BRIDGES support group aims to help all sorts of USU students
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 00:10
Building Relationships In Diversity Groups: Exploration and Support, better known as BRIDGES, is a confidential support group for domestic, international and multicultural students who may be struggling with the challenges and difficulties associated with coming to USU. The group meets every Monday from 1-2 p.m.
The newly-formed BRIDGES program was put into action by Eri Suzuki Bentley, who is Japanese; Mario Pereyra, who is Latino; and the third facilitator, Merrill Jones, who is Native American. The three attend every meeting and guide and assist the students who participate.
There are multiple clubs and organizations students can join to learn more about different cultures and people, Bentley said. Multicultural clubs at USU include the Latino Student Union and Black Student Union. On Friday, the African Night Banquet will be held in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom.
Pereyra said he first got the idea for the BRIDGES group from sitting in on the meetings held by USU’s chapter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied group, or the LGBTQA.
“We've seen the success and support that the LGBT students have with their brown bag," Pereyra said. "I would go to the LGBT brown bag pretty often and just saw the importance of it and how essential it was to have someone from the CAPS office there, facilitating the meetings. I saw that it did help the students, that it helped them be a little bit united and feel support from Utah State University from some staff member, faculty, just somebody. We were talking and we felt it would be a real need for our multicultural students as well."
Pereyra said the group is another resource for multicultural students and is not something those students have to commit to; rather, students can simply go in on a week-to-week basis.
“What we do, it’s a drop-in group, so it depends on what people bring that week," Bentley said. "Generally, students just talk about some of the challenges and difficulties that they experience being on this campus, including the cultural challenges.”
Bentley said being on a predominantly-white campus in a predominantly-white community can cause multicultural students to feel like they don't fit in. Some may even feel isolated.
“Some may feel like leaving USU, but they don't have to have negative feelings or experiences with the dominant culture to come to this group,” Bentley said. “They may just enjoy being with other students who share some similarities."
Bentley said the program is designed to build a sense of community and support while creating a safe place to have important conversations.
"Some of these conversations are difficult to have," Bentley said. "We felt like they needed the specific setting to be able to talk about it, to feel invited to talk about it.”
Pereyra said the group is trying “to break down some barriers that are within the multicultural and international communities” because it’s not just a division between multicultural students and white American students that is forming.
"It's multicultural students within themselves,” Pereyra said. “So even within our office, sometimes they like to separate themselves, but that’s because they don’t know. When they get to know each other, they can already start breaking down those barriers and building those bridges between those cultures, and so they can support one another as well.”