Summer Bridge Alumni Prepare to Mentor Next Freshman Class
Soon-to-be sophomores at California State University, Dominguez Hills are spending their summer vacation preparing to mentor incoming freshmen in the university’s Summer Bridge Academy. Administered through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) office, Summer Bridge seeks to ensure student success and retention for first-time freshmen with a free six-week seminar from July 6 to Aug. 11, focused on basics like English and mathematics as well as college survival skills such as study habits and time management.
Manuel Diaz, a kinesiology major who graduated from Carson High School, says that he is most concerned with helping his new mentees with the transition from high school to college.
“Last summer, we had it easy,” he says his of his Summer Bridge experience, during which he and his peers took UNV 101. “Then during the fall, we experienced how hard it could be.”
Yoshaniek Lee, who attended Manual Arts Senior High School as a freshman but graduated from James Monroe High School, says that although she was enrolled in college prep classes in high school, the quality of instruction was not consistent from school to school.
“The problem is that our local high schools don’t prepare students for college,” says the criminal justice major.
Rudy Rangel says that the extra effort by one of her English teachers was instrumental in preparing her for college level work.
“My senior teacher... actually teaches on her own time an advanced English course to prepare you to take English in college.”
Jeheruza Plata, a child development major, looks forward to interacting with the new freshmen. She says that she hopes that the freshmen will look to her and her fellow mentors as “a friend or family member.”
“I’m going to tell them it’s not easy, it’s nothing compared to high school,” she says. “And also, the way high school students study is not the way college students study.”
Cesar Deleon says that the mentoring relationship he had with the athletic director when a student at Community Harvest Charter School in Van Nuys was the inspiration for his wanting to give back as a Summer Bridge mentor.
“We had something called Connections at our school, where all the boys of your grade get together and talk about problems with girls, at home, everything you share with the other guys and you get feedback. The athletic director was my [Connections] teacher from seventh grade to my senior year. I hope to be able to do this for someone.”
Lee says that such programs are critical for students who come from low-income backgrounds or don’t envision a college degree as a real possibility.
“I understand there are kids in high school who are already prepared, those are the ones that [teachers and administrators] focus on,” she says. “But you have to focus on those who are out of high school who are not doing anything with their lives.
“In wealthier neighborhoods, [success] programs are provided for students, whereas here, they’re not. We need the funds to keep [giving] us that hope, that extra push.”
Although the mentoring program is set up to take place only during Summer Bridge, the mentors are planning on staying with their mentees throughout the fall semester and hopefully encourage those students to mentor the 2011 freshman class.
“This year we told each other, ‘We’re going to interact with the students. We’re going to help the students and get to know them on an [academic] level and on a friend level,’” says Lee. “We’re making the commitment to be with them in the summer and in the fall, so can continue with them, so we can see them and help them succeed.”
Deleon says that the mentors’ plan to continue working with Summer Bridge students throughout their time at CSU Dominguez Hills will improve the program for future students.
“This is going to be our first year [as mentors] and we are probably going to make some mistakes,” he says. “But if we stay, we can grow with the program and it’s going to be a better experience for the students.”
Davieon Mack, a liberal studies major who graduated from Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood, says that without EOP he would not be in college. He looks forward to becoming an elementary school teacher and says that the opportunity to mentor new college students will enhance his skills as an educator in the future.
“I feel that to improve young kids today, we have to start them early so I want to be an elementary school teacher,” he says. “It’s important that we take programs like this to elementary schools and middle schools to help kids have something to look forward to. They can start at an early age... with the mentality that they want to do something with their lives, not settle for [just being] average.”
For more information on the Summer Bridge Academy and other EOP programs, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Sophomore mentors for EOP's Summer Bridge Program prepare to counsel incoming freshmen at CSU Dominguez Hills.
L-R, back row: Cesar Deleon, cellular biology; Manuel Diaz, kinesiology; and Davieon Mack, liberal studies
L-R, front row: Yoshaniek Lee, criminal justice; Rudy Rangel, international business/business administration; and Jeheruza Plata, child development
Photo by Joanie Harmon