Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bridge Program

One of the greatest experiences I had as a student at Antioch University Los Angeles was the opportunity to be an intern for The Bridge Program, a non-profit organization teaching humanities courses to low-income adults.

Our students came from various backgrounds - some were living in shelters, some were working in social services, and some were simultaneously taking community college courses. In the end, we all became a community.

Many of the students, when they began their 9-month journey, were not prepared to love "school." Yet, through studying literature, art history, philosophy, and writing, with a consistent focus of critical thinking, most of us came early and stayed late to prolong the experience as much as possible.

I have spoken before (and will most likely in the future) about the breakdown of our public education system, and what it has done to us as a whole. Those of us that do not have a straight journey from elementary to middle to high school, then college/university, and sometimes beyond usually feel hopeless at times. We cannot break through certain barriers, and that leaves us frustrated.

Many people's public schools failed them in giving them a chance to be heard. Rather, it's all about memorizing formulas, and regurgitating facts and dates. It is not a surprise to me that our high school dropout rates continue to be high. Eventually, anyone tires of being a puppet!

I wonder how many blogs have been born out of this frustration?

What we have seen develop, as technology has allowed, is a need for connection. We hear a lot about how disconnected we are because of the internet, because of texting, IMing, MySpace, and what have you.

I disagree. Wholeheartedly. I see these venues as a way for those of us who never felt like we had a voice to express it freely, without fear of being edited by others, and braced for opposition.

The Bridge Community was one of the few places that I felt free in doing so among a diverse group of people that came together, ate together, and learned together. We explored different ways of thinking about things, exchanged concerns and opposing viewpoints, and addressed them in our work. We took each idea, examined it from every angle, and found a way to put it down on paper. We cheered each other on, helped with "real-life" problems, and kept our sense of humor.

When our time was over as a class, I can say without any hesitation that all of us had grown, and were better people for the time that we spent together.

The Bridge Program is having their annual fundraiser, which is why I write about it now. (Actually, I had a dream that I pledged $1,000 to David in my sleep, and am truly hoping that did not happen. In any event, it seemed a good time to plug 'em!)

There will be a poker tournament fundraiser on Sunday, April 13th. More information on The Bridge Program's All-In '08 Poker Challenge can be found here. More information on The Bridge Program itself is available through their website.

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