When capability meets opportunity, incredible things can happen. The more than eighty-five young men in colleges across the country who had the good fortune to come through the Bridge Builders Foundation’s (BBF) Start-to-Finish College Program are a testament to this truth. With 69 percent of the program participants graduating college within four years, and more young men enrolling each year, the goal is far greater than simply getting students into college. “We want our students to know what they’re getting into. We want them to know that they’re supported. We want them to know what to expect as African American young men arriving on these college campuses where they may or may not be wanted. Most of all, we want them to finish college and have a great quality of life,” says Wayne Moore, Board Member and Director of the Start-to-Finish College Program.

Having been the really smart, capable youngster without access to potential building opportunities, Moore, can identify with the access, hope and support the young men who come to their program need. Now, as a retired public administrator, his involvement with BBF since 2005 has allowed Moore and other affluent Black men to bend the arc of higher education engagement toward rather than away from the hundreds of African American males they serve.

With the National Center for Education Statistics’ Condition of Education 2020 report indicating that from 2000 to 2018, college enrollment among eighteen to twenty-four-year-old Blacks increased from 31 to 37 percent with the most visible increase being Black males, the numbers are going in the right direction. For this reason, BBF believes that continuing to match young men with mentors, continuing to award educational scholarships, continuing to provide information about internships and other resources, as well as continuing to make three to four strategic touches per year once a young man enters college is working. Additionally, success stories such as the young man who went on to become a Rhode Scholar, and the young man who had competing offers from the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the California State Police after leaving college, and the young man who is steadfastly pursuing medical school are indications that the BBF’s Start-to-Finish College Program is making an impact.

Reinforcing the high expectations BBF imposes upon its scholars to bolster success is solid yet evolving evidenced by the two recent COVID-19 induced virtual events. The first of which is the tradition of creating an automatic support base by connecting prior-year scholarship recipients to new freshman going to the same college. Even virtually, previous scholars attending colleges in Boston, Texas, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles eagerly joined the Zoom call to speak with current scholars. BBF also hosted a virtual Zoom workshop where African American college professors from UCLA and Pepperdine spoke to new students about what to expect in college. Again, this incredible opportunity was another step in the direction of preparing BBF’s students for a promising future.