First-year student Justin Friend of Baltimore poses for his mother, Sheila Oliver, in front of a welcome sign at York College on Thursday.
First-year student Justin Friend of Baltimore poses for his mother, Sheila Oliver, in front of a welcome sign at York College on Thursday. (John A. Pavoncello — jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com)

Incoming York College freshman Madelynn Walters found out about the college's Bridge to Results program two days before it started at the end of July.

Despite the quick turnaround, Walters decided to give the new program a try.

"I thought I would jump on the chance and see if I can actually do college," she said. "And it turns out I can."

Walters and 18 of her freshman peers were part of the program that began this year, a pilot five-week summer program intended as an extra support for incoming first-year students.

Kathleen and Michael Driscoll of Staten Island, N.Y., help their daughter Deirdre make her bed and set up her dorm room at York College, Thursday Aug. 21,
Kathleen and Michael Driscoll of Staten Island, N.Y., help their daughter Deirdre make her bed and set up her dorm room at York College, Thursday Aug. 21, 2014. John A. Pavoncello - jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com

Goals: The program began in conjunction with needs the college's new president, Pamela Gunter-Smith, had identified within her first year, said Debbie Ricker, the college's dean of academic services. One of those goals was to provide better services for admitted students whose GPA, SAT scores and other factors are high enough for admittance, but historically might be indicators that a student could struggle in college.

"We needed to do everything we could to ensure they were going to be successful on our campus," Ricker said.

The program included two classes required for every York College student, which earned the students seven credits and helped to give them a "leg up" for a start with all students in the fall, Ricker said.


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Program activities: Walters and several of her peers said Thursday they would recommend the program to future York College freshmen. Together, the group took an academic writing class, paired with a writing studio, and a critical thinking class.

The group also had a service learning opportunity each week at the Margaret E. Moul Home, interacting with residents who have cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or other neuromuscular disorders.

On weekends, the students traveled to Ski Roundtop for team-building on the ropes course, toured the Gettysburg Battlefield and participated in other activities. Those included getting to know the York community better by seeing a York Revolution baseball game, meeting with representatives from Downtown Inc and eating dinner at Central Market.

"I think it's there they fell in love with Roburritos," Ricker said.

Time management, other skills: William Busche, a first-year student, said the group went to the ropes course during the first weekend, a great "friend-building" start to the program.

Busche said he would "absolutely" recommend the program to future freshmen, adding the program helped him improve his time-management skills.

The homework load was heavy, Busche and classmate Anait Guzman said, but gave them confidence about handling the normal workload of the fall semester.

Guzman said she bought a chalkboard within the first few weeks of the program to map out the work she needed to finish.

York College trustee Scott Cayce said he knows SAT scores and GPAs aren't "the whole story" for a student. Cayce said he's proud of the work the students have done to prepare for the upcoming year.

"They've proven they can do the work," he said.

Several of the students said the program made them more comfortable with starting the fall semester.

"I feel a lot more confident," said Nicholas Harbachewski. "I'm excited."

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.