Two nonprofits merging; both help students from lower-income families

College access nonprofits seek to reduce per-student costs, broaden programs

by Kate Bradshaw / Almanac

Teacher assistant Amanda Louie works with students Angie Ortiz, left, and Valeria Fuentes during a math lesson regarding prices and percentages at the Peninsula Bridge program at Castilleja School. (2012 Almanac file photo by Daniella Sanchez.)

Two local nonprofit organizations – both dedicated to helping students from lower income families succeed in high school and college – are merging.

The Palo Alto-based Peninsula Bridge announced today it will merge with the East Palo Alto based Building Futures Now. The combined organization will keep the name Peninsula Bridge.

The goal is to provide broader programs to more students at a lower cost per student, according to Peninsula Bridge Executive Director Jocelyn Swisher.

Both organizations have more than 25 years of experience and aim to help students who are the first in their families to pursue postsecondary education to enroll in and graduate from college.

Their programs are similar, Ms. Swisher said. Both use summer and after-school programs to guide students to academic success and college acceptance. However, traditionally, Building Futures Now has worked with fourth- through 12th-grade students in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, while Peninsula Bridge works with students from 40 schools, spanning Foster City to Mountain View, from fifth-grade through college graduation.

In the merger, Peninsula Bridge will take on the services that Building Futures Now has provided to East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park students, Ms. Swisher said.

Peninsula Bridge will hire two of three staff members and take on three new board members from Building Futures Now: Penny Gallo, Dr. Chi-Chao Chang and Peter Dumanian. Alan Austin, current chairman of the Peninsula Bridge board, will remain as board chair.

The executive director of Building Futures Now, Rosemary Kamei, will continue through Sept. 1, Ms. Swisher said.

Now, instead of having about 100 East Palo Alto students being served by Building Futures Now and 100 in the Peninsula Bridge program, all 200 will be enrolled in the Peninsula Bridge program, representing a third of Peninsula Bridge's overall student population of about 600.

Former Building Futures Now students will gain access to Peninsula Bridge's college support program, which is currently a pilot program, and will be eligible to participate in the organization's summer programs.

Ms. Swisher said that Bay Area donors often ask, "Why are there so many youth-serving organizations?"

"Consolidation is something donors have been looking for," she said, adding that so far, news of the merger has been received favorably by donors. The decision to combine the organizations comes after only about two months of talks and negotiations, she said.

About three years ago, she said, Peninsula Bridge transitioned from its focus on middle school summer learning to a 12-year, year-round program, and it is currently doing a pilot program to see how best to support students who are in college.

Peninsula Bridge is based on a 12-year college access program in Seattle called Rainier Scholars, she said. That organization reports about a 90 percent success rate in their students graduating from college – a standard Peninsula Bridge seeks to replicate – compared to the 10 percent rate nationwide of college completion for students from low-income families who would be the first in their family to go to college.

MERGER OF PENINSULA BRIDGE AND BUILDING FUTURES NOW

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 26, 2017**

MERGER OF PENINSULA BRIDGE AND BUILDING FUTURES NOW

Two Bay Area College Access and Completion Non-Profits Merge to Deepen Impact in Underserved Communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

PALO ALTO, Calif. – April 26, 2017 – The boards of directors of Peninsula Bridge (PB) and Building Futures Now (BFN) have agreed to merge operations in May 2017.

The merger brings together two college access organizations supporting low-income students, each with over 25 years of experience. The combined entity, called Peninsula Bridge, will provide 600 socioeconomically disadvantaged students with essential academic and social emotional support in a 12-year program model to help them succeed in college-preparatory high school programs and four-year colleges.

“We are bringing together two Bay Area nonprofits with similar missions and goals to better serve our students,” said Alan Austin, who will serve as Board Chair of the combined organization. “Together a larger, combined organization will support more students with higher service levels and greater efficiency.“

The combined organization believes that all of its students, if given equal access and opportunity, can reach their full potential and graduate from high school and four-year colleges. Peninsula Bridge anticipates that 90% of the students enrolled in its combined 12-year program will graduate from college (as opposed to 10% nationwide for first generation low-income students).

“Building Futures Now is excited to merge with such a compatible partner and we are thrilled for our students to benefit from the robust academic and social emotional support offered by Peninsula Bridge,” said Penny Gallo, BFN board chair. “We are delighted with the warm welcome Peninsula Bridge has extended to our students, families, and staff.”

