In 1997, Rebeca Romero Rainey, Pamela Shepherd and concerned citizens and educators founded Bridges Project for Education as a response the low number of college graduates and existing supports to help people access postsecondary education in Taos County and Northern New Mexico. They created Bridges in order to provide free, comprehensive and individualized college counseling for students of all ages to access vocational certifications, associates and bachelor’s degrees.
For the last twenty-one years we have strived to remain responsive to the changing needs of our unique community. We’ve implemented various programs to promote higher education in Taos County, including annual college fairs (2007-2014), workshops and presentations to schools and community organizations.
Individualized college counseling remains the heart of our work, because it is the most effective tool to help our clients attain their career, education and life goals.
Bridges recognizes that while not everyone in Taos County will choose to pursue postsecondary education, any person who chooses that path must be able to do so. Our mission is to expand access and improve college completion for people of all ages, with an emphasis on students who are among the first generation in their families to seek postsecodnary education.
Studies show that education beyond high school can contribute to an improved quality of life. Bridges aims to help our clients self-advocate and improve their lives, that of their family, and by extension increase the self-sufficiency, health, broader economy and social welfare of our communities.
Bridges provides a spectrum of services for students of all ages. Our individualized college counseling has been formally structured in a comprehensive counseling format, which will steer students to work with us through critical points of the application and financial aid process. In Fall 2016 we started to implement an early college awareness outreach program, College Connections, which is offered to students in grades 8-12 at Taos Middle School and Taos High School. College Connections is an annual series of progressive lessons that helps students explore their interests and future, and understand proactive steps they can take to advance their postsecondary and life goals. The Taos County Association of Realtors are proud and generous sponsors of College Connections during the 2018-2019 program year. We have created a new alumni support program, launched during the 2017-2018 program year, which will allow us to positively impact student retention and success.
Bridges promotes information sharing through our monthly “Learning Curve” column in The Taos News. We present a college application and financial aid overview to juniors at all area high schools and provide similar presentations for community agencies. We use this website’s news and Bridges’ Facebook page to provide information about current educational opportunities and scholarships for students of all ages, backgrounds and academic status. We have restructured our website, so that it is a clearinghouse of resources for students, parents/guardians, school counselors, and community agencies about all components of the application and financial aid process.
MEET THE TEAM
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Julie has both a B.A. and M.A. of Social Work from University of Illinois in Chicago. Since 1988, she has been employed as a social worker in a variety of settings, including in child welfare, a hospital, juvenile diversion, adoption and currently as a school social worker. In her free time, Julie enjoys traveling, reading, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. Julie has happily lived in Taos since 2005.
Bambi has worked with Bridges since 1997 in various capacities, including as a volunteer and board member. Bambi has an A.A from Cottey College and studied speech and hearing at Kent State University. She and her husband moved to Taos in 1993. She spent thirty years as an Army wife and volunteered at numerous organizations in the US and Europe. She is active in numerous organizations in Taos, including Saint James Episcopal Church and Los Jardineros Garden Club. Bambi is an avid gardener, fisherwoman, and quilter.
Ale attended Taos Municipal Schools until her junior year of high school, when she moved to Brazil for a year abroad as a Rotary International foreign exchange student. She earned a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico in 2012. She currently teaches kindergarten at Taos Charter School. Ale enjoys reading, running, hiking, travel and spending time with her family.
Romy grew up in Taos. After graduating from high school she received a B.A. from Grinnell College in Iowa and a M.Ed. from Utah State University. She returned to Taos in 1995 and taught at Anansi Day School, and then co-founded Anansi Charter School. She currently manages the Ken Price Studio, but remains active in the charter school movement and other educational youth development programs.
Lisa graduated from Syracuse University. After moving to Taos with her husband, John, and two children, she assisted in opening the Yaxche Learning Center and created the Taos School of Cooking. For the past 15 years she has worked as a realtor and currently owns and operates Taos Properties Real Estate with her husband. Lisa recently joined the Bridges Board and she is excited to commit her time to fundraising and other Board activities.
Adult and GED Clients
Students Counseled (Since 1997)
Since November 1997 we have provided free, individualized college and financial aid counseling to over 3000 students and their families. Approximately 60% are from the first generation in their families to attend college or vocational school and 75% are minority students. Most of our clients are eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. government to attend college and many have received prestigious national and local scholarships. The majority choose two-year and four-year public schools in New Mexico, while others enroll in private schools throughout the country.
Bridges serves students from Taos High School, Taos Cyber Magnet School, Vista Grande High School, Taos Academy, Peñasco High School, Mesa Vista High School, Moreno Valley High School, Questa High School, GED/HSE programs and UNM-Taos. We work with schools to support amazing guidance counselors who have large caseloads and can’t spend as much time as they’d like on college advisement. Additionally, Bridges offers support to other community providers in support of the intentional personal development of youth and adults.
We meet with our clients between 1 and 40 times, depending on student need. Our students attend vocational schools, community colleges, public, private and Ivy League colleges and universities.
Bridges clients receive thousands of dollars in local, regional, and institutional scholarships to attend the schools of their choice. Most scholarships will be applied to their first year of college, and some are four-year renewable awards.
Current program year
In an average program year we work with between 90 and 120 students 1:1. We help clients create college lists of schools that are a good fit, work on applications and essays, and seek out financial aid through completing FAFSAs and applying for scholarships.
Bridges believes in reaching out to our community. Through our College Connections pilot program. We continue with the class of 2021. We started with this cohort when they were in 8th grade at Taos Middle School. Through this early awareness and outreach program, we hope more students will have greater access to postsecondary options. Also, we provide area high school juniors with a postsecondary admissions and financial aid overview. And we educate parents and community members by hosting financial aid workshops, alumni panels and parent panels. We reach approximately 800 people a year through these events.
One of Bridges’ efforts was to secure a three-year grant in collaboration with UNM-Taos and the Taos Municipal Schools that began in late 2012. The goal was to improve data collection practices and increase communication between entities. The culmination of this project was a community gathering that Bridges hosted to present the findings. More than 30 local professionals in higher education and related fields participated. Many had never met before this event, despite working in the same arena. Read about the collaboration’s findings in A Path Forward.
Approximately 20% of our funding comes from the contributions of individual and businesses, 70% from private foundations, 8% from federal and municipal sources and 2% from fee-for-service revenue. Our annual budget is $160,000. We are a staff of two.
- Hispanic 62% 62%
- Anglo 25% 25%
- Native American 8% 8%
- Other Students of Color 5% 5%
- Female 59% 59%
- Male 41% 41%
- First-Generation Students 60% 60%
- Low-Income 60% 60%
- Adult and GED Clients 20% 20%
College Day Posters
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