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Incoming first years…

As the Summer II session begins, a group of 79 First Time in College (FTIC) students are getting a step ahead thanks the Palo Alto College’s Summer Bridge Program.

Incoming first years get ahead of the game

As the Summer II session begins, a group of 79 First Time in College (FTIC) students are getting a step ahead thanks the Palo Alto College’s Summer Bridge Program. In its second year, the program has expanded to include additional course options and out-of-classroom learning experiences.

The Summer Bridge Program is mostly made up of recent high school graduates who were already planning to attend Palo Alto College this fall. By enrolling in the bridge program, students will get acclimated to campus life sooner, earn six credit hours – free of charge – and participate in career exploration activities.

“The Summer Bridge Program is really meant to keep students engaged throughout the summer months,” said Katherine Doss, dean of Student Success, who helped launch the pilot program with 17 students in summer 2016. “The program has grown. We’ve expanded the course offerings to include performing arts, and then we’ve added a career component through our partnership with Goodwill of San Antonio.”

Goodwill’s Career Navigators, who work with students in area high schools, helped the College recruit students to apply for the program. They also provided insight regarding the types of classes students needed. All students enrolled in the program will take EDUC 1300 Learning Framework, which is required for all incoming freshmen. During that course, students will meet with their assigned academic advisors to create their educational plan and get on track to meet their goals. Many of the students interested in the program had already taken dual credit core curriculum courses, so the program expanded to include performing arts electives. This year, students got to choose their second class from a selection of math, drama, or music courses.

“We didn’t want to keep out those students who wanted to get a jump start, who were ready to get some summer classes under their belt,” said Doss. “Performing arts was a good happy medium. It’s college-level course work, but it’s not offered as dual credit.”

The partnership with Goodwill also helped expand the program to include career-centered activities for two hours per week, which will include career exploration, mentorship building, and hands-on activities in collaboration with local businesses.

“When we were building out the program, we really had envisioned that there would be some kind of additional component outside of the classroom,” said Doss. “We did an advocacy survey (in 2015), and that was one of the things students said they want more help with—job placement, career decisions... We’re trying to respond to those needs strategically by building that extra component into the program.”

In just the second year of the Summer Bridge Program, Palo Alto College has already established a Summer Bridge Program that will set students up for success. The team has intentionally integrated all the components that studies show make a successful bridge program: classroom experience, out-of-classroom experience, and a warm hand-off from the high schools’ Career Navigators to the College’s advisors.

“We’re hitting all those key areas,” said Doss. “It’s really exciting.”