“Of course, the combined organization will continue its commitment to supporting students and families from East Palo Alto. Together about 200 students from East Palo Alto will be served by the Peninsula Bridge 12 year college access and completion program,” said Jocelyn Swisher, Co-Executive Director of Peninsula Bridge.

The new combined board will be stronger than ever before with key board members, including the two founders each with over 25 years of institutional history.  BFN board members Penny Gallo, Chi-Chao Chang and Peter Dumanian will join the Peninsula Bridge board of directors.

"We can achieve even more impressive results for our students and families when we leverage each other's strengths and work together to address the achievement and opportunity gaps in our communities," said Randi Shafton, Co-Executive Director of Peninsula Bridge.

For more information on Peninsula Bridge, please visit: www.peninsulabridge.org.
And for Building Futures Now, please visit: www.buildingfuturesnow.org.

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Student Spotlight: Andrea J., Redwood City

Andrea has taken an active role in becoming a part of an organization that is creating a voice for families that are being relocated due to the gentrification occurring in our cities. Please read her explanation below: 

The Rents Too High Hear Our Cry Movement is a project that was created by the North Fair Oaks Youth Initiative (NFOYI), an organization affiliated with the Siena Youth Center.

The Siena Youth Center is a non-profit program that serves youth ages 10-17 and offers mentorship, academic support, arts, physical activities, and other academic enrichment activities. This program helps families in need to live with dignity and become self-supporting members of their communities. Since the project was started in October of 2016, the NFOYI has organized severalmarches and protests around the lack of affordable housing in Redwood City. In my role as vice president of the Youth Advocacy team, I set the agendas for our meetings and I collaborate with other team members on creating strategies on how to get others involved in this movement. I want to inform the Peninsula Bridge community, that gentrification is a very important issue in Redwood City and other parts of the peninsula and the Bay Area. This issue grows every day as more and more people are being kicked out of their homes in the name of progress and development. We believe that progress and economic opportunities that disregard our community, and create private profits from our community’s displacement is unjust and we will fight to prevent it. This is very problematic when you think about who in the community is being displaced. From the people that we work with, we can see that most of the people that are getting kicked out of their homes are mainly of Latino backgrounds and/or other community members that while still work very hard do not earn as much money as the people moving into Redwood City. As a Mexican girl, this has inspired me to take action and join this cause to protect my community. One way you can get involved in this movement would be to come to the meet ups and other information and action activities we will be putting on. If you are interested in getting involved, please email me at ladyblanc101ciela@gmail.com. If you would like some more information, please visit the links below.

Website:http://www.sienayc.org/

 

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/sienayouthcenter/  

Alejandra Reflects on her Internship Experience at Arcus

Throughout my career at UCSC, I have developed a passion for the sciences. I became interested in both the medical and research field once I started taking biology courses. With the help of Peninsula Bridge, this past summer I had the opportunity to intern at Arcus Biosciences, a biotechnology company. I was able to work one-on- one with a biologist and experience first hand what it was like to do research. Everyone at Arcus was extremely welcoming.

I enjoyed being able to learn about different techniques that are commonly used in laboratories and connect the experiments with material I had learned in class. During my internship I became an expert in pipetting (measuring liquids in glass tubes), which helped me in a laboratory course I took this past quarter.

I was able to experience first hand what it is like to work in the research field, talk to scientists about their work and know the reasons behind their interest in research. I now have a better sense of the steps I need to take to get a job in research. An internship allows us to determine if we see ourselves pursuing a career within the field. I am tremendously thankful to the Peninsula Bridge staff that helped me get this internship.

Teacher Profile - Michaela at Nueva

Teacher Profile
Michaela Danek, Co-coordinator of the 6th and 7th grade after school site at Nueva

Michaela Danek teaches science at Nueva’s upper school. She brings her diverse teaching experiences to Nueva in designing learning opportunities that are accessible to all learning styles, while making science content relevant and meaningful to the community.  

Nueva opened its doors to a new cohort of Peninsula Bridge 6th and 7th grade students, hailing from local middle schools in Fall 2016. Michaela is co-coordinator of the site.

What intrigued you about teaching Peninsula Bridge students?

As a teacher, Peninsula Bridge offers an opportunity to teach a new community of students who come from different backgrounds but bring so much of the same enthusiasm as Nueva students. It is a chance to meet brilliant young people and encourage them in their academic path.

Describe a day in the after school program.

