Bridge to College Program Is Now in its Second Year Helping Stamford Students Get on the Path to Higher Education

United Way helps ALICE prosper by breaking down barriers to student success

STAMFORD, Conn. (July 13, 2020) — For the second summer in a row, Stamford Cradle to Career is helping students who recently graduated from high school overcome the obstacles that prevent them from starting college in the fall.

Through a program called Bridge to College, the community-wide initiative is helping students navigate the sometimes murky waters of preparing to matriculate in higher education— especially for first generation college students whose families do not have past experience and resources to draw from – including completing financial aid forms, meeting deadlines, submitting required paperwork, and registering.

Bridge to College is reaching out to 900 recent graduates, but doing special outreach to Stamford graduates who plan to attend college and will be the first in their families to go on to higher education. That’s over 50% of Stamford high school graduates. In the past, as many as 37% of Stamford’s seniors who planned to go to college did not matriculate in the fall. In a phenomenon called “summer melt” many students don’t make it to the first day of classes because of the challenges of piecing together financing, completing paperwork on time, and selecting and registering for classes.

“Even the most prepared families can find the college entrance process daunting,” said Bridget Fox, President of Stamford Cradle to Career. “But if your family is new to this country, or your parents never attended college, the hurdles can be high indeed. The paperwork alone can be overwhelming. This program gives students the assistance they need at a crucial juncture—the months leading up to college enrollment in the fall after their high school senior year.”

Fox added that the program is supported by Synchrony, Stamford Public Schools, and the Stamford Public Education Foundation, as well as by an anonymous donor. The work of Bridge to College is in line with Stamford Cradle to Career’s mission of ensuring equity and excellence in education, for every Stamford child, from cradle to career. It is working with more than 60 community partners toward achieving that goal.

Text messages are being sent to more than 900 students through a program called Signal Vine. The text messages remind students about key steps and deadlines in the college enrollment process. First-generation college students have also received a phone call asking if they would like more intense support, including one-on-one meetings with counselors. Four counselors have been hired to work more closely with students who require additional support. The goal this year is to work one-on-one with 80 students and obtain a college seat for 75% of them in the fall.

Andrena Forlenzo is in her second year of providing one-on-one counseling to students as part of Bridge to College. She says, “Many of the students we worked with last year and are working with this summer would likely not have followed through to get to the classroom by August. We heard this from many of the students on our caseloads last year. That makes the outreach worth it. Being able to continue to provide guidance beyond the regular school year is both necessary and rewarding.”
This year’s program is building on last year’s success, with 69% of the Bridge to College participants completing the enrollment process and attending college in the fall of 2019. Of last year’s participants who were surveyed, 100% said they were likely to recommend a friend to Bridge to College.

“The step in the process that I needed the most help with was FASFA. If it wasn’t for the help, I would not have been able to attend school this fall,” explained one Stamford High School Class of 2019 graduate and a current Norwalk Community College student.

Another student from last year’s program said, “Bridge to College should continue to help the students who need help going to college and helping them choose the right path. The most helpful part of the program was Ms. Andrena. She took the time to help me, and she was extremely patient.”

For more information about Bridge to College, contact Bridget Fox, President of Stamford Cradle to Career at

Stamford Cradle To Career's Bridge To College 2020 program
Stamford Cradle to Career’s Bridge to College program student participants, counselors, and staff from the summer of 2019 are pictured here. The program is texting 900 students and providing more intense help to 80 students hoping to make their way to college this fall.


News12 Connecticut: Stamford initiative helps students prep for college



Stamford Cradle to Career (SC2C) is a collective impact partnership with a solid and committed cross-sector collaboration that is based on the nationally recognized StriveTogether Cradle to Career Framework in creating a community-wide partnership. It is a road map to change and a new way for community stakeholders to work together. The overarching goal of Stamford Cradle to Career is to collectively align community resources to ensure that all youth succeed in education, career, and life because successful children lead to a vibrant and thriving community. The partnership convenes over one hundred volunteers from the community, non-profit agencies, Stamford Public Schools, the City of Stamford, and the business community to create, align, implement, assess, and grow interventions that support the educational success of children and their families. United Way of Western Connecticut  serves as the anchor and backbone entity providing management and fiscal support for the partnership. For more information about the StriveTogether Framework, visit For more information about SC2C, visit