Bridging program celebrates 25 years

During the past 25 years, York’s bridging program has opened the doors to a postsecondary education for about 2,000 women – and changed their lives.

On May 7, some 200 of them attended the 25th anniversary celebration of the Women’s Studies Bridging Program at Michelangelo’s Restaurant in the Atkinson Bldg. Coordinated by women’s studies Prof. Ruby Newman, the event was held to honour graduates and launch a new book, You CAN Get There From Here: 25 Years of Bridging Courses for Women at York University.

Right: Bridging program founder Shelagh Wilkinson (centre) cuts anniversary cake with two grads, including Jennifer Edwards (right)

The book, compiled by Newman and bridging program coordinator Andrea O’Reilly (and for sale from the School of Women’s Studies), contains testimonials from women who had never gone to college or university but signed up to take a pre-university course in the bridging program. Contributors submitted stories, poetry and personal accounts of the positive impact the program had on their lives.

The program alumnae were welcomed by Kathryn McPherson, Chair of the School of Women’s Studies, Rhonda Lenton, dean of Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and Robert Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Martha Kumsa (left) spoke about the huge impact the bridging program had on her. After fleeing Ethiopia and coming to Canada as a refugee in 1991, she had a difficult time getting a job. But after taking the bridging course, her life began to move in the right direction and she is now a professor of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University.

In her keynote address, program founder Shelagh Wilkinson spoke about the important links the program makes with women in the Jane/Finch and other communities around the University. She recalled how she developed the idea for the program at her kitchen table 25 years ago.

The event concluded with two touching songs performed by Jennifer Edwards, who also graduated from the program.