Every Monday and Thursday, about 3PM, shuttles drop off groups of students at the Nueva Upper School campus. Within minutes you will see clusters of students all around, choosing how to spend their snack/homework time: some students will be busy working on homework, others will be play games, some will be taking part in a Design Thinking elective lead by a high school TA, while other will be playing a casual game of soccer on the field. All these activities are student-run or lead by high school TAs.

The program has two main components: initial snack/homework/decompression time that takes place in the Cafe and then academic enrichment of Math and English Language Art classes.

What is your impression of the students?

Peninsula Bridge students are tenacious learners, with a strong work ethic and critical minds. In the after school program, in addition to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) time, students build concrete academic skills.

Students take a math class that deepens and extends what they learn in class, and an English Language Arts course that builds academic skills while engaging with questions of identity as Americans. The skills Peninsula Bridge students develop while at Nueva help them in their classes currently and surely will continue to serve them as they go on to high school and college.

In math, they’re developing and deepening their understanding of concepts they use at school. Currently, they’re practicing fractions, percentage, and linear relationships by creating budgets. In English language arts, the curriculum gives students a chance to develop reading and writing skills, however, this semester students are diving deeply into the question of immigration to the US and the identity of an American. Not only are students reading, annotating, summarizing, presenting, and applying the content to creative work, they are also having important conversations of their own identity, considering many of them are first generation Americans.

Peninsula Bridge students are developing important academic skills that will serve them in high school and college, but what they’re also grappling withidentity, community, and belonging.

How would you characterize the benefits of the program to both Peninsula Bridge students and Nueva?

The partnership with Peninsula Bridge is another way that Nueva opens its doors to the community. I think it is a beautiful thing to be able to welcome so many young and brilliant minds. During their time at the Nueva Peninsula Bridge site, students not only engage with the space, but also have a chance to dive into their own rigorous academic curriculum.

Facilitating this rich learning environment gives Nueva high school students a chance to facilitate learning and growth for our Peninsula Bridge students. TAs bring a wealth of ideas, energy, and creativity that fuels our continued evolution.  It is exciting to see TAs take their experiences from Nueva classes and try to recreate them for the Peninsula Bridge students. It’s also worth pointing out that our Peninsula Bridge students love the Nueva TAs and think they’re totally cool. It’s just a win-win all around.

As tired as I am after a day of teaching my classes at Nueva, I find myself rejuvenated and ready to keep teaching. It is exhilarating to be part of a partnership that supports more brilliant students having a chance to dive deeper into their learning. It is this kind of work that brings another facet of significance to my work at Nueva that is absolutely integral to the mission of being a teacher.

High School Student Spotlight: Tanya Vargas

Tanya Vargas : Peninsula Bridge High School Academy : Class of 2020
On track and in charge, Tanya currently attends Mercy Burlingame at the top of her class. She’s the embodiment of resilience and vows to raise her community with her as she shatters the mold of women in STEM.  Latin American, first generation, role model - when it comes to Ms. Vargas, no obstacle is insurmountable, no dream too big.

How long have you been a student in Peninsula Bridge?
“I’ve been a student in Peninsula Bridge since 6th grade so 3 years.”

How’s your experience in the program changed over the years? From middle school through high school.
“When I first started Peninsula Bridge in middle school, I didn’t really understand why I was going. I honestly thought I was dumb or something and had to go to summer school. However, I quickly learned that Peninsula Bridge is a great program that helps people like me achieve their goals of becoming successful. Now that I understand, my experience has completely changed and I’m track to go to college.”

What’s your most memorable experience in all your years in the Peninsula Bridge Program?
“In all my years in the Peninsula Bridge program, meeting new people has by far been the most memorable. Many of the individuals I met at program have turned out to be some of my closest friends. I am very grateful to have them. I also recall our summer teaching assistants. Most of whom were people I could trust and ask for help regarding my future because they had already been through the process.”

What drives you and how does Peninsula Bridge play into your life goals?
“My parents inspire me to reach my fullest potential more than anything else in the world. I will always admire and looked up to them for everything they’ve done and sacrificed for me and my little sister.  They started from the very bottom. Peninsula Bridge is a strong contributing factor to my life goals as well. Peninsula Bridge is made up of mentors who want to see their students succeed. They’re always there to help us, and so like my parents I want to repay them for everything they have done for me. Their community of mentors and volunteers make me feel supported and drive me to try even harder.”

What’s been one of your greatest challenges in the transition from middle school to high school?
“One of my greatest challenges in the transition of middle school to high school is going from a public school to a private school. [Mercy is an all-girl private school in San Mateo] I am very appreciative of going to a private school, but it’s been hard because I often feel different from all the girls there. I have gone to public schools my whole life and it’s been a great adventure, but now I’m ready to challenge myself even more, regardless of how difficult the transition has been.”

