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  • Carrie Silver

From Bridges Student to Bridges Teacher

The community behind Bridges to a Brighter Future “gets it.” And that “it” is the idea that we’re stronger together than on our own. That it’s ok to ask for help. That when you feel like you belong and you know you are supported, you have the freedom to grow into your best self.

That understanding is part of the Bridges mindset: we exist to help each other, to build our communities, and to show gratitude where it’s due.

So its no coincidence that many Bridges graduates find themselves in “giving” professions, taking what they’ve received from the program and paying it forward in a way that highlights their unique talents.

Jose Rubio and Desiree LaFreniere

“If I did not receive the assistance I did from Bridges while in high school and in college,” said Desireé LaFreniere, member of the Nu class of Bridges, “I fully believe I would be another statistic used to illustrate inequity in America.”

At the time LaFreniere was nominated for the program in her ninth grade year, she had just spent the summer couch surfing with her family while picking tomatoes and squash with migrants in the fields of North and South Carolina. She wasn’t thinking about a bright future for herself. She was just trying to survive.

“I was apathetic about my education. I had no plan in place for success nor vision for what my future could be,” she said.

Aside from the academic benefits of the program, LaFreniere says, “I found community and lasting friendships.” She also credits the program in providing her with her first healthy role models. “The Bridges community,” she said, “is a network of empowerment, encouragement, and support.”

LaFreniere graduated from Winthrop University in 2016 and is now in her fifth year teaching social studies in Greenville County and is pursuing a masters in higher education administration. She’s dedicated to paying it forward by guiding students toward higher education, adding:

“I work at a Greenville County school that is 100% free or reduced lunch for its students and 42% of the population are multilingual. I am able to share institutional knowledge with my students so that they may benefit despite not being enrolled in a college access program as I was. Every semester, I conduct inquiries and projects with my students on college and career exploration.”

Her advice for youth who are struggling to find meaning in their lives, like she was before Bridges? “Find someone who is where you want to be and ask questions of and learn life lessons from them. I know that high school students want to hear that life get easier, but the truth is that people get stronger.”

LaFreniere is living proof that lives change when we support and empower each other. With this one life that journeyed through Bridges, she’s now positively impacting hundreds of students as a teacher.

Desiree LaFreniere is pictured above with student Jose Rubio. You can find her this summer teaching our Foundations core humanities course.


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