Progression: Tobi Kinsell

Last year, Greenville Forward started a new series called Progression. We really like to start conversations at this organization, so we thought that we could begin a few of them by inviting community experts and leaders to share more about the cool things their working on and give Greenvillians an opportunity “to learn, engage, and discuss topics that help shape our community.”

Because our focus area for this quarter was Education, we invited Tobi Kinsell, director of Furman’s Bridges to the Brighter program to share more about Bridges and the state of education in Greenville County. It was a great presentation about a dynamic program. Tobi introduced us to Bridges, a program that includes a 4-week summer program, Saturday College and help and mentoring with the college application process for Greenville County high school students whose potential outdistances their circumstances. We compiled some of Tobi’s quotes below and included a list of the challenges she sees for student success in Greenville County.

Tobi Kinsell

On the Bridges Comprehensive program:

“We want to address their social,emotional and mental health so that they can become healthy people and healthy adults.”

On creating individual relationships with the students in the program:
“In order to move someone forward, you have to know them as an individual. Visits to their home, taking them to the SATs; that’s not written in the mission. It’s not written in my job description but you just got to do what you got to do.”

On the importance of Grit:
“If you’re growing up in that circumstance its difficult to see what’s beyond what’s in front of you. We have to build the resiliency and coping mechanisms to go back to that environment and keep moving forward.”

On the College Application:
“The process to apply to college is very confusing. If you don’t know how to navigate that system you just don’t. There are small barriers that keeps students from being the best they can be and ultimately being productive citizens”

Challenges As I See Them:

  • Academic Preparation – ACT, SAT, college readiness
  • The small barriers
  • College Admissions. Financial Aid and Enrollment
  • Many negative voices
  • College enrollment is not the finish line
  • Need for more post-secondary options and access to the options.
  • A college degree does not guarantee that someone moves out of poverty.

Read more about Bridges on their website. And join us for our next Progression series at Coffee Underground on March 12th!

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