What’s your dream college? What do you want to be when you grow up?
“My dream college has always been Stanford. I grew up hearing about Stanford my whole life, about how it’s a great school and how all the smart kids go there. When I first visited the school, I noticed that there weren’t many Hispanic people like me already going there. It got to me a little because It made me think that I didn’t have a chance, but it also pushed me to work harder. I want to go to Stanford not only to prove what I’m capable of, but also to show all those who doubt me and my people or people different races what we can do. I want to be an architect and interior designer when I grow up. I want to be an architect because math is my favorite subject. It’s something I’m truly passionate about think I’d enjoy doing. My dad’s life experiences have also fueled my interests in architecture. He’s a general contractor and I’ve grown up watching him work hard every day of my life. When I was younger and went to work with him, I would always say that I wanted to be just like him. But now that I’m older I want to pay tribute to everything he’s taught me and all that he’s done for us.”

Menlo School - Week 4

By Ariana A.

On Wednesday, our family and the rest of the Peninsula Bridge Program had the opportunity to visit the Tech Museum in San Jose. Our family had a very fun time as we explored the technological advances that have been made throughout the centuries, and learned about the scientific world. One of my families favorite exhibits was the earthquake simulation, which allowed people to feel the strength of large historic earthquakes. In the picture to the right, my family was building towers with foam blocks to see how they would be affected by the simulation. To no one’s surprise, they were easily knocked down as the ground beneath us began to shake. Another exhibit that the students enjoyed was in the Health and Biotech exhibit. They looked at certain objects through microscopes to figure out what the human eye cannot see. They also learned about human life; a baby and it’s health, the human anatomy, and people around the world living in different conditions. In this picture above, my family is examining a computer chip under a microscope to see every little detail and how it was made. 

My family and I really enjoyed spending the day at the tech museum, and learned a lot about humans and what we are truly capable of doing. We learned that anything is possible and can be achieved with hard work by looking around the different exhibits at the tech museum and realizing what amazing creations humans have made to advance and help lives. We very much appreciate this opportunity that the Menlo Bridge summer program gave to us and will never forget it. 

 

Castilleja - Week 4

Spirit Week!
By Leena A.

This week was arguably the best week at the Castilleja site because it was Spirit Week! On Monday, students and TAs wore their comfiest pajamas to Bridge and a couple even brought pillows. Tuesday was crazy sock day and Wednesday was crazy hair day. Some of the notable hairdos included a student wearing over 15 bows in hair, and another with a balloon in her hair! Thursday was advisory color day, where all the students in the same advisory wore the same color. And finally on Friday, students will come to Bridge wearing athletic gear and the jerseys of their favorite athletes for Sports Day. Advisories gained points based participation and enthusiasm, but the Spirit Week winners have yet to be crowned.

This week we also were lucky enough to take a field trip to Pizza My Heart in downtown Palo Alto. The girls learned about the history of the company, and got to go to the kitchen and see the behind the scenes of how their favorite pizzas were made. Finally, they got to make and eat their own personal pizzas before walking back to campus. The trip was not only informative but also delicious! 

Another highlight of the week was a visit from Ms. Tom, a college counselor at Castilleja who was once a trained opera singer. Ms. Tom taught the girls about opera, played a CD of her singing opera when she was 19, and even sang “Amazing Grace” for all of us. We were very impressed by her singing, as opera is not something we hear often. 

We introduced a new elective this week, AJ Tutoring. Twice a week a teacher from AJ tutoring came into to give the girls valuable iSEE test prep and tips. In Computer Science, the girls completed Lightbot’s Hour of Code, which they found challenging but exciting. In Math, they began to learn about perimeter and area, and in Language Arts they continued to read The Birchbark House and learned more about the power of storytelling. 

I can’t believe that we only have one week left of Bridge. It’s been so rewarding and fun to watch the girls grow more confident throughout the summer and to see them make friendships that will last all four summers of the Bridge program (and maybe beyond). For me, Bridge 2016 has flown by faster than any other summer, and I hope to make the most of the last few days. And of course, there is always the End of Summer Celebration to plan for and look forward to! 

