Antioch University Los Angeles’ Bridge Program is preparing to give even more underserved Los Angeles residents the benefits of higher education. The Bridge Program, which began in 1999, provides free college courses to low-income adults at AULA’s Culver City campus. In the fall of 2012, thanks in part to a $650,000 anonymous donation to the Program, a second location was opened in Boyle Heights.
Now the Bridge Program has been awarded a $50,000 grant by the Weingart Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations in the areas of health, human services, and education across seven Southern California counties. Over the two-year period of the grant, the Program will add an additional student cohort to both its current Culver City and Boyle Heights locations – as well as one cohort in a new third location – expanding to serve 150 students. Bridge will also add two new components: GED support and ongoing post-program support.
While there are programs that offer job skills training for low-income adults, core curriculum college programs, especially for adults, are scarce. Students come to Bridge through community organizations from around Los Angeles including shelters, transitional residencies, adult day schools, and community centers. A Bridge class consists of 30 to 35 students of many ages and backgrounds from around the city. Classes include philosophy, literature, art history, and writing, as well as a service learning course in which students study neighborhoods of Los Angeles before working with community members to design and implement a service learning project. Bridge students earn up to 15 college credits. Many have gone on to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Some have even earned master’s degrees.
“This grant will allow us to transform the lives of a number of disadvantaged individuals in our community who might never have dreamed of attending college,” says Luis Pedraja, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs of Antioch University Los Angeles. “Studies show that the median lifetime earning for individuals with some college is almost 20% higher than for those with just a high school degree, and even higher if they can obtain a degree. Beyond the opportunity to attain college credits, the Bridge Program provides a support structure that gives students the opportunity to achieve their dreams and make a greater contribution to society.”