Summerbridge - Students Teaching Students: It's a Way to "Give Back."

By Cleveland, Teneh | Diversity Employers, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Summerbridge - Students Teaching Students: It's a Way to "Give Back."


Cleveland, Teneh, Diversity Employers


Shirley Grier, a Summerbridge Sacremento parent writes:

. . . Summerbridge was the first time my daughter ever had teachers of color. It is obviously very important that children of color see some representation of themselves in successful roles. While she loved all of her teachers, she felt especially connected to Shanna. In Shanna, she saw herself and found a role model. Through all of her teachers, she learned that all is possible. To say "Thank you" would not seem like enough. I applaud the Summerbridge teacher's commitment and hard work to ensure magical moments in the life of a child.

Why does this parent think that Summerbridge is magical? Summerbridge is a program in which young high school and college students reach into their communities and build bridges allowing passage into a world full of opportunities and possibilities. All over this country young people without keys are looking for reasons to keep going in a world in which education is the key to success. As apathy plagues minority communities, we find pockets of crime, drug abuse, and depression in every city across this nation. The Summerbridge program impresses upon our young people that if they persevere, they succeed. It is a program in which students teach other students academic success. It addresses the needs of today's children as it combines academic rigor and consistent support for middle school students.

Summerbridge has two missions: 1), to empower middle (and at several sites, elementary) school students to succeed in rigorous academic high school programs that will enable them to attend strong colleges; and 2), to empower high school and college students to fully experience the challenges, exhilaration, and realities of teaching. It is a comprehensive two-to-four year academic program with intensive summer and school-year sessions, year-round counseling, and family advocacy followed by continued support through high school.

The first Summerbridge program was started in 1978 at San Francisco University High School by Lois Loofbourrow, founding director. Having succeeded tremendously, this one program became a model for other schools initiating Summerbridge programs. With 35 programs across this country and one in Hong Kong, Summerbridge has rapidly become an international institution. High schoolers and college undergraduates not only teach the classes but also manage the entire program. It's as much teaching responsibility as a student could hope for.

Tommy Goodwin was a Summerbridge student, class of 1991, who recently graduated from University High School, a prestigious college preparatory high school in San Francisco. Tommy says, "Most Summerbridge students come from communities in which they see no educational opportunities. And they need role models to show them that the opportunities are not only present, but also obtainable. I didn't know that University High School existed before I came to Summerbridge. I didn't see any Black kids coming out of the school, so I didn't think that it was for me. Summerbridge let me know that I was just as entitled to a top education as any other kid."

Tommy returned to University High School to teach in the Summerbridge program he once participated in. He says, "Because the Summerbridge programs are at private white high schools, Blacks don't realize that they are going to be working with Black students. But this is a great way to make an impact in the life of a Black child."

The middle school students represent a variety of ethnic, economic, cultural, and family backgrounds reflective of our diverse communities. Eighty-five percent of Summerbridgers nationwide are students of color. The tuition-free program targets motivated students with limited educational opportunities. In 1995, 51% of our teachers were of color. Summerbridge creates programs that truly represent the ethnic and economic diversity of our students.

Why teach at Summerbridge? …

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