Woodside Priory - Week 4

With two field trips this week, students definitely had a lot to look forward to! The first field trip was on Wednesday to Levi’s Stadium home of the 49ers in Santa Clara. All 65 students piled onto their buses in the morning, and headed directly to Santa Clara. When we got the stadium, we separated into two groups and started off our day!! The students got a tour of the VIP seats and clubs of the stadiums, got a tour of the visiting team’s locker room, got to go on the field, did a few running activities of the field, a fun hands one team building activity, and got to explore the museum! It was a fun packed day, and the students got a deeper understanding of how STEM works in the football industry. After asking the students what the highlight of their day was, many replied that being on the field and working in the creativity lab to create new football protective gear.

On Friday we had our second field trip, but due to limited space only half of the students were able to join. Students in Blocks B and D had gone to Ideo, a start up, for their field trip earlier in the program, and now students in blocks A and C had the opportunity to go to Google for their fieldtrip. The morning of, the students arrived to campus, and all attended their first period classes and then got on the buses off to Google. At the Google Campus we got several talks from Googlers and they told us their stories and how they ended up at Google and what they do there now. This was extremely inspirational to the students as it really excited them for their future potential. After a long and delicious lunch prefaced with an tour of the new Android Auto, we got to learn about some fun game apps that Google has come out with recently and is going to release soon! Overall the kids enjoyed the field trip and really opened their eyes to new future possibilities!!

Next week is our last week of Bridge, and with a heavy heart we are starting preparations for Bridge Graduation.

Woodside Priory Week 3

By Mirthia P.

In our third week of Peninsula Bridge we are already half way through the summer! Because of the holiday on Monday, we had a shorter week, but that did not stop our program from running smoothly! As we gotten to know the students better and their strengths, we have started the conversation on transitioning to independent high schools. In the next week we will have a special elective hosted by AJ Tutoring on ISEE Test Prep. The ISEE is the exam most students take to apply to independent schools. This test prep elective will give Bridge students a preview of what it will be like preparing to apply to independent schools, and hopefully motivate them to work harder 8th grade year to ensure acceptance. On Wednesday we went around during break to ask students if they were interested in applying to private schools. We then shared some experiences from former Bridge students and their transitions into independent schools. After hearing this short spiel many students had questions and seemed even more interested than before. As Bridge continues we hope to have more informative sessions, leaving them prepared for the process coming this fall

Woodside Priory - Week 2

By Mirthia P.

This week for our blog we decided to focus on the TAs that really help run the entire Bridge program. TAs are an essential part of the program as they help provide more individual student attention in the classrooms and motivate the students to keep learning. Many of our TAs this year are returning, have participated in Bridge as a student, or are very interested and involved in the whole Peninsula Bridge Program. Below are some of the reasons why they have decided to do Bridge this summer:

Armando, Junior:

I decided to do Bridge because of their mission. I am a student of a low-income situation and I feel like I need to help kids who were in my situation to help them do better in life. I love helping kids and people in becoming what they want or doing things in general so what better opportunity to do all this then help at Bridge. I know many of these kids come from East Palo Alto and I feel like I will be giving back to my community if I TA at Bridge.

Claudia, Senior:

This is my second summer volunteering for Bridge. I came back because I was inspired by the students; motivation, energy, and overall positivity. The connections I made with the students and other TA's made a lasting impression on me. 

Elizabeth, Junior:

I went to Bridge for four years, and I remember coming to Bridge each summer wishing that one day, I could be doing what the TAs were doing for us students. I wanted to be able to support and impact others as my TAs did for my classmates and me. They made classes fun and challenged us, and they did it all during their own summer breaks, a time when most were relaxing and hanging out with friends. Knowing this motivated me and made me feel like I really mattered, so I promised myself that I would become a TA when I was in high school and do the same for others. Finally having the opportunity to volunteer at Bridge has been so fulfilling. I feel as though I can give back to these students and hopefully help them as Bridge TAs have done in the past. 

Amanda, College Student:

I’ve always heard great things about working at Bridge and how rewarding it was for many of my friends. I had an opportunity to stay in the Bay Area this summer so I decided to work at Bridge, experience what it is like to teach at summer school and learn from both the kids and my fellow TAs.

TAs like the ones above really motivate the students to work their hardest and have fun at Bridge. The entire program experience would not be complete without them.

Crystal Springs - Week 4

Bridge Spirit!
By Emily C.

