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The Bridge! Building Community in the South Bronx

Session 3
Natalie Ferrell, Chris DeLaCruz, Delvon Glover, Sarah Bowen, Anthony Best, Jeannette Bautista — South Bronx Community Charter High School

There is a growing body of research that indicates long term academic success is linked to students’ sense of belonging. This idea is particularly critical for our most vulnerable students. SBC brings together students and staff from neighborhoods with a high incidence of trauma, which makes the need for developing community critical to our success. In order for students and staff to engage their full selves in learning, we designed a summer bridge program to foster a sense of belonging. This Summer Bridge Challenge begins the school year where students engaged in reflection and introspection to introduce their true selves to the school community.

The Self Portrait Collage: Our incoming students were tasked with creating community by sharing key elements of their identity, values and purpose with their new community. Students designed a self portrait collage containing images representing their accomplishments, obstacles, happiest moments, struggles and hopes. They shared these personal stories with each other learning that courage through vulnerability creates connections. The 4 day immersive experience includes team building on a ropes course and culminates in a graduation ceremony with loved ones.

School leaders and staff from SBC will discuss the problem they were trying to solve - How might we accelerate students’ sense of belonging as they enter high school to reduce conflict, increase engagement and build community? They will present data, research and programs that inspired the design of the project, share the project plan and student work and show evidence of the project’s efficacy.

Conversational Practice

Session facilitators will include staff and school leaders from SBC. The facilitators will present the data, research and programs that inspired the project, the process the staff used to design the project, and evidence of it’s effectiveness. The facilitators will then sit on a panel and take questions from the session attendees about the project. Session attendees will participate in a gallery walk to view student projects, video and pictures. All attendees will receive access to the teacher designed project materials.

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