Belmont Celebrates 10 Years of Bridges to Belmont Scholarship Program

Greg Jones addresses group at the anniversary celebration
Stories of Impact

Belmont Celebrates 10 Years of Bridges to Belmont Scholarship Program

July 2, 2024 | by Haley Charlton

Scholarship program expands reach, transforms lives of local students

cohort at celebrationBelmont is marking a significant milestone this year as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Bridges to Belmont scholarship program. Launched in 2013, the initiative has become a cornerstone of the University's commitment to serving the greater Nashville community and enhancing campus diversity. 

Assistant Provost for Student Success and Flourishing Carshonda Martin highlighted the program's growth and impact during a special anniversary celebration June 28, as a part of the University’s inaugural Reunion Weekend.  

"Over the last 10 years, Belmont has welcomed more than 425 scholars from 12 local Metro Nashville Public High Schools (MNPS) to campus as Bruins," she said. "What began with 27 students from four high schools has expanded to include 50 students from 12 schools, demonstrating our deepening commitment to the Nashville community." 

current and alumni scholarsRenamed Bell Tower Scholars in 2021, the scholarship program provides full tuition, fees, room and board, books and academic supplies for four years of study. It aims to support high-potential students from Metro Nashville Public Schools in their transition to college life. 

Martin added, “The program seeks to empower students’ passions to have an impact on the world through their education by creating an environment of academic achievement, community service, social engagement and personal formation.” 

The vision for the Bridges to Belmont program was brought to life through the support of Milton Johnson, former CEO of HCA Healthcare and current chair of Belmont's Board of Trustees. Johnson, himself a first-generation college student and MNPS graduate, saw the program as a way to give back to the community. "Nothing has been more impactful in my life than this program," Johnson shared. "Belmont changed my life, and it can change yours." 

Milton Johnson speaks at the celebrationThe Bell Tower Scholarship program offers comprehensive support throughout students' academic journeys. It begins with an intensive eight-week summer academy before their first semester, providing students with initial college credits and orientation. Throughout their time at Belmont, scholars receive targeted support tailored to their academic stage - from mentoring and career planning in the early years to internships and study abroad opportunities as they progress. This holistic approach ensures students are well-prepared for both graduation and their future careers. 

In 2022, Belmont added two more high schools to the program and saw a record number of applications. Martin noted, "In response, we created additional opportunities, including a $15,000 faculty scholarship for 20 more students and a partnership with Nashville State Community College for transfer students." The University also launched the Bruins Connections program, providing early move-in and year-round support for various scholarship recipients.  

Antionedra Maupin speaks on panelIn the past decade, the retention rate for scholars increased from 67% in the first year to an impressive 98%. The scholars have contributed over 120,000 hours of community service and have achieved a 76% six-year graduation rate. Enhancements to the program, such as the opportunity to study abroad for free for one semester, have allowed students to study abroad in 15 countries and find themselves on the dean’s list, in honor societies and receiving leadership awards. 

The impact of the program extends beyond graduation. Alumni have gone on to successful careers in various fields, including education, social work, law and business. Many have returned to serve the Nashville community, fulfilling the program's mission of developing diverse leaders eager to make a positive impact. 

Princess speaks on panelThe program's impact, though, is perhaps best illustrated through the experiences of its scholars. Personal testimonials from program students and alumni were shared at a panel during the anniversary celebration, highlighting not only the academic support provided by the program but also the emotional foundation it creates for students, fostering a sense of belonging and community at Belmont.  

Antionedra Maupin, a 2022 graduate and current staff member and graduate student at Belmont, spoke about the profound support she received. "I remember Dr. Clark texted me during an overly busy time, and she said, 'I need to lay eyes on you. I haven't seen you. I don't know if you're okay,'" Maupin recalled. “She came and gave me a big hug and I just burst into tears. One thing I can always say about the Bridges staff is they want us to know if we didn't have anybody else, we had them.” 

This level of care and attention has created deep emotional bonds between scholars and staff. 

Johnsons talk with scholarsCurrent sophomore Emilia Sanabria added, "They are just the most true and authentic connections that I've ever made in my entire life. They just taught me what it truly feels like to be loved and supported by not just my own family, but people who truly care about you." 

Incoming freshman Princess Nwozo added, “Belmont sees us as humans before they see us as students. And I felt like I never saw that any other college I applied to. I knew that Belmont was a place for me and that I needed to be here because I really see community as a way that I can thrive. And I thrive the best when I'm around those people who are going through the same things I'm going through.” 

Looking ahead, Belmont remains committed to expanding the program's reach and continuing to innovate in support of its scholars in its second decade.