Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Bridge Program freezes “Summer Melt” in college-going rate

Northbrook High School graduate Cindy Ramos earned six college credits earlier this summer in a grant-funded program held at her former school. Today, she thinks like a college student rather than an excuses-ready teenager. “In college, there is a deadline and the assignment is due that day. You don’t have the option of a next day. You can’t forget! I learned new things here about careers and career opportunities,” she says.

A former soccer team captain, Cindy plans to earn an associate’s degree and then transfer to the University of Houston for her bachelor’s degree. She’s balancing her love of psychology with petroleum engineering’s opportunities.

A good math student, she learned about future career prospects in both fields during the recently held Summer Bridge Program, an eight-week program paid for through grants from local groups and agencies.

National research shows that high school grads like Cindy who have resources and mentoring immediately after graduation are much more likely to enroll in college in the fall, and more likely to later graduate from college. High school students who say at graduation that they plan to enroll in college, but never do, are often referred to by education researchers as the “Summer Melt.”

Harvard University researchers Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman coined the term. They found that up to 40 percent of graduates who say that they will continue on to a community college never show up and enroll.

In SBISD, a research study found that approximately 50 percent of district graduates saying that they intend to enroll in a community college do not actually enroll in the fall. United Way and Gulf Coast PASS (Gulf Coast Partners Achieving Student Success) grants paid for the eight-week session at Northbrook High for 53 graduates from Memorial, Spring Woods and Northbrook high schools.

The summer program paid for tuition and other associated costs. By late July, 51 of these students, or 96 percent, had earned college credits. United Way and its partnering programs provided a variety of student services. A Communities in Schools (CIS) staff members met with students to help them make the “bridge,” or transition, from the program to HCC or to other area post-secondary institutions.

CIS also helped students with immunizations, financial aid, and counseling and social services. Family Services provided employment information, college funding and budget information, job research and resources, and parent financial sessions. College Community Career (CCC) assisted with field trips to the University of Houston (UH) and Texas A&M University, and a mentorship program that extends throughout students’ college years.

Houston Community College (HCC) Northwest College and its Spring Branch campus provided instructors. The SBISD graduates took two separate courses through HCC, including a basic course focused on the theory and research of psychology, learning, cognition and motivation.

The students also took a drawing course, which fulfills a fine arts requirement for HCC basic degrees. Spring Woods High School graduate Ciara Smith has her eyes on the future and a college degree, despite several rounds of homelessness growing up.

Her carefully researched plans take her from an associate’s degree at HCC Spring Branch on to Texas A&M University in College Station and a bachelor’s degree in education. She wants to teach middle school for five years. In a decade or so, she hopes to earn an advanced degree or a doctorate in education administration.

Ciara Smith talks about being a superintendent one day. She dreams big. “The Bridge Program helped me a lot,” she says. “I always knew that I wanted teach, but I didn’t know what teachers are paid. I will have greater opportunities by attending Texas A&M. I know that I’ll make it.” Ciara’s plans include a college diploma for her mother, too, who is returning to school. “I’ll be the second in my family to graduate from college!” she exclaims.

  Ciara and Cindy are much more confident about college today than they were only a few months ago. Colleges across the nation are trying hard to get more low-income or first-generation young people to apply and enroll in higher education.

Researchers have found that the summer after graduation is a particularly tumultuous time for many of these students, those coming from families without previous college experience, and for those enrolling in community colleges nationwide. SBISD has a goal to double the number of its graduates who obtain a technical degree, two-year degree or a four-year degree. This goal is often referred to as Spring Branch T-2-4.

“As a part of T-2-4, we are trying to make sure that the students who want to take that next step really go forward. We know that we still have students in Spring Branch who do not move forward for a variety of reasons,” says Northbrook High’s Hector Maldonado.

He directed the Summer Bridge Program, and he is Northbrook High’s dropout prevention and recovery coordinator during the school year. “We know that these students are capable and that they can do college-level work. We are trying together to make the transition easier for them. The most important part of this summer program is that the students get to start their college career with us.”

The graduates learned about financial aid and college loans inside the program. HCC counseling was also provided, which Maldonado says is vital because many students are the first generation in their families to go to college. “They may not have role models for college at home,” he says. “The educational course opened my eyes to the possibilities in college and community college. I learned how to study. I learned how to cope with stress and to stay on my game.

I feel prepared,” recent graduate Ciara says. SBISD and its partnering high schools owe special thanks for financial and group support to the following Houston-based organizations: United Way, Gulf Coast PASS, College Community Career (CCC), Communities in Schools (CIS), and Family Services.

For more information about this grant-funded program, please contact SBISD’s Jennifer Cobb at 713-251-2402.


Post a Comment

Do you have feedback? Tell us.