When Ruth Rufus joined the Community Learning Center’s Bridge Program at the age of 15 in September, 2016, she was the youngest ever to do so. She has just arrived from Nigeria that month with her high school diploma in hand. Ruth was dealing with drastic changes: adapting to a new culture, reuniting with her mother, and starting an unfamiliar educational process.
Ruth lost her father at a young age and lived with her younger sister in Nigeria for five years while her mother and stepfather were in the United States. With great determination, she completed her high school education, but arrived in Cambridge too late to start college in the fall. Fortunately, the resident coordinator in her building on Rindge Avenue gave her mother information about Bridge, and soon Ruth was accepted into the program.
The Community Learning Center serves an adult population, and Ruth, who describes herself as shy, said, “I was scared and nervous—I saw around me were all adults—but in time I was able to adapt and blend in.” The teaching methodology at Bridge was key to building her comfort and confidence. From the first day, students in the reading and writing class paired up to interview each other. They continued to do frequent small group work. Ruth particularly valued this aspect of the program, to which she attributes her growing confidence. She also found the class book, Strength in What Remains, inspiring for its example of hard work and determination. “I really found it interesting because of the way Deo was able to achieve his dream despite the circumstances and struggles he faced.” Ruth also appreciated learning about the writing process and getting individual help with her essays and research paper. On the final day of class, she was proud to present to her classmates her research into the opioid crisis.
In math, Bridge provided Ruth the opportunity to work one on one with a highly qualified volunteer who could focus on her specific needs. “When I was in high school I didn’t really like math. They just gave us formulas to apply.” Her Bridge teacher made her slow down instead of going right to the answer. She learned to understand the reasons behind the formulas and different ways of solving a problem.
Ruth is very clear on her career goal. “When I was young, I dreamed of being a doctor.” Because her father died of a brain disease, she is focused on becoming a neurosurgeon. In group and individual meetings, the Bridge advisor helped her to map out a pathway to her goal. She has been accepted to Bunker Hill Community College, where she will take the Biology Transfer Option, later transferring to a four-year college.
Now that she is graduating from the Community Learning Center, Ruth declares that, “Going to the Bridge Program was one of the best things that happened to me.”
For more information about the Bridge Program, call Pat Murphy at the Community Learning Center, 617-349-6365 or visit at 5 Western Avenue, Cambridge. For academic year 2017-18, Bridge students may be able to earn college credits through Bunker Hill Community College