The Monterey Park resident, who graduated earlier this year from Mark Keppel High School, is the first in her immediate family to enroll in college, and she had never visited the Cal Poly Pomona campus. She also worried about the coursework.
“Would I be able to handle a college-level class?” Tri wondered.
Fortunately for Tri, she was one of nearly 100 incoming freshmen who were invited to participate in the five-week Summer Bridge program that began June 23. In its 29th year, Summer Bridge is part of Cal Poly Pomona’s Educational Opportunity Program, which aims to help low-income and first-generation college students succeed academically and break the cycle of poverty. It is an academic boot camp that prepares students to make the transition from high school to college.
“We want to strengthen their ability to succeed academically, help them establish relationships with faculty and other freshmen, and experience campus life prior to their first quarter,” says Monique Sosa Allard, executive director of Student Support and Equity Programs, which runs Summer Bridge.
The program requires the students to enroll in a four-unit course – math, English or other general education course – and also attend workshops and seminars on financial aid, reading strategies and how to study and make use of advising resources. Most of the courses were five-week classes, but a few were 10 weeks long. The students spent the first three weeks living in the dorms; the last two weeks they commuted to campus.
The program is funded through a combination of state funds and a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Cisneros Family Foundation.
Leon Chan, an incoming freshman from San Gabriel, says he was able to get by in high school without studying much. But the Summer Bridge seminars taught him a lot.
“I’ve learned how to study and use the resources that can help me improve,” Chan says. “I think it’s changed my mind-set.”
Tri echoes those sentiments, saying that the she could not have gotten the same knowledge and experience from orientation sessions, which last only a few days.
“I’m definitely going to be a lot more confident,” she says. “Not only do I know how to find my classrooms, I know where to go to get what I need.”
Just as important, Summer Bridge offered participants the chance to meet other incoming freshmen and begin friendships. It was a bonding experience for participants, some of whom were either visiting campus for the first time or were spending the longest period ever away from home.
“I never expected to have this much fun going to college,” says Chan, who hopes to share a dorm room this fall with his Summer Bridge roommate. “Here I was able to get really close and become good friends with others.”
Tri concurs. “I can lean on them, and they can lean on me.”
(Photo: Students at a Summer Bridge 2013 session.)