They came expecting a brief taste of college life, and many left with a life-changing experience. Thirty-five incoming freshmen participated in this year’s Summer Bridge program, which introduces a select group of first-generation students in the High Potential Program to life at Saint Mary’s College.
“It made me think a lot and made me realize how different college would be from high school,” said Sonja Flores, who graduated from Gateway High School in San Francisco.
The students spent two weeks in the intensive college preparedness program from July 27 to August 10. Along the way, they studied academic subjects like English, Calculus and Ethnic Studies; sampled the Seminar program; gained study skills in sessions on Academic Empowerment, Critical Inquiry and Computer Lab; and learned a lot more about themselves in classes on Personal and Academic Development.
And to break up the intense academic program, they also enjoyed a rafting trip on the American River and a performance of “Les Miserables” in San Francisco.
Throughout the program, the High Potential students met frequently with staff members and with 15 peer mentors -- students from upper classes who give them one-on-one attention and advice.
At the Summer Bridge closing ceremony, which featured a moving tribute to High Potential Program Director Angelica Garcia, many of the incoming freshmen were joined by their parents and their little brothers and sisters.
Lynda Palma, an Oakland Charter School graduate, said the best part for her was meeting a lot of new friends. “Without this, I would have felt lost when I came to school,” she said.
She also got a taste of Seminar and said she took to it right away. “The workload was heavy, but I can handle it,” she said with an air of confidence.
The hardest part was the first few days, being away from her home and her mother. “I was homesick and cried,” she admitted, glancing at her mother, who looked on with pride. “But then I got over it and got into the program,” she added. “I’m really excited to come back in the fall.”
Michael Alonzo, a San Leandro High School graduate who’s considering a career in nursing, said, “It was really a life-changing experience.”
“I kind of cruised through high school without putting any effort into it. Here, I got to experience what college will really be like,” he explained. “After this, I feel like I’m ready for any struggles I might encounter.”
Office of College Communications