When Keyjaan Stringer walked onto the Alain LeRoy Locke College Prep campus for the first time as a ninth-grader, it wasn’t a big shock.
That’s because he had been there before. He knew where his classes were. And perhaps most importantly, he knew he’d have support from his teachers as he began the often daunting transition to high school.
Like most Green Dot Public School students, Keyjaan had attended Green Dot’s Summer Bridge program, which is meant to ease those first-day fears students experience when stepping onto a new campus.
“Summer Bridge didn’t just help me with my work ethic,” says Keyjaan, now a junior. “It also helped me realize what college can do for me in the future.”
Green Dot offers Summer Bridge to all incoming sixth- and ninth-graders – those students taking the big step from one school environment to another.
“Whether you go from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school, it’s a big deal,” says Annette Gonzalez, Green Dot’s Chief Academic Officer. ”We want to make sure the students are academically and emotionally prepared for this transition.”
Introduction to Ánimo
At most Green Dot schools, the program runs for two weeks. Students take English and math classes as well as an “Intro to Ánimo” class, which helps acclimate students to Green Dot’s culture. Students learn the tools and skills needed to succeed in this new environment by connecting with their teachers and fellow classmates. During Summer Bridge, students practice these strategies in preparation for the first day of school.
”I thought high school was going to be scary,” said Jacquelyn Cabrera, a junior at Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School. “Summer bridge prepared me for high school because I had an idea of what the classes would be like and how the teachers teach. I really enjoyed it because of the time you get to meet new people and new teachers. You get to experience how high school is going to be.”
The program, which isn’t mandatory, is not about remediation, Gonzalez adds, but it does enable the school to assess students and make sure they are enrolled in the right classes.
“It’s really a preparatory program. You’ve already met all your classmates, you’ve met some of your teachers and your principal knows your name.”
Bridge to college
Typically, the two weeks conclude with a college visit, emphasizing Green Dot’s mission to prepare every student for success in college. And for students who have never been to a college campus, these visits can solidify the idea of going to college in their minds.
“I’m in the 11th grade but I’ve been applying to colleges since the 10th grade,” Keyjaan says. Teachers and other staff helped him realize what was needed in order to apply and go to college, adds Keyjaan.
Summer Bridge is a time where teachers talk to students about their own high school and college experiences. Seniors visit classrooms and speak to incoming students about real high school expectations. Even before the first day of school, Green Dot aims to prepare students for college and life after graduation with the Summer Bridge program.