Student Bridges was among the initiatives cited in the campus’ recent placement on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.Mari
Castañeda, associate professor of Communication, is assuming the role of faculty adviser for Student Bridges, a student-initiated outreach program that works to expand pathways to higher education for residents from Holyoke.
Student Bridges is primarily funded by and housed under the Student Government Association. It places UMass students as tutor-mentors with partner schools and organizations, and it provides opportunities for UMass students to use their talents and creativity to coordinate youth-centered events, college preparatory workshops and campus visits for local schools and programs. UMass students who participate in the program are encouraged to enroll in a community service-learning course, which addresses issues related to educational equity and reciprocal community engagement.
Student Bridges’ mission and values resonate with Castañeda, who has extensive experience building community-university partnerships and examining how community service learning (CSL) can enhance those partnerships. Her work focuses on new digital-cut media and information technologies, especially as it relates to Latino communities, and she has is deeply committed to enhancing educational access for underrepresented students.
Vanessa Snow, the Student Bridges programmatic coordinator and a junior Social Thought and Political Economy major, said, “Professor Castañeda brings an impressive commitment to community-service learning, college access, and community-university partnerships. She has a track record of collaboration with programs in the Holyoke area, and we are excited to welcome her as the Student Bridges faculty adviser.”
A coalition of student organizations piloted the Student Bridges program in 2006-07, and it has quickly grown into a unique, energetic agency. Its mission is to “increase college access and success for underrepresented students by building partnerships with local schools and community organizations, offering college awareness, preparation and success activities, and advocating for enhanced institutional and public policies and practices.”
Source: UMass in the loop