The second-to-last week of Bridge just flew by! This week was Spirit Week, meaning a week filled with fun competitions and silly games. Our Spirit Week committee worked super hard to come up with activities, and it was a huge success. From a carnival day to balloon stomp to pie-eating, every student participated in winning points for their advisory. Every day was a dress-up day, meaning that everyone came to school in pajamas on Monday and visitors must have been shocked to see the quirky hats, socks, and inside-out shirts of Wacky Wednesday. My advisory particularly gelled together to win the human wheelbarrow contest, helping us overtake another advisory for third place.

Academically, students are shining. In 8th grade Math, students were perfecting their mathematical graphing skills, while 7th graders were learning how to convert between fractions, decimals, and percentages. Science students spent the week working on labs; one about earthquakes and another that required the kids to go outside, collect materials, and design bird’s nests. In my 8th grade Language Arts class, we’ve made through Act III of Othello! Shakespeare is incredibly difficult, especially for middle schoolers, so I’m impressed with my students’ resolve in how they have tackled the play. We even challenged them to memorize twelve lines of an Othello speech and now everyone in the 8th grade goes around shouting, “O, my soul’s joy!” at their friends.

This Friday, all of Crystal Springs piled in a bus and took a field trip to Aqua Adventure in Fremont. It was an awesome chance to get to know the students outside of the classroom. Several kids (and one TA)* who were slightly apprehensive about heights or drowning took the risk of going on the water slide and discovered how fun it was. I was surprised to find that students who I had not gotten to know very well yet were asking me to come swim with them or join them on the slide. Kids who weren’t friends yet got to know each other, and unlikely bonds were formed.

However, my proudest moment comes from my art elective. I had one student who told me fairly blatantly that he hated art because he didn’t think he was good at it, despite my encouragement and assurances that he didn’t need to be good at art to enjoy the elective. But when tasked with creating an interpretive self-portrait, this student revealed that he had a ton of fantastic ideas and took the assignment really seriously. He worked on it at home, bringing in paper the next day to show his plan for an introspective collage detailing a bunch of important memories from his childhood. I’m so proud of his dedication and effort and he’s already told me that “maybe art isn’t so bad.” I can’t wait to see him and the other students show off their work at graduation next week.

Menlo - Week 3

Personal Reflection
Claire H.

This week, math focused on having the students apply their knowledge to real world situations. The students were set up with a virtual stock trading experience. The students have appreciated the hands on learning experience, and have been more lively and engaged as a result. For instance, during lunch time, I talked to both Tyler and JJ who were both incredibly excited for math that day. They were asking me strategy questions about whether they should buy stocks that are decreasing in value. It was rewarding to see them push one another intellectually to try to think and reason through both the upsides and downsides to doing that. As both students are very engaged in their sports and downtime, it was meaningful to see that their learning had impacted them outside of the classroom. On the other hand, a few students have been unwilling to take risks this week. For instance, the girls in my group have not been investing their money because they are afraid to lose it. However, you cannot make money if you do not spend it in the stock market. When solving equations, I have found that some students have become slightly lazy or scared. They do not seem to want to take any risks. Overall, it has been wonderful to spend time with the students I am assigned to. It allows me to really understand their strengths and weaknesses so I can tailor my explanations to them.

A consistent highlight of mine is spending time with my family group. Every week they become closer and more comfortable with one another. During the first two weeks, I had to initiate every conversation and keep it afloat with questions. However, this week the kids have started to have their own conversations based on their own interests. The Fourth of July was a great conversation topic for the kids. It allowed them to move past Peninsula Bridge to talk about their family and friends. They were genuinely excited to hear about what each other had done over the weekend. Their understanding of one another was exemplified when Abraham was sick. That day, they all had to sign up for their enrichment classes. Jose, Valeria, and Sophia had together ranked the choices from one to eight based on what they knew about his love of soccer, his dislike of dance, his interest in science, etc.

Ultimately, I have had a wonderful experience during these past three weeks. The teachers, students, and fellow TA’s are all such a pleasure to work with. I am genuinely excited for the weeks to come, and am looking forwards to how the students continue to progress.

Castilleja - Week 3

A Busy Week Three!
By Angie W.

Bridge students feeding cows on a field trip to TomKat Ranch,  a learning laboratory for sustainable animal agriculture.

Bridge students feeding cows on a field trip to TomKat Ranch,  a learning laboratory for sustainable animal agriculture.

By the third week of Bridge at Casti, the girls (incoming fifth graders) have gotten to know each other really well and the days are flying! We cannot believe that Bridge is halfway over, and we do not want it to end! 

In math class, the girls were introduced to fractions. Adding and subtracting fractions proved to be challenging for some of the girls, but using grit and determination along with a bit of motivation from the TAs, they confidently mastered how to do these problems. They already feel much more prepared and motivated for their upcoming year of math at school!  

