For nearly five years, our unique Senior Bridge program has helped Green Dot rising seniors successfully navigate the college admission process. Particularly at Locke College Preparatory Academy, Senior Bridge became the culmination of academic growth and realization of potential for one eager student.
Rising senior Jacqueline Torres felt this college-ready program provided her with a leg up in the college application process. Over the summer, Senior Bridge educators helped Torres identify colleges that best fit her unique needs, find scholarships, and develop strong admission essays.
Torres, a native spanish speaker who came to the United States three years ago, plans on studying business at the University of Chicago. Though she has relatives who attended college in her home country of El Salvador, Torres plans to become the first person in her family to attend and graduate college in the United States. “At Locke, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve been growing,” Torres said. “I met new people, and my teachers were good and patient with me. I know that if I have problems, I can always talk about them with my teachers. They are there for me.”
Torres has spent her formative years in our English Language Development (ELD) program, refining her English and preparing for the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California. Now, approaching her senior year, she’s taking advantage of several key free Green Dot programs to prepare for college. “When I felt afraid of failure, my teacher told me that I didn’t have to feel that way, because I could achieve whatever I want in life,” Torres said. With her eyes set on college, and showing academic growth, Torres said her teachers and counselor encouraged her to take part in Senior Bridge.
At Locke, more than 30 students, including Torres, took advantage of the Senior Bridge program this summer, which consists of five weeks of college application instruction, coaching, and feedback. Locke’s academic counselor Steve Villanueva led this year’s Senior Bridge program.
In his Senior Bridge course, Villanueva coached students on answering personal insight questions (PIQs), a unique set of questions on the University of California application system where students can share personal experiences that have impacted their achievements.
As a high school counselor, Villanueva has seen the impact this program has had on participating students. “I describe Senior Bridge to my students as getting a head start—being ahead of the game,” Villanueva said. “This is a space where we talk about habits and have open conversations about the feats of going to college. In Senior Bridge, students get a personalized, deep-dive experience of the different application systems before school starts. We have a structure where we break every essay question down, and we also get to explore different colleges and career paths.” He added that his academic and college counseling expertise has really helped students understand the resources that are available to them.
Last year, our high schools held Senior Bridge courses remotely, and students accessed in-class materials asynchronously. This year, students were back in the classroom for three hours a day, and were able to interact with the in-class lessons asynchronously after instruction time. “Our writing volunteers at 826LA set up one-to-one appointments to help our students with their PIQs, and get their applications ready for the fall,” Villanueva said. Students met with their 826LA writing mentors via zoom, and had appointment slots that they could attend virtually outside of instruction time.
Erika Viramontes, the school counseling programs manager at Green Dot Public Schools California, believes that this program is essential in giving seniors at Locke a jump start to college. . “In Senior Bridge, students are able to jumpstart their college application process by getting one-on-one support with their personal statements, solidifying their college list and learning more about financial aid options. Locke Senior Bridge students are on their way to successfully completing college applications.”
At Green Dot, we are committed to building new programs to give our students the head start they need to be successful in college, leadership, and life. Through programs like Senior Bridge, we help to close the college awareness gap, and supply the information our students need to confidently and successfully navigate the college admission process at higher learning institutions across the country.