Smart Horizons Career Online Education’s Bridge to Start program has been gaining momentum on all 11 Florida Career College (FCC; campuses, but nowhere has the response been as enthusiastic as on FCC’s Lauderdale Lakes campus, located in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

SHCOE is the world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district, enabling students to earn both a high school diploma and credentialed career certificate in one comprehensive online program. SCHOE’s Bridge to Start program serves students who want to enroll in college but have not yet earned the requisite high school diploma. Students can complete their high school education through this innovative online program and then seamlessly enroll in college.

The Bridge to Start collaboration with FCC has involved the establishment of supervised learning labs on FCC campuses that provide students pursuing their high school diplomas with computer and Internet access. This offers Bridge to Start students a unique hybrid learning environment that couples SHCOE’s cutting-edge online program with an on-campus classroom experience as they prepare themselves to move on to college coursework.

The Lauderdale Lakes campus is leading the way with over 100 Bridge to Start students enrolled to date. Natasha Saffie has been the Bridge to Start Admissions Representative for Lauderdale Lakes since the program was launched in May of this year.

“My main task is to interview prospective Bridge to Start students to determine how to best help them,” Saffie said. “The majority of them want to start college but they have to get their high school diplomas first. I ascertain where they are in their schooling and then explain how the program works. I also help ensure that they get all of their past school credits transferred when they enroll. Once they start, I help them stay on schedule with their coursework and payments so they are keeping pace in all areas.”

Saffie said that “putting herself in the students’ shoes” has helped her to be good at her job.

“If it was up to me, and I was trying to pick up where I left off in high school and get ready for college, Bridge to Start is exactly what I’d do, and I tell them that,” Saffie said. “It saves time, it’s a neat program, and the value and benefits are all there. The students love the program. The online classes are understandable for them, and pretty self-explanatory. And they know that help is always right at their fingertips, either from me or from their academic coaches.”

Saffie says the most important part of her role with Bridge to Start is to offer the students support and motivation.

“The students tell me that my caring about them actually means a lot to them,” Saffie said. “Many of them have failed in other parts of their education and they were not previously successful in completing high school—but now they finally have hope again. My being passionate about it and being there for them is important to them. The majority of these students do not get that kind of support from their families and peers, so I try to be their main support.”

“The key here at the Lakes campus for the success of Bridge to Start is that we are very energized about the program,” said Laura Strong, Director of Admissions for Lauderdale Lakes. “I’m constantly telling our admission advisors that the high school students are our future, that we are the role models for these students who have not yet completed their educational journeys, and that we can be that bridge or connection. We can help them experience success by first helping them achieve their diplomas, and then helping th