In science class, the girls started learning about computer science. Many of the girls did not know anything about Binary or the idea of human vs. computer previously, so their contagious curiosity filled the classroom. They asked lots of questions and found it very interesting. 

In English, the girls continued reading and analyzing The Birchbark House. They followed Omakaya’s journey and continued to learn more about the Objibwe cultural practices.

In electives, the girls painted birch bark trees, rehearsed their dances to “Happy” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, practiced yoga, made movies, and played sports! I am always impressed with the girls’ courage to take risks and try new things. While not every girl was a dancer, or a soccer player, or an artist, they were so open-minded, and these activities encouraged them to step out of their comfort zone. I have noticed the quieter girls opening up and taking on leadership roles while the girls as class learned what it is like to work as a cohesive unit. 

In the middle of the week, Mrs. McKee, one of Castilleja’s well-loved history teachers, taught the girls the “Jambo Bwana” song. Mrs. McKee always played this song for Castilleja students before they learned about anything related to Africa, but on Wednesday morning, the girls learned the Jambo song from Mrs. McKee herself! The song means “Hello Mister” in Swahili and consists of seven of the most common phrases and greetings in the language. The girls really enjoyed singing this catchy song and were eager to learn more about another culture! 

On Friday, the girls went on a field trip to Pescadero Beach and TomKat Ranch. The girls really enjoyed wading in the waters at the beach and seeing all the animals at the ranch! The girls reflected that the field trip was a great way to end a busy week filled with hard work. 

One of my favorite parts of Bridge is having the opportunity to witness and encourage the hard work, positivity, and curiosity the girls bring to the program every day without fail. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed the growth of the girls’ indomitable spirit and their determined attitude to take on every challenge that comes their way. As a TA, being able to manifest the idea that learning for the sake of learning is both a fun and rewarding experience is very exciting for me.  

I cannot wait for the shared laughs and memories that lie ahead in the last two weeks of Bridge! 

Castilleja - Week 2

By Christie W.

By the second week of Bridge, almost all of the girls have started opening up with each other. As a TA, I can clearly see that they are branching out and forming new friendships with other students that will last with them throughout the rest of their years spent at the Bridge program.  

When talking to the girls during advisory breakfast, many of them reflected on how much they love Bridge and how their favorite part are the electives and the food served on campus.  Many of them especially love the dance, art, and science classes.  One fun activity that the girls reflected on was practicing yoga to calm their minds.  However they found some of the poses challenging.  When I asked them about any challenges they faced this week, one girl said that math was a challenge for her, but she was able to overcome her difficulties by putting effort into her work, and persevering through the difficult problems.    

This week I had the opportunity to help out with the science class on their trip to the local Gamble Garden.  There at the garden, the girls were broken up into four different groups and were given the task to find different flowers throughout the garden.  During this activity I could clearly see that they were trying to make connections to what they had learned in their science classes, along with staying focused.  Their ability to stay focused on the task at hand, along with having fun at the same time is a great skill that the students possess which will help them in the future.  As I grow up, I find that I am not as able to balance the two skills of having fun and staying focused at the same time.  You must choose one or the other; however at their age they can choose both. The girls inspired me to have a little bit of fun and stay focused at the same time when working on future tasks.  While at the garden some of the girls wanted to draw the plants and flowers they saw.  As a lead art TA, I was excited that not only were they focused on the science aspect of the garden, but also the artistic details that they saw amongst the garden as well.  I was quite pleased that the girls were able to blend together this knowledge from two different classes, and connect them to the activity that they were doing.

I am excited to see the Bridge girls continue learning and growing throughout the rest of the summer.  I know that the rest of the program will be amazing just like the first two weeks!

Crystal Springs - Week 3

By Hannah M.

Throughout the past couple days, students and TAs alike expressed their shock as they realized Bridge is over halfway done. The summer feels like it’s flying by thanks to so many enjoyable activities, engaging classes, and new friendships. Whether students are playing “Hedwig's Theme” on the piano, discussing football players in the cafeteria, or doing integer operations in math class, they’re making long lasting memories.

This week was eventful in terms of what went on in the classroom! In 8th grade Math, students discovered that PEMDAS is more than a random collection of letters. The 8th graders spent the week working with variables, word problems, and exponents. In Science, students began participating in hands-on labs after they completed the two-week unit on coding and computer science. Meanwhile, 7th graders in Language Arts wrote articles about Malala Yousafzai’s leadership skills and continued to discuss Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth. Students felt bittersweet when electives ended on Tuesday, as they were excited to switch to a new elective but sad to leave an old one behind. Cooking, Lego Robotics, and Singing are just a few of the new offerings this time around.

