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Bridging the Unknown

By Lauren Clark Hughes

Before the start of the fall 2016 semester, Whitworth welcomed 43 freshman students to campus for a new, four-day pre-orientation. Developed by the office of student diversity, equity & inclusion, the Building Unity and Cultivating Success (BUCS) Bridge Program was created to serve students from first-generation and underrepresented groups as they adjust to a higher-education environment. During the program, students took part in sessions on community building, multicultural identity development and college navigation, and they connected with first generation peer guides from sophomore-senior classes.

With 24 percent of Whitworth's student body coming from families that make $50,000 or less per year, the BUCS Bridge Program attempts to support students and provide meaningful resources and relationships beyond the four-day pre-orientation. Throughout these students' first year at Whitworth, first-generation sophomore-senior students will mentor and assist them.

"It has been positively overwhelming to have participants continue to approach me, a few months after the conclusion of the program, to share how much participating in the program meant to them," says David Garcia, assistant dean of student diversity, equity & inclusion.

Social and cultural sociology major Austriauna Brooks, '17, who served as a peer guide during BUCS Bridge 2016, wishes the program had been available to her as a freshman.

"Being a first-generation college student, I did not know the ins and outs of the Whitworth campus," Brooks says. "What I enjoyed about this program is that we were able to converse with students and share our experiences and information about programs that will be useful for them in the future. They also began the school year knowing familiar faces — their peer guides, their leaders, and the other students who participated. I'm excited about this program because it can be very beneficial to the future of Whitworth students."