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Student Support Program Looks to Its Roots with 'Breaking Barriers' Name Change

April 6, 2022

Back in 2017, Yeidaly Mejia '19 and Alex Berndt '19 created a program they called “Breaking Barriers” with support of a Pensby Center fellowship. The program’s goal was to provide support for the growing number of first-generation students at Bryn Mawr College.

The response to the program was so great that the College used the model to establish a formal FGLI (First-Generation Low Income) program through the Pensby Center in 2019. In the fall of 2021, Leslie Castrejon joined the Pensby staff as its inaugural dean for student support and belonging, and began to administer the program as part of her role.

As she worked with students throughout the year, Castrejon started to hear a common refrain.

“Students are really excited about the program, but the term ‘FGLI’ seemed in some ways to limit students’ self-understanding,” says Castrejon. “Students have many different experiences, with the FGLI element making up just one part of it.”

So Castrejon and her student advisors consulted with students in the program and decided to draw on the program’s origins and rename the program “Breaking Barriers.”

“We want our community to feel welcomed and celebrated,” says Castrejon. “Our goal is to continue building and expanding on the thoughtful work students have done for our community.

“Changing our name is the first step in a new chapter of developing community and a deeper sense of belonging for students participating in this program. Our community has broken barriers prior to arriving at Bryn Mawr, it breaks barriers on a daily basis while here, and members will continue to do so beyond their time at Bryn Mawr.”

Thirteen percent of Bryn Mawr’s current undergraduate students identify as first-generation college students.

Upcoming Programming:

  • MIJ & Breaking Barriers Wonderspaces Trip, Friday, April 8, 6-10 p.m., Meeting Location: New Dorm
  • Breaking Barriers Mentorship Program Orientation, Friday, April 15, 3-4 p.m., Community Room, Student Life & Wellness Center
  • Breaking Barriers Egg Hunt, Sunday, April 17, 3-4 p.m., Sunken Garden, rain or shine

Pensby Center ​for Community Development and Inclusion