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Summer Bridge to the Future

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Yesenia Aguirre and Enrique Llamas Image

Yesenia Aguirre accepts her Summer Bridge Certificate of Completion from Enrique Llamas at the Closing Ceremony.

A roadmap and guidebook for their educational journey is what many students say they have found in the Success First Summer Bridge Program at Truckee Meadows Community College.

There were 126 Summer Bridge graduates who stood exceedingly tall at the closing ceremony on Aug. 10. Many are earning their first six college credits. One of the summer program grads is Maria Martinez Aguilera, who plans to major in criminal justice.

“I saw it was a great opportunity to get my first college credits and get ahead of the game,” Aguilera said.

Stephanie Lerude, College and Career Advisor at Reno High School first recommended Success First Summer Bridge to Aguilera and her friend Laryssa Ikehara. Ikehara plans to work toward her civil engineering degree.

“I wanted to get a feel for the college before starting full time,” Ikehara said. “You get to meet with the advisors and receive help throughout the year to make sure you stay on the right path, and there’s a scholarship ($800 for 2017-2018). Also, it helps you keep your focus.”

Their new summer friend, pre-nursing major Magdalena Callejas agreed.

“It’s something positive to do in the summer,” Callejas said. “My family was really happy when I told them about Success First and they supported me coming.”

Participants qualify for the summer program if they are first-time college students and the first generation in their family to attend college toward a degree. Students completed an online application including an essay question about why they would like to attend. Classes were held 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. four days a week for six weeks.

“Adulting” as a Verb

A quality of the program for which students agreed was that it helped them make a transition from the laid back days of high school to more challenging years at college preparing them for a career.

“My favorite part of the Summer Bridge is becoming more independent and knowing how to be an adult,” Aguilera said.

The attitude of most all her classmates simply felt more serious and engaged.

“I liked how I met a bunch of new people—I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met here,” Callejas said. “People know what they want and why they’re here.”

Callejas and Aguilera also agreed that it was fulfilling to try new projects and meet a diverse set of students and faculty.

“My favorite part is meeting new people, and that they’ve come from different backgrounds,” Ikehara said. “Here, you also have more freedom and can try new adventures.”

The Program as a Roadmap

At the Closing Ceremony, guest keynote speaker Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) former Chancellor Jane Nichols, Ph.D. said that she compares Success First to the Google Maps of road trips, and with this main thread she echoed how students talk about the Program’s benefits.

Aguilera and Ikehara said it’s a matter of being able to know where you’re going and where rooms and services are located, which building is which. Summer Bridge has also helped them to better organize and plan their college journey. In Summer Bridge, one of the courses that students take for college credit is EPY: Educational, Career and Personal Development class.

“EPY 101 helped me find ways to make the educational experience better, to manage time, and to handle emotions—keeping yourself from getting overwhelmed,” Callejas said.

Part of learning to manage the journey is support from mentors, one of whom is Nayesdi Badillo Delgado, Jacobs Presidential Scholars Program Coordinator.

“Our EPY teacher, Nayesdi, is a really vibrant teacher and engages you in class, making sure you’re involved and encourages you to turn in assignments on time,” Ikehara said.

Aguilera agreed, and added that she was also inspired by Anna Treacy, Summer Bridge Instructor and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“My EPY instructor, Dr. Anna, is a very good teacher,” Aguilera said. “She motivates you to keep going even though you might be struggling (with an assignment). She always pushes you to do better, because she knows you can do it and she pushes us to be better than we were before. She treats us like we’re her own kids.”

Next Parts of the Journey

All three will take 12 or more credits in the Fall Semester, required for continuing Success First throughout their first year of college.

Aguilera works as a manager at a restaurant and will take a full load of classes. Callejas will concentrate on her full-time studies in the Fall and would like to find an on-campus job in the Spring Semester.

Ikehara works two jobs, in a gym and at a toy store, in addition to her class load.

For more information about Success First Summer Bridge, please contact Jennifer Zarco in Access, Outreach and Recruitment at 775-673-8215.