Bridge to Employment (BTE)
In June of 2011, 18 young men and women graduated from the TCNJ’s Bridge to Employment program and, with scholarships in hand, began a new chapter in a college or professional training program; ending three years of hard work and social networking with college and corporate partners.
This three year project was led by the Bonner Center in partnership with staff from Jannsen Pharmaceutical, Johnson and Johnson, the Academy for Educational Development, the City of Trenton and Trenton High School West (formerly the Trenton Medical Arts Academy).
An international project with sites on every continent, BTE in America focuses on one of America’s most significant issues: improving access to higher education for urban and disadvantaged youth. It also strives to further diversify the talent pool that enters the health care profession. The international BTE sites include Colombia, Scotland, Brazil and South Africa.
At the heart of this project were weekly sessions involving Bonner Community Scholars from TCNJ and the Trenton High students. Every Tuesday – and on some weekends – Bonners provided academic tutoring, organize enrichment trips, facilitate life-skills classes and organize campus and corporate tours. They have also held SAT prep sessions and college application seminars.
During the summer, the two groups worked together to ensure that all BTE students participated in a corporate summer internship program. These were paid work experiences in local health care companies and facilities. In addition, all participated in the residential Summer Bonner Fellows program.
Erin McGrath was a student at Middlesex County College when she joined the Bonner program during her first year. At that time, it was the only two year service corps program at a community college in the country. She later transferred to the College of New Jersey, worked as the Service Learning Director at Rider after graduation, and then moved on to run national AmeriCorps progams at the Bonner Foundation. Next, she received her Masters Degree in Public Policy from the University of Delaware – and now helps lead the State’s Vista Office in Trenton.
Maria De la Cruz was also a Bonner at Middlesex County College for two years, before she too transferred to The College of New Jersey, where she became a leader in the TCNJ Bonner Community Scholars Corps. After graduation, she became the Coordinator of Middlesex’s Bonner Program and Center – called Democracy House. In 2009, Maria also started coordinating national training sessions for the Bonner Foundation – before she was recruited to take a full time position at TCNJ from 2010-2012.
Their success stories are why TCNJ has taken the lead on an initiative to support community college service programs – and their students who wish to access four-year institutions. The TCNJ Democracy House Initiative aims to further develop existing Bonner programs at community colleges and help establish new ones. In addition, TCNJ recruits graduates of these programs to transfer to the College and join its Bonner program. Over the last few years, TCNJ has worked with the Bonner Foundation to help create Bonner programs at Mercer and Burlington County Colleges. It hopes to spread the program to two more community colleges within the next year.