Heller: NorthBridge offers road less traveled to higher learning


College graduation is part of the American dream for parents and students throughout Arizona.

Yet, that dream is elusive for up to 20 percent of all Americans who have some type of a learning challenge as reported by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development.

Nancy Heller

How many of those affected receive the help they need to go to college, get a marketable academic or vocational degree that will allow them to be successful and independent?

The answer: not enough.

A small group of Maricopa County parents wanted to change the outcome for the chances of college success for graduating high school seniors with learning challenges or for those who learn differently. Their efforts and energies created the NorthBridge College Success Program in 2011.

Parents and leaders at New Way Academy, a K–12, private, not-for-profit school for students with learning differences, came together and established Maricopa County’s only college success program specializing in helping students who learn differently succeed in their post-secondary educational pursuits.

As the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization we assist students who attend community colleges, four-year college and vocational programs throughout the Valley.

Our students receive the personalized help they need from academic specialists and mentoring to develop their executive function skills (time management, prioritization, and task analysis) from academic coaches. The end result is that our students persist and earn their degrees.

I know it works. My son participated in the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques program at the University of Arizona and graduated from the Eller School of Business Management. His success inspired me to become involved at NorthBridge.

I am now the board chair for NorthBridge College Success Program.

Over the last six years, NorthBridge students have proved the program works as they pass 96 percent of their courses and have an average GPA of 3.12. With our guidance, mentorship, tutoring and their hard work, NorthBridge students are 30 percent more likely than neurotypical students to stay in college and earn their degree.

As a young, small nonprofit, we continue to grow and expand our service area. Our office is in Scottsdale at N. 70th Street and Shea Boulevard. We continue to expand to meet student demand and we have satellite offices at several community college locations.

Today’s technology allows us to provide remote support to Maricopa County students pursuing their education outside the Valley. Currently, there are specialists supporting students at NAU as well as students attending schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Locally, NorthBridge students attend Scottsdale Community College, Grand Canyon University as well as Arizona State University and Phoenix College.

So, what does it look like to be a post-secondary student utilizing NorthBridge’s services?

Nadia, who earned her associate degree in May, didn’t have positive experiences in high school, nor was she encouraged to pursue college because of dyslexia. Fortunately, her parents found NorthBridge in an internet search. She relocated from Yuma to attend Scottsdale Community College and NorthBridge where she excelled both academically and in the demanding dance program.

Nadia says, “I did all the work, but NorthBridge made my success possible because they believed in me.”

NorthBridge recognizes that parents, as well as students, need support in the transition to the next phase of education. Our Parent Transition Advisors are available to help parents navigate finding an educational path for their son or daughter.

How can you help ensure that students who learn differently have the opportunity to get that post-secondary degree?

  • Learn more about NorthBridge. Sign up for our updates on our website at northbridgeaz.org.
  • Attend one of our activities.
  • Register and participate on Saturday, November 10, 2018, in our second annual NorthBridge 5K and Fun Run. Support NorthBridge while enjoying the beautiful fall Arizona weather.

Register at northbridgeaz.org/run-for-success.

This post appeared in the Paradise Valley Independent on August 31, 2017.  Editor’s note: Ms. Heller is a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley chairwoman of the NorthBridge College Success Program