College of HHD

Public Health Student Among First 'Bridge to the Future' Grads

August 18, 2021

eloisa varelaEloisa Varela ’21 (Public Health) says the CSUN Bridge to the Future Program helped her set her life on course.

This article is abridged from the full story in CSUN Today. Read the story and get to know the other Bridge to the Future First-cohort graduates in CSUN Today.

The CSUN Bridge to the Future program, which removes many of the barriers to academic success by providing a tuition-free CSUN education to students from Canoga Park High School, has just celebrated its first cohort of graduates.

Eloisa Varela ’21 (Public Health) set her life on course, thanks to the program. Varela was an undocumented student who grew up with the dream of attending college. However, her undocumented status left her ineligible to receive federal financial aid, and she had younger siblings who also wanted to attend college. These obstacles made college seem like a near-impossible task for Varela.

This is where the program stepped in. Bridge to the Future allowed Varela and her two sibilings, who followed her into the program at CSUN, the opportunity they dreamed of. Eloisa Varela plans to return to her university studies in fall 2022 and apply for the nursing program at CSUN.

“If this program wasn’t here for me, I would have had to find a different route and I truthfully don’t know where I’d be in life today,” said Varela. “Three children in college is nothing cheap, so this was everything to me and my family, accomplishing our dreams and goals. Now that I have succeeded through the program, I want to go back to help the future students. The people who I looked up to during my time in the program mean everything to me, so I want to have the same impact on future generations as I advance in my career.”

Bridge to the Future launched in 2017 as part of CSUN’s Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing’s Neighborhood Partners in Action initiative in Canoga Park. CSUN faculty visited nonprofit organizations and schools, talked to community leaders, and learned that financial issues were a huge factor in local students’ decisions whether to attend college.

Each year, the program provides a four-year, tuition-free education to 25 students from Canoga Park High School. The program gives students support such as tutoring, academic counseling, financial help and an overall family atmosphere. According to the program’s leadership at CSUN, the goal is to establish sustainable relationships between CSUN and the community, and create a college-going culture in Canoga Park. As Bridge to the Future Scholars, students participate in 20 hours of service in the community every semester, in an effort to foster a sense of pride within Canoga Park.

The program is an opportunity to build CSUN’s commitment to supporting under-resourced communities, to make a college degree a reality for youth, and build an educational pipeline for both families and the community, according to David Boyns, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing and the Bridge to the Future Program.

Of the original 2017 cohort, 18 graduated in May, and the others are on track to do so soon. students from the first cohort entered CSUN while remedial courses were still required, leaving a few students unable to finish within four years. An extension of program services and tuition waivers was provided to students who didn’t finish within four years, said Diane Stephens, associate vice president for Academic Resources and Planning.

This article is abridged from the full story in CSUN Today. Read the story and get to know the other Bridge to the Future First-cohort graduates in CSUN Today.

SU 2021

Devin Smith/CSUN Today