WestConn still building bridges to help students succeed

DANBURY, CONN. — For many high school students who don’t make the grade, a college education is out of reach. But after 30 years as an educator, Marjorie Salem, an adjunct professor of English at Western Connecticut State University, is seeing a big change.

A former Bethel High School teacher, Salem now is a liaison between WestConn and high schools in Bethel and Danbury for the “Building a Bridge to Improve Student Success” program. For the past several years, the Bridges program, a partnership between WestConn and high schools in Bethel and Danbury, has helped dozens of students struggling in English and math get the help they need before they get to WestConn.

By reducing the need for remediation at the college level — which is both costly and time-consuming — students can tackle these issues while still in high school. Salem said the program makes college a possibility for every student.

Because of the Bridges program, Salem said, many students who weren’t college bound are now succeeding at WestConn. “It opens their eyes. They wouldn’t otherwise understand their potential,” Salem said. “We’re able to identify them and do some intervention at the high school level. You really do see these students grow.”

The Bridges program was started five years ago by WestConn professors and teachers at Danbury and Bethel high school who together developed classes and testing to address remedial learning. Through the program, students at both high schools are tested in English and math during their junior year. Students who don’t place well on the tests can receive help to improve their skills before they graduate from high school.

As a result of the program, the number of seniors at the two high schools who need to take remedial math and English classes when they enroll at WestConn has dropped significantly.

Salem said there is now more emphasis on writing and math skills at the two high schools because, through the Bridges program, they realized that students needed better proficiency. This is not only to get into college, but to be successful throughout college and later in their careers.

The program, Salem said, is a great source of communication between the high school teachers and college professors and gives the high school teachers a greater understanding of what is expected of their students at the college level.

“They were surprised at the level of rigor expected at WestConn,” Salem said. And, as a result, the number of students needing remedial help by the time they reach WestConn has significantly decreased, thanks to the Bridges program.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.



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