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Bridge Program Gives New Students a Jump-Start
Posted 08/01/2013 09:42AM
Structured as a “low-stakes approach” to getting to know Agnes Irwin and The Haverford School, the Summer Bridge program - two weeks of orientation activities held in July - is an opportunity for new and returning ninth graders at Agnes Irwin to meet each other and their counterparts at Haverford in a casual, school-like setting.

“They are not in uniforms and there are no tests,” Jennifer Fiorini, Middle and Upper School English teacher at Agnes Irwin, said of the relaxed nature of the program. “Faculty from Haverford and Agnes Irwin have been working together to plan the program’s daily activities since winter, researching fun and creative ways for students to get to know the schools and each other.”

According to Fiorini, the program begins at both schools on Monday, with the boys at Haverford and girls at Agnes Irwin. Through a day of activities on their own campuses, the students are able to get to know some of their classmates and the unique values and nuances of their schools. For instance, this past Monday the girls discussed the AIS honor system and performed case studies where the honor system might be in question. The goal was to learn what they could do to live up to the values of an Agnes Irwin girl while embracing the honor code.

The remainder of the week involved joint activities with students from both schools. “The main goal is to establish connections between not only the students within both schools but also between the students of both schools,” said Mark Fifer, Upper School Dean of Students at Haverford.

Some of these activities have included a physics egg drop project (see photo above), paper airplane engineering, a three-dimensional art project (see photo below), rehabilitating a graffiti-covered recreation center in Fishtown and producing videos that focus on the special brother-sister relationship of Haverford and Agnes Irwin. Also on the schedule was an adventurous canoe trip on the Brandywine River.

“One thing I will say that is really striking about both student populations,” said Fiorini, “is that you would imagine these groups would be nervous about meeting each other – and they are in the beginning – and then this magical thing happens where they really start to see each other as brother-sister school entities and they come to know each other in ways that are meaningful peer relationships that last their whole high school career.”

Of all the activities offered throughout Bridge this summer, the most popular was the community service project: refurbishing Art Sphere, a neighborhood recreation center in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia.

“I really enjoyed the service project in Fishtown,” said rising ninth grader Riley Powers, new to the Agnes Irwin community this year. “It was fun painting around the recreation center to make it look brighter and provide a cleaner area for the little kids to enjoy over the summer.”

In addition to painting, students also pulled weeds and cleared the area for children to enjoy a proper playground. “It was great to see the kids dive into painting over the graffiti and work hard together to bring some type of improvement to the Philadelphia community," said Fifer.

What AIS and Haverford Bridge Students are Saying…

Emma Lewis '17 (returning student to AIS)

Bridge has been really beneficial to me because now I know the people who are going to be new in the grade better than I would if I was just meeting them on the first day of school, and now I also know some people from Haverford, too.

Kevin Dougherty (rising ninth grader, Haverford)

My favorite activity at Bridge was the couch game because you got to learn all of the students’ names in the game and meet new people. Plus, it’s always good to come into school already having friends.

Daniel Resnick (rising ninth grader, Haverford)

I come from a much smaller school and the campus here is a lot bigger! Bridge is really helping me to get adjusted to the campus and it’s size, so now I know where everything is!

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