, transcript fees and other incidentals. The College will continue to open its classrooms to students.

“In many ways, it’s a natural fit for the Graham School,” said Mark Nemec, dean of the Graham School. “The high-touch advising philosophy we already have in place here, which we employ in a variety of ‘bridge’ scenarios with nontraditional UChicago students, means we have the infrastructure in place to get working immediately. We look forward to building on our experience guiding students on their next step to help take the program to the next level.”

The highly competitive program is open to Chicago Public Schools students in their junior and senior years of high school who have completed all their school’s offerings in a particular subject. The program includes Academic Year Bridge and Summer Bridge. College Bridge accepts 15 students for the academic year and as many as 40 for the summer, with this latter number slated to grow in upcoming years. While Academic Year Bridge draws primarily from high schools on the South Side because of the time needed to travel to campus, students from across Chicago travel to Hyde Park for Summer Bridge.

Chloe Glispie, AB’16, who took part in College Bridge before becoming an Odyssey Scholar student at UChicago, said the program played a pivotal role in her life and contributed directly to her success. “Being accepted into College Bridge gave me confidence way before the University gave me a yay or nay about my acceptance,” she said. “After receiving As in both of the College Bridge courses I took, I knew that I deserved to be here; I knew that I wanted to be here.” 

After receiving As in both of the College Bridge courses I took, I knew that I deserved to be here; I knew that I wanted to be here.Chloe Glispie, AB'16

College Bridge students can take one class per quarter at the University, either in addition to their high school curriculum during the academic year or in one five-week summer intensive session. Courses range across the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, from biology to history to the humanities. Tuition, fees and textbooks are provided, and the high school students are connected with a UChicago undergraduate who serves as a mentor.

Haley Wellman, a junior at Whitney Young High School and current College Bridge student studying French, says she feels incredibly grateful for every opportunity the program has offered her.

“The French class I’m taking is teaching me so much more than any French class I’ve taken before,” she says. “And the advisors at the Graham School have been extremely helpful and enthusiastic. They’ve really gone out of their way to make sure I don’t miss out on any part of this experience.”