Summer program provides bridge to college for first-generation students


A group of entering University of Redlands students flashed big smiles and gave high-fives at the completion of the week-long Summer Bridge program, designed to provide first-generation college-bound and low-income students with additional orientation and targeted support.

“Summer Bridge provided me with the skills and tools necessary to succeed,” says Joaquin Schmidt ’21, who is a member of the third class of Hunsaker Scholars. “As if that was not enough, I managed to make lifelong friends during this week, because it was a time not only for academia, but also for relationship building. The faculty gifted us with their time and priceless knowledge and advice. Summer Bridge is a fantastic stepping stone!”

While first-generation and low-income students are typically at high risk of failing to complete their degrees, Reggie Robles, associate director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion, notes that, in contrast, U of R Summer Bridge students return for their second year at a rate of 90 percent and complete their bachelor’s degree in four years from 88 to 92 percent of the time.

“Administrators from the U of R, myself included, have presented on this program at national conferences due to the success it has had over the years,” says Robles.

Thanks to the generous support of the Weil Family Foundation, the Knossos Foundation, and other donors, a total of 76 students completed Summer Bridge this July in two separate week-long residential sessions—the largest class ever, according to Robles. Since Summer Bridge was launched in 2002 by Associate Dean of Campus Diversity and Inclusion Leela MadhavaRau and Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ruben Robles, close to 700 students have participated.

The program, currently run by First-Generation Coordinator Demeturie Gogue, opens with individual meetings with financial aid counselors, where students and their parents have a chance to ask questions, review procedures, and address any missing paperwork.

Over the next five days, students live on campus and attend daytime sessions providing exposure to the campus’s facilities and resources, as well as an overview of proven academic strategies. Evening programming is led by current first-generation U of R students, trained in the University’s STEP (Students Together Empowering Peers) mentoring program, who share their experiences and direct exercises to engage students and build leadership skills.

Summer Bridge is part of a full cycle of programs at the University aimed at helping first-generation and low-income students. Initiatives range from reaching out to underserved elementary and middle school students to student-led work with high school sophomores and juniors oncollege readiness.

Offerings include U of R’s Book Lending Program, which has provided free access to textbooks for current low-income or first-generation students for the past five years.

“As first-generation students, we don’t have our parents sitting next to us saying, ‘OK, you’re going to check this box. This is what you need to pack for college, and this is what you need to expect.’ Instead, we have the administration and peers ready to tell us, ‘This is how it’s going to go down.’”

—Anna Duvall ’20

Read more about U of R’s first-generation students and programs.


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