The theme of courage is really important to what goes on here at the Crystal Springs Bridge site. Students are still working diligently on their Brave Projects. Some examples of awesome projects include writing short stories, learning to skateboard, and training a service dog. In advisory on Wednesday, students laughed and took risks during “The Singing Bee,” a competition in which students scored points by singing the correct words to the chorus from a popular song. It was so entertaining to watch seven students sing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber in perfect unison. Students are taking risks and growing more and more confident every day!

Next week is the always exciting Spirit Week. The week will be full of fun games and crazy competitions including pie eating, cupcake decorating, and dodge ball. Every day will have a dress up theme. Monday is Pajama Day, Tuesday is Crazy Hat/Hair Day, Wednesday is Wacky Day, and Thursday is Advisory Color Day. On Friday, everyone will be wearing swimsuits under their clothes because of the water park field trip! It’s apparent that a memorable and awesome week lies ahead.

Crystal Springs - Week 2

Taking Risks
By Emily C. 

7th grade Language Arts students discuss Boys Without Names in the hallway.

7th grade Language Arts students discuss Boys Without Names in the hallway.

At the end of our second week of Bridge, the kids have shown so much improvement in both academic and social settings. Frankly, it has been awesome to see kids pushing themselves to do well in their classes as well as try new things during their free time.

In 8th grade Language Arts, students are still persevering through Othello, having just finished Act One. While Shakespeare is undoubtedly difficult, my students are becoming more comfortable with taking risks in their analyses, and it is so great to see the kids get excited when they have made their way through a tough passage. I have also heard from the 7th grade Language Arts TAs that the students in their class have begun to come out of their shells and speak up more in discussions, a big step up from Week One. In 8th grade Math, the kids are also doing well, grasping the concepts of functions fairly quickly using blocks to represent X and Y.

I have asked a lot of the students what their favorite part of the day is, and almost everyone has answered with their elective (a few kids enjoy Science class better, which is understandable). We introduced some of the students to claymation in Art, and it was a huge hit, so when it came time for the kids to start their final projects of interpretive self-portraits, three students decided to make claymation self-portraits. It was risky, but so far, those projects look really cool and incredibly creative.

Outside of the classroom, I was not prepared for the shifts in social structure that occurred this week. Throughout all of Week One, the kids stayed in well-defined friend groups for every snack and lunch period, divided strictly by grade level and gender. This week, however, the students showed me that they were more than willing to socialize with people that they did not know very well or have much in common with, revealing that the Bridge kids are becoming more comfortable with being outside of their comfort zones. Volleyball has emerged as the new co-ed, all-inclusive sport, and you are bound to see a large circle of all kinds of students playing it during every break. Even soccer, which used to be pretty segregated by gender, has shifted to be more inclusive as some of the 8th grade girls asked to join in this week. I am very proud of their courage to integrate themselves without any prompting from the TAs. I hope to see this kind of risk-taking continue in the rest of the program.

Menlo - Week 2

By Jenni S.

It has been another successful week in Bridge and I slowly feel it going by a lot faster. It’s not easy being someone they look up to but every day the students teach me new things about myself that I didn’t know. I am always happy with them and it makes Bridge so much more enjoyable for me. I got so much closer to a few students and I’m excited for our bond to keep growing everyday. This week in math I sat with my groups I was assigned to everyday. I was able to answer their questions and help them feel more confident about their math skills by giving them guiding questions to get through. The math TA’s have been good at helping Mr. Lau in anything he needs. Most kids really enjoy the kahoots, which is a fun competition between them. There were also bumps through this week because TA’s weren't always doing the enrichment jobs we were assigned. This was a wake up call and I will make sure this doesn’t happen again. I do think I got a lot better and I’ve been playing four square which is really fun! I’ve been with girls that don't really feel comfortable playing games to the gym, played mafia and also jump rope. I also got even closer with my little family; Jojo and I know we are going to miss them a lot! Lunch is when we sit together, talk about our day, future plans and to get closer. This week on Tuesday I helped lead the lung model, which wasn’t very easy, but we got through it. We had a small lesson with the model and the kids enjoyed it. I also know that my leadership skills are growing for the future, which is a helpful characteristic to have! On Thursday we had another science lