St. Lawrence’s Bridging The Gap program has made the transition from an independent study to a regular course, starting this spring. Creator and class adviser Don Mesibov initially designed Bridging The Gap as an independent study course. According to Mesibov, “Teaching is about student learning and learning occurs, most effectively, when students are afforded the opportunity for authentic, real-life applications.”
Bridging The Gap is a program in which St. Lawrence University students travel to local schools to give presentations to North Country students on a broad range of topics. Joanna Cloherty ’10, the program’s Public Relations Chair, described Bridging The Gap as “a student-run class that aims at “bridging the gap” between college students at St. Lawrence University and the towns neighboring the school. In this class we schedule presentations with elementary, middle, and high schools that focuses on educating students about important issues they may face now and in their future, with topics ranging from bullying, preparing for a job interview, and so on.” This class is excellent for students looking to major or minor in education because it offers them the opportunity to work with kids, increase their experience hours in education, and practice skills in the areas of public speaking and lesson planning.
Bridging The Gap benefits the SLU students involved as well as the high school and middle school students involved in the program. Presenters have the opportunity to work with children in a classroom setting, thereby gaining hands-on work experience and an opportunity to discover if teaching is something that they genuinely enjoy. Local k-12 students also benefit from the information presented to them from college students who aren’t yet teachers, but at the same time aren’t peers of the children and are therefore able to offer a unique perspective and voice. This student-run class also bridges the gap between St. Lawrence and the Canton community, as well as between St. Lawrence students and local high school and middle school students.
The program started in 2001 when three undergraduate students — Brettany LaDuke ’04, Stephanie Peets ’03, and Nikki Renda ’04 — were invited by Alexandra Bay High School Principal Ron Hockmuth to give a presentation to his middle and high school students. These three students have since trained other SLU students, who have been successful in meeting the rising demand from local school administrators. As of this semester, there are approximately 30 students involved.
Presentation topics range from study habits and the college application process to bullying and character education. These presentations are given to a variety of different students, ranging from gifted and talented students to at-risk students to students in all grade levels. Mesibov also said, “In addition to visits to schools in the North Country, BTG hosts visits at least twice a semester by students from local schools – this semester’s visits included students from St. Regis Falls and Northern Adirondack.” These groups from local area schools go on tours of the campus, visit classes, and attend sessions to help them become familiar with the admissions process involved in applying to college.