Bridging the gap

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Cherry Hill Sun
The transition from middle school to high school can be a difficult one for young pupils, but a local middle school program is looking to smooth that shift for nervous middle schoolers.
The Bridge, a new program at Beck Middle School, is offering young learners the chance to gain the necessary skills to succeed in high school. Unlike a normal tutoring program, about half-an-hour of each day ends with high school students answering questions about high school life.
Beck Middle School teacher Jennifer Ritter and Cherry Hill East High School teacher Melissa Lampman founded The Bridge after hearing a common complaint from high school teachers in the district. Many teachers lamented that new high school students often don’t have the life and educational skills needed to succeed right away in high school.
“We’re getting them to be more aware of what they need in high school to succeed,” Ritter said. “We found there often was a void, a gap that needed to be filled.”
The first year of its existence, The Bridge has already been found to be a popular program among Beck and East students. 80 tutors have been accepted into the program, Ritter said, and more are needed. About 80 to 90 students at Beck have already signed up for tutoring sessions.
Starting at 3 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, students flock to the Beck library for the sessions and a free snack donated by the Beck PTA. Tutoring sessions begin at 3:15 p.m. and each day offers a new subject for students. Monday and Wednesday offer Humanities subjects and Tuesday and Thursday offer science and math.
At the end of each day at 4 p.m. students go through the “Wrap up,” a half an hour question and answer session between the students.
Each day a new subject is broached, Ritter said, but usually have to do with the younger students asking high school students about what they do at East.
“The wrap up session is cool, it’s answered a lot of my questions about high school,” said Matt Dipatri, 14, an eighth grader. “It’s a good program because I needed help with some of my classes and they do a good job.”
Two East students, Selli Abdali, 16, a junior and Avra Bossov, were the co-founding students who helped formalize The Bridge and its programming.
Abdali said she found the idea to be appealing because she had a younger brother in middle school who constantly asked her questions about what it’s like to be in high school.
Being the oldest sibling in her family, she wished she had the luxury of having an older brother or sister to ask about high school.
“When I was younger I didn’t have any older sibling to ask about what it was like to be in high school,” she said. “This was a good way to help my brother and all of his friends and fellow students who had questions about high school.”
Hopefully the program will be successful and extend for many years to come in the district, Lampman said. Being a teacher at East she can see the gap between eighth grade and high school students, and the program’s ultimate goal is to close that gap.
“Hopefully this program will help the students know the expectations for them at the high school level,” she said.
The program is accepting tutors and students throughout the school year.
Beck students can sign up for the program through their guidance department and East students can apply to be tutors through their counselors as well.