Freshmen Student Athletes Become Familiar With Lawrence Through Innovative Summer Program

June 17, 2011

Incoming freshmen take a tour of Mass St.


Coming to a brand-new town and school can be intimidating for some of the freshmen student-athletes who arrive on campus each fall, which is why the Kansas Athletics through the school of education offers a special class called the “Summer Bridge Program”.

Officially known as PRE 101 or psychology and research in education, the program enables athletes in various sports to come to Lawrence during June and July and become familiar with the campus, school and other student-athletes in the KU program. The class, which meets for at least four hours each week, is two credit hours and actually counts toward their education and eventual graduation.

“The purpose of this class is to make the students comfortable in their new environment and really confident using the resources they have around them,” said learning services coordinator Howard Graham, who has been formally teaching the class for four years now.

The four hours per week that the incoming freshmen attend class can be spent in a variety of ways.

“The students conduct research, write-up outlines and drafts of papers, as well working on how to cite sources properly,” Graham said. “We also have them make speeches so they can work on their public speaking skills.”

Aside from more conventional in-class work, summer bridge participants can be found looking around the Spencer Museum of Art or taking a walking tour of downtown Lawrence, where Kansas media relations caught up with the group earlier this week. 061711aaa_999_4774603.jpeg

“If you move around in this town and on this campus today, it is not the same as in August,” Graham said. “When that time comes there is an explosion of students, which means more traffic and longer lines. That can become a very confusing, stressful situation for new students.”

One of the students taking part in the summer bridge program is freshman women’s basketball player Natalie Knight.

“I think it is really great that they have us down here in the summer just to get used to everything,” Knight said.

The soon-to-be guard grew up in Olathe, just a short drive from Lawrence, but still feels the need to become acclimated to her new surroundings.

“I am only 30 minutes away from home and it is a little difficult for me, so I can imagine what the transition is like for those who are farther away from home than me,” Knight explained.

One of those student-athletes making a longer trip to KU than Knight’s 30-minute drive is the football team’s future defensive end Ben Goodman from Beaumont, Texas. While at school, Goodman is more than a dozen hours from home.

“I toured Massachusetts Street on my visit, but this is the first time seeing all the sights,” Goodman said. “It is a pretty nice downtown, very old fashioned and traditional.”

One of the untraditional aspects of the Summer Bridge Program was the opportunity for participants to meet with Lawrence Mayor Aaron Cromwell before their walking tour of downtown.

“Meeting the mayor is really neat because it gets you involved with the community and the environment in which you live,” Goodman said.

After their brief meet and greet with Mayor Cromwell, Goodman and the rest of his group made a few stops along Massachusetts Street, including a sporting goods store and an ice cream shop, where they were treated to some of Lawrence’s best sweet treats.

“In this class we do a lot of group activities such as this, so you become friends with all the athletes in other sports,” Goodman said. “I am not scared to meet new people. Because of that I really like reaching out and getting to know others in the program.”

One of those student athletes Goodman had the chance to meet at the ice cream shop was women’s basketball player Keena Mays. Mays will be a sophomore this coming season and took part in the Summer Bridge Program during June and July of 2010.

“It meant a lot to be able to kind of go through the whole college experience before it actually happened,” Mays remembered. “It was especially very helpful when the fall came around and I was already used to my surroundings.”

“We want our students to be confident enough to ask for help when they do not know what to do or where to find something,” Graham said. “One of the biggest hurdles with all college freshmen is that they get embarrassed having to ask for help, so we want them to be able to know who or where to go to find a book, pay a fee or ask for assistance with their student e-mail account, for example.”

Getting those valuable instructions in this year’s program are close to 30 student-athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball programs as well as the football team. In past years baseball and track and field have also added athletes to PRE 101’s roster.

“We have been doing a version of the bridge program since summer 2005, when basketball players Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright were freshmen,” Graham remembered. “That first year it was not a course, but instead was a two-month long orientation where we had the students for a couple of hours a week and introduced them to the campus and the community.”

In its first few years, the Summer Bridge Program was known as “Jump” because the majority of the participants were men’s and women’s basketball players. Once the program became an actual college course, it was renamed the “Summer Bridge Program” and Athletics teamed up with the KU Libraries to form a more formal educational curriculum.

“Everybody is in the same situation, trying to make new friends and adjust to their new life here,” Knight said. “So it makes it easier being in this program because we see that we are all going through the same thing.”

“With this class there is just something new that happens every day,” Graham said. “We hope that through the Summer Bridge Program we can introduce the students to one more office, one more person and one more idea that is essential for them to become an independent learner and person here at KU.”

“I am glad some of our athletes who have come in were able to have this experience because not everyone has this at their school,” Mays said.


A description of the Summer Bridge Program (PRE 101), can be found here: at KU’s Academic Achievement and Success Center’s official webpage.

A non-class credit form of the program is offered to student-athletes who arrive later in the summer but still want to become more familiar with Lawrence and the University of Kansas.