STORIES OF IMPACT
Baltimore City Students
Kashiya entered Bridges 13 years ago, just after finishing third grade at Govans Elementary. Since then, she has made incredible strides, finding a passion for pediatric medicine and graduating with an A-average from Morgan State.
“They really try to expand our horizons and open our minds about different fields of work,” Kashiya says of Bridges. “I think the most memorable moment was when we visited the Baer School, which is a school for children with special needs and disabilities.” Bridges saw Kashiya’s interest in working at the Baer School and helped her land a summer job there for the next 3 years.
She is now preparing to take the MCATs and apply to medical school, while working full time. Her goal is to become a pediatric oncologist. “I wouldn’t be the same person that I am without Bridges.”
“When I was in college, Bridges connected me with a professional in the Engineering industry. I asked him a ton of questions, and it helped me understand Engineering outside the classroom. Later, when applying for jobs, that experience helped set me apart from other candidates,” states Alex. S., 2020 Bridges graduate and current Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman.
Alex joined Bridges in 2005 from Leith Walk Elementary School. He was part of Bridges for the full 14 years and joyfully remembers Summer Institutes, tutoring time with Loyola University, and the mentors that he had along the journey. Perhaps most importantly, he attributes being part of a community of highly motivated peers as a key to his success.
“I met my best friend during my first year at Bridges and we are both very driven. We went to the same high school [Baltimore Polytechnic Institute] and last year when he graduated from college in North Carolina, I went down to see him graduate.”
Donovan entered Bridges as a 4th grader at Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary. Eight years later, we watched him graduate from Baltimore City College High School and gain acceptance to Georgetown University, where he has decided to attend college.
“Bridges,” he says, “has meant family.” It has also meant the opportunity to explore his interest in financial management via the High School Summer Jobs Program, which has led him to pursue a major in international business. Donovan: “I want to influence global business policy to help lift people out of poverty.” Donovan is still active in Bridges through the post-high school program.
The year he was supposed to be in the third grade, Stephon stayed home. His mother was ill at the time, and the neighborhood school was full.
The next year, he was selected to participate in a summer enrichment program at The St. Paul’s Schools. He loved it so much that he cried the last day. These tears were shed in 1999, at the conclusion of Stephon’s first summer in Bridges.
After graduating from St. Mary’s College, Stephon received his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and is currently a television news reporter in Birmingham, Alabama.
“In senior year of high school, Bridges helped me get an internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center, shadowing various positions in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I realized that, out of all the roles I shadowed, nurses spent the most time with the patients. I was looking for a career that was fulfilling academically – challenging me to use my brain every day – but also one that I needed to put my heart into. I want to be remarkable, and becoming a nurse is the best way I know to do that.”
We asked Tammia, who entered Bridges as a 4th grader in 2007, what she learned about herself growing up in the Bridges program.
“Looking back, you see how much this program really matters. A lot of times, especially in childhood, we go after immediate results and instant satisfaction. As you grow in Bridges and stay the course, you realize how much the little things – the Saturday meetings, get-togethers, random check-ins – can really add up to. And I realize that even when I wasn’t feeding the dreams that I had along the way, Bridges always was.”
“I’m proud that I’ve entered my career within a year of graduating college, and that I’ve found a job that allows me to balance being a mother and working full-time. I never knew how big of a deal that was.”
Jazzmine A. entered Bridges in 2004, graduated from Mount St. Mary’s in 2019, and began her role as a Family Services Case Worker Trainee in Baltimore City in 2020.
“I’ve always known I wanted to serve my community,” Jazzmine shares. “Bridges started building that foundation very early – starting with my first internship at DLA Piper when I was a freshman in high school. In addition to learning to manage my time and step out of my comfort zone professionally, I caught a glimpse into what different career paths might be like.”
In speaking with younger Bridges students, Jazzmine advises, “Look to Bridges as your resource. We [the students] are the program. If you feel like you’re getting stuck anywhere – finances, life, school – remember that you have spent years building up rapport with the teachers & staff at Bridges. I am still in communication with my peers and teachers from years ago – Bridges helped build me into the person I am today.”
Independent School Volunteers
Jillian Randolph, a 2015 alumna of The St. Paul’s Schools who now attends the University of Virginia, said her career focus on global community development was shaped by her experience volunteering with Bridges over four years. “I would not be where I am today without Bridges,” she said. “It’s easy to not think about the world around you, but Bridges serves as a reminder that there is a greater world outside of your private school bubble, and here’s your connection to it.”
Jillian decided to major in global development studies and joined a research project in Cape Town, South Africa. Although the research was not initially focused on youth, she proposed a new project on youth engagement and received grants to support it. “My career path is in global development and community development. And this path started with Bridges,” she said.
Collin first started volunteering with Bridges as a sophomore at The St. Paul’s Schools, beginning an 11 year long commitment to the program.
In high school, Collin continually volunteered with students in our school year and summer programs. During college, Collin came back each summer to work as a head counselor. After school, he spent 2 years as a full-time Bridges employee. Now, at 27 years old, he volunteers his time with Bridges high school students, some of the same students he supported in his early years at the program.
“Recently, a student who I tutored in math when he was a sophomore shared with me that he has grown into a math peer tutor during his senior year. Playing a small part in his development is a special experience I would not have received through another volunteer role.”
Spencer volunteered and worked at Bridges for 7 years from 9th grade at The St. Paul’s Schools through his junior year at Denison University.
“My experience with Bridges continues to shape me as a person to this day,” Spencer remarked when we caught up with him in Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership, where he works to provide student athletes with academic support, leadership training, and more.
In his current position at Harlem Lacrosse, he has found a way to combine his love of lacrosse with his passion for working with children, which he says was first realized at Bridges.
“Volunteering at Bridges, I realized how much I like to work with youth. That has had a big influence on my career path,” reflects Logan J. ‘16, The St. Paul’s Schools alumnus and former Bridges volunteer & head counselor. Logan is currently studying Psychology at Virginia Tech.
“When you are together every day for five weeks with the same group of students, there are a lot of one-on-one conversations with students and a lot of shared experiences,” explains Logan. “I worked with the same group of students for five years as they grew from 5th graders to 9th graders. Through this time, we grew to know and trust one another. When a student was having an off day, or during long bus rides to and from field trips, the students and I were able to dig into deeper conversations.”
Logan plans to graduate with a Psychology Major and pursue a graduate degree in Child Psychology afterwards.
“I’m choosing to work with youth because of my experience at Bridges,” Logan shares.
“I’ve known the Bridges students for so long and seen them grow and go through so much,” Andrew says. “We are part of each other’s lives.”
Andrew Meck ’19 joined Bridges as a volunteer during his freshman year at St. Paul’s. He knew little about the program except that his older sister made it sound like a fun way to earn some community service hours. Five years later, Andrew remains one of the program’s most committed counselors. Now in his second year of college at Elon University in North Carolina, he plans to return this summer for one last year as head counselor.
The group of Baltimore City students he began working with five years ago, when they were in third grade, finish middle school this spring, and Andrew is committed to seeing them off to high school.
At Elon, Andrew is studying to be an elementary school teacher and hopes to work with fourth or fifth graders. He cites Bridges as his inspiration to pursue education as a career.