Students selected for inaugural Bridge Year Program

Twenty Princeton students will defer the start of their freshman year at Princeton this fall to spend a tuition-free enrichment period abroad focused on public service as the first participants in the University's Bridge Year Program.

The students were selected from among 54 applicants for the program from members of Princeton's class of 2013. They were chosen on the basis of their openness, maturity, flexibility, courage, resourcefulness, eagerness to be challenged and commitment to service abroad, according to John Luria, director of the program. Candidates were interviewed by a selection committee on campus as well as by representatives of the University's partner programs.

The students will be working with three partner programs in four locations:

  • ProWorld Service Corps in Urubamba, Peru.
  • World Learning in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana.
  • World Learning in Novi Sad and Niš, Serbia.
  • Where There Be Dragons in Varanasi, India.

The students and their home states, listed by the locations where they will spend nine months abroad beginning this fall, are: Peru -- Leah Bushin of New York; Agnes Cho of California; David Hammer of Connecticut; Brian Reilly of Virginia; and Tugce Tunalilar of Turkey; Ghana -- Cole Freeman of Connecticut; Jessica Haley of Wisconsin; Aria Miles of Maryland; Nicholas Ricci of North Carolina; and Kathleen Ryan of Virginia; Serbia -- Katherine Mount of North Carolina; Alexander Rafter of California; Mariam Wahed of Oregon; Lelabari Giwa-Ojuri of California; and Ashley Vinson of New Jersey; and India -- Joseph Barrett of New York; Andrew Finkelstein of Maryland; Elizabeth Martin of North Carolina; Shaina Watrous of New Jersey; and Chhaya Werner of California.

"We were quite impressed by the diversity and strength of the candidate pool and regret that we had only a limited number of available opportunities for Bridge Year volunteers during this pilot year," Luria said. "I think we have assembled a truly exceptional group of volunteers for this inaugural Bridge Year."

The Bridge Year Program will begin the last week of August with a pre-departure orientation at Princeton. Students will travel to program sites as a group immediately following orientation.

The University will cover all core program expenses and will provide supplemental funding based on need for those who cannot afford the incidental costs, such as airfare, health insurance and personal items, that families will be asked to pay.

The goal of the program is to provide students with an expanded perspective, a chance to relax and refocus between high school and college, and an orientation to service in keeping with the University's informal motto, "Princeton in the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations."

Opportunities for this year's participants will range from working on a stove replacement project in Peru and helping at a center for street children in Ghana to getting involved with a microfinance organization in India and serving with a youth organization that promotes democracy and human rights in Serbia.

Students will live with families in the community they are serving, and they will receive on-site language training.

Princeton's partners are experienced providers of learning opportunities for young people abroad and have exceptional records of success and safety. World Learning, which is sponsoring two of the programs, was established 75 years ago and currently operates in more than 70 countries. It is able to draw on leadership in the field of secondary school exchanges, university-level programs and community development projects through its four core program areas -- the Experiment in International Living, SIT Study Abroad, the SIT Graduate Institute and World Learning Development Programs.

Founded in 1993, Where There Be Dragons has successfully managed hundreds of unique, small-group service learning programs in developing Asia, Latin America and Africa that inspire youth leadership and responsible global citizenship.

ProWorld, which operates as both a development agency and service learning program provider, has worked for more than 10 years with host communities in Peru, Belize, Mexico, India and Thailand.

The proposal for the Bridge Year Program was among several international engagement efforts outlined in the "Princeton in the World" initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman and Provost Christopher Eisgruber in fall 2007. The program was created when a working group of faculty, students and staff endorsed the proposal last summer after spending a semester assessing its feasibility and forming recommendations on key elements.