Success First Summer Bridge Celebrates Student Success for 10th Year

Success First Summer Bridge 2012 Alumna Karen Rubio
Rebecca A. Eckland

“I’m going to make my mom proud,” said Victor Tejeda Barillas, who was recognized by Summer Bridge Instructor Heather Haddox at the 10th Annual Success First Summer Bridge Program Closing Ceremony for his positive and hard-working attitude.  Haddox, who teaches college preparation classes in the Success First Summer Bridge program, asked students to write a personal essay with a special caveat: once the beginning of the piece is written, you can’t change it. The only part that can be edited is how the essay ends. The assignment was relevant to these students, who are learning how to not only make revisions to their academic work, but how to apply those concepts to life.

Barillas, who grew up in South Lake Tahoe until the age of 14, lived in a single-parent household. It was a difficult time, when, “...I was really introverted, and I was shamed by others my age for what I loved.” When his mom was laid off, the family moved to Truckee and Barillas got a full-time job to help support his mom and siblings. It’s a 40-hour a week commitment he still has, even while attending Success First Summer Bridge classes. 

In the ceremony honoring program participants that was held on the Dandini campus on Thursday, August 1, Barillas named his mother as his hero and his reason for succeeding in the six-week program and inspiring him to continue his college education to become a Graphic Designer.  To participate in the program, students must be high school graduates who are first-generation college students, and have a demonstrated financial need. 

The ceremony celebrated student accomplishments, which included the completion of 1.5 to six credits that focused on Math and college preparation courses while recognizing the generosity of donors who have helped to make the program possible.  The program is free for participating students who, in addition to attending two college classes, also receive tutoring, textbooks, free bus passes, and lunch every day.
Upon completion, students leave the program with their college credits as well as an $800 scholarship for their first year in college. To date, the program has enabled 1,200 local high school and first-generation college students to begin a college career and to create futures for themselves that might not have been possible. Karen Rubio, a Class of 2012 Summer Bridge Alumna and keynote speaker for the event, told students: “Attending this program was one of the best decisions I ever made.” Rubio, who faced several challenges that made her think “I’d never go back to school” will cross another graduation stage next May, but this time for a Master’s degree. “Resilience is all you need to achieve what you want to achieve,” she said. 

The majority of Success First participants have persisted to their second semester, a metric that is made possible by the support of local foundations, corporations, and individual donors. Success First students Sadie Guerra and Dylan Bolanos presented donors with posters that the students made thanking each organization for their continued support. Donors include: U.S. Bank Foundation, the Wells Fargo Foundation, The Nell J. Redfield Foundation, The Bretzlaff Foundation, NV Energy Foundation, AT&T Nevada, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Susanne and Gloria Young Foundation, TMCC employee donors, Nevada GEAR UP Program, and the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), whose support provides opportunities for STEM activities to be included in the program. 

The ceremony also featured several speakers, including TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom, RAC Program Director Yuli Chavez Camerena, Summer Bridge Alumnas Karen Rubio and Betty Cervantes-Castro, Summer Bridge Program Coordinators Erin Frock and Jennifer Zarco, as well as Success Bridge Students William Chavez, Victor Tejeda Barillas and Shayra Chavez Espinosa.

Espinosa, who wants to become a pediatrician, credits the Success First Summer Bridge Program with helping her to build her confidence along with her academic skills. “In high school, I was always known as a ‘low level learner,’” she said, explaining that she came from a single-parent home where her mother worked two jobs to support five children. “This program helped me to see what my mom always told me—that I have to learn to be smart in my own way,” she said. “It also helped me to learn skills like time management, how to save money and how to find academic support.”

For these students, the Success First Summer Bridge Program may not allow them to revise their pasts, but it is providing opportunities for them to create bright futures. 

Applications will open November 1 to participate in the 2020 Success First Summer Bridge program. For information about program admissions and other requirements, contact TMCC’s Recruitment and Access Center at 775-673-8236.