Incoming freshmen get a jump start on college

This fall’s crop of JSC freshmen had the chance to start their college careers a week early, thanks to the new Johnson State College Summer Bridge Program.

Through this extended orientation program, freshmen have the chance move into their residential housing a week early, acclimate to college life before classes begin, make connections early on with their classmates, and participate in group activities and events throughout the week.

“The Summer Bridge Program is awesome because it’s like a jumpstart into the four years of your college career,” said Sarafina Chamul, a junior at JSC and one of the program’s group leaders. “It’s basically a week-long pre-orientation to help motivate and prepare students to get ready for classes, deal with stressful scenarios, and get to know floor mates and classmates in their graduation year.”

Roughly 50 students participated in the Summer Bridge Program, separated into groups of eight or nine students, with group leaders serving as guides and mentors throughout the week. Chamul said that, while there were separate groups, students from all of the groups worked collaboratively during certain events.

“I’m actually really introverted, so being kind of forced into situations where I have to talk to people is the only way I’ll talk to people of my own accord,” said Connor Rose, a freshman who participated in the program. “A lot of the activities that we participated in were just really fun and it wasn’t like a normal orientation.”

Events throughout the week included group discussions, a short hike from campus to participate in team building exercises at the Johnson ropes course, an evening dance party, writing workshops, a career fair, and an evening cruise on Lake Champlain aboard the Ethan Allen for dinner and a Murder Mystery game night.

“It was a lot of community building and connecting us as an incoming class,” said Rose. “It was way easier to connect with about fifty other people in the Bridge Program instead of hundreds.”

Many of the staff members operating the Summer Bridge Program were from TRiO, including Karen Madden, director of academic support services, and Cindy Kullmann, administrative assistant for academic support services.

“Having that one-on-one with the TRiO members is important for student because it helps make them more aware of what kinds of academic support services are provided on campus,” said Chamul.



Ellen Colleen Johnson, a senior at Johnson State College, was one of the group leaders. Her official title was Summer Bridge Assistant and she was one of the main creative minds behind the Summer Bridge Program, along with Madden and Kullman.

“I feel like I poured my soul into this program and even though it’s done, it feels like I left a part of me with it. I created everything from scratch and watched it grow,” said Johnson. “It was truly amazing how well it worked out.”

Johnson wrote and printed the Bridge Program Student Welcome Handbook, designed the logo for the program t-shirts, created a training guide for peer mentors, acted as the head group leader for the groups, helped organize and host events, and worked with fellow students and faculty over this past summer to design the Summer Bridge Program for the incoming class of 2020.

Freshman Gabrielle Williams said that the Summer Bridge Program is the perfect way to make close and early connections with other members of your graduating class in ways you otherwise may not have been able to.

“If you just go for the regular orientation there are people I may not have become friends with if they weren’t in the Summer Bridge Program,” said Williams.

“The bridge program really helped me with my anxiety with talking to new people socially because I don’t have trust in new people,” said freshman Keirstan Lague. “This program helped me get to know and trust a whole new group of people, such as the TRiO group and all the new friends I’ve made.”



Chamul said that the week was packed with activities and events, but the new students were also given down time to relax and get to know campus better.

“Down time helped you get to know who your advisors are and who is in administration. They also gave us free time to situate ourselves and to wander campus or go meet our advisors,” said freshman Nubia Pickering.

“It definitely gives them time to think,” said Chamul. “Orientation is so jam-packed with no time to breathe, while the Summer Bridge Program gives them more of a step ahead.”

Langue and Williams said that they are both interested in applying to become group leaders for next year’s Summer Bridge Program so they can help other students have as much of a positive and smooth transition into college as they did.

“It really just helps open up a variety of doors to your future,” said Lague.