Success Thanks to Summer Bridge

Summer Bridge student holding a tortoise.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Success First Summer Bridge student Ashley Moreno knew she was going to start her college career at TMCC. “I knew my family wouldn’t have a lot of funds for college and so we would need help. So that’s why the Summer Bridge program caught my eye,” she said. 

A recent graduate of Damonte Ranch High School, Moreno said that her key to success in education so far has been to get an early start, which was another appeal of Summer Bridge: in addition to getting a 6-week preview of college life, she along with her peers will complete a semester of Math and an EPY class...all before she technically starts college in Fall 2021. 

Moreno said she’s received a lot of support, including one-on-one instruction in her most challenging subject (math) which has helped her to be successful so far. “All the teachers are super nice,” she said. “Having someone work with you one-on-one—I learn better that way—has helped me to learn a lot more.”

She also made an unexpected discovery in the Summer Bridge program: her future college major and career. “When I started coming to Summer Bridge, I found a book on Dental Hygiene in the library. As I was reading it, I thought ‘wow, this actually sounds really interesting,’ and I did more research on a career in dental hygiene, which made me even more interested.” 

Although Moreno, like many of her cohort, has faced challenges that revolve around mental health, she’s been able to stay the course thanks to the support offered in the program. A family tragedy over the weekend set her behind in her homework. “It really affected I stopped doing everything over the weekend. I’m really pushing myself to catch up again,” she said. 

To other students, she advises to avoid falling behind at all costs. “Don’t let yourself fall behind... it’s really important to stay on top of your work, no matter what happens. And if they give you a calendar, look at it every day,” she said. 

A New Model for Summer Bridge

Moreno is one of 100 students who are participating in a new reincarnation of the six-week intensive program that began on June 28. Unlike previous years when the program was offered entirely in-person and last year when it was offered 100% online, this year the program is running a hybrid model, with half of the students attending in-person classes at the Dandini Campus Monday and Wednesday, with the other half attending in-person sessions Tuesday and Thursday. 

The program, which is made possible through generous donations by Nevada INBRE, Nell J. Redfield Foundation, Susanne and Gloria Young Foundation, U.S. Bank Foundation, Bretzlaff Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank Foundation, Farmer’s Insurance and NV Energy, introduces students to the college experience while offering plenty of supports in the form of EPY classes, tutoring and lots of one-on-one support.

Yet, according to Summer Bridge Program Coordinator Jennifer Zarco, students in the program this year are facing a new set of challenges that previous graduates did not. In addition to being first-generation college students who are in need of financial support, this class of first-year college students are entering college after a year of online learning. 

“I have noticed that students this year are struggling more with mental health issues,” Zarco said. “They are also working more than students before. Some of these students work 40-50 hours a week, and doing jobs with overnight hours. Many are overwhelmed, and doing all they can to keep on top of the workload.” 

Yet, the reward is worth the effort: students who participate in the Summer Bridge program will have earned college credit, as well as received books, tutoring, and lunch every day...all free of charge. They also will receive a $400 scholarship in the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters, along with priority registration for their first academic year at TMCC. 

Students will also have a “lay of the land”—with connections to counselors, tutors, faculty, and staff, which can help to provide them with additional support as they begin their first academic semester as full-time college students. 

Learning to Ask for Help

Gabe Tejada is a graduate of Damonte Ranch High School who enrolled in Summer Bridge to get an early start on his degree. He’s planning on majoring in Secondary Education with the goal of becoming a high school history teacher. “I’m interested in learning different things about other cultures and people...and all the conflicts we’ve been through,” he said, explaining that a long family legacy of military service has also inspired this interest in the past. “I want to learn about other people’s stories and what they had to do and why.” 

Although there have been many homework assignments and lessons learned over the course of the six-week program, one shines more brightly for Tejada than the others: ask for help. “It’s really important... it’s easy to get scared or embarrassed to ask for help, but you really can’t get through college alone. My EPY professor told me that, and that’s when I realized I did the right thing asking for help.” 

Tejada utilizes tutors to help him in the Summer Bridge classes, especially math which he admits is: “my Achilles’ heel.” With the support of the program, he’s progressing in his classes, which gives him confidence that he can achieve his dream of teaching history to high school students one day. 

To other Summer Bridge students, Tejada emphasizes that the journey toward a degree and a career is really your own. “It’s important to take each day step by step,” he said. “Don’t rush it, and take your time. It may seem like you don’t need help and that you can do it alone. But, no one makes it through life alone. Make sure you ask for help when you need it. Take your classes seriously, do your homework. And finally: enjoy it! You’re on your own journey.” 

Applications will open November 1, 2021 to participate in the 2022 Success First Summer Bridge program. For more information about program admissions and other requirements, contact TMCC’s Recruitment and Access Center at 775-673-8236.