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Bridging the gap between high school and college

August 12, 2005

Photo of Summer Bridge instructor Joe Bradley listening to a question from one of his studentsClaudia Sanchez didn't want to take the chance of letting a learning disability stand in the way of her college education so she chose to attend Summer Bridge before beginning her freshman year this fall at SFSU. A program of the Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) at CSU campuses, Summer Bridge was established in the mid-1980s to give low-income, educationally disadvantaged students a better chance to succeed at college. Serving 120 students each summer at SFSU, it includes tutoring, counseling and classes designed to prepare students for the demands of college life.

Most students apply to the program because they need to strengthen their knowledge and skills in math and English. They attend classes four and a half days a week for six weeks. Introductory classes in university writing and college math fill up the mornings, and tutorials, counseling and seminars in college life round out the day.

"Many students who attend Summer Bridge at SFSU are often the first in their family to attend college. The program allows these students to get a handle on what to expect," said Ginger Yamamoto, EOP director.

Teaching and learning styles are decidedly interactive. Students in both the math and English classes work collaboratively in study teams. Frances Kleven, an English instructor and academic coordinator of the SFSU Summer Bridge program, said that she spends very little time in class lecturing.

"I believe that students learn best from each other," she said.

Peer instruction is encouraged in Joe Bradley's math class. "Learning algebra is the same for everyone," he said. "We are just a group of human beings struggling with the practice of abstraction."

The graduate student in math and two-time ARCS (Achievement Reward for College Science) scholar just completed his second year as a Summer Bridge instructor. "I came back this year because I know we really accomplish something here," Bradley said.

Maggie Harrison, a graduate student in creative writing who has just completed her fourth year as a Summer Bridge English instructor, agrees with Bradley. "The summer always begins with students who are scared to death," Harrison said. "By the last class they are a motivated group eager to engage on a college level."

"This is one of the biggest things I have ever accomplished," Sanchez said on her last day of Summer Bridge instruction. "I now see myself as a college student and I know I can do college work."

Like Sanchez, most Summer Bridge students said they are not likely to forget their experience. Some return to the program as counselors or teachers. Jesus Magaña, an EOP counselor and coordinator of SFSU's Summer Bridge program, is a product of the program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he earned his bachelor's degree in human development and psychology.

"I came full circle," he said. "Most of the things I heard from my counselors, I find myself passing on to the students here."

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified August 12, 2005 by University Communications