Building Bridges to College

Bridges to College Orientation Desmond Chiu

A student introduces himself to his new classmates at the Bridges to College orientation. (Image courtesy of Janet Van.)


On July 22, over 40 individuals from all over the world met at Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in Boston to begin their higher education journey through the Bridges to College Program, a free, 23-week program that prepares foreign students for college in the United States.

Students participating in the program hail from countries such as China, Thailand, Macedonia, India and Brazil, and fall between 18 and 65 years old. Their career paths are just as diverse, ranging from economics and computer science to nursing and social work. Despite all these differences, each student shares a common goal: to obtain a college degree.

“I am coming from Haiti, and my goal is to go to college and make my dreams come true, so it is a big pleasure to be here,” student Carl Colas shared with his new classmates and teachers at the program orientation.

The JVS Bridges to College Program strives to help its students accomplish just that. Since its launch in 2009, Bridges has enabled over 250adults to enroll and succeed in college. The college preparation program addresses improving academic skills, taking entrance exams, applying to college, registering for classes, and applying for financial aid. Bridges offers pathways in General Studies, Clean Energy and Biotechnology in partnership with local institutions such as Bunker Hill Community College, Quincy College and Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.

At orientation, math instructor Ben Havumaki shared with students that those in the General Studies pathway will earn Bunker Hill Community College credit for one course while in the Bridges program. He remarked, “Bridges is both a really rare opportunity and a really significant advantage, because while you’re preparing to become a student, you’re also already on your journey toward graduating from college.”

At the end of orientation, Havumaki left the students with one last piece of encouragement.

“Each of you has something unique you are bringing to the program,” Havumaki said. “Remember that you’re joining this community, and my colleagues and I are here to support you.”

To learn more about the JVS Bridges to College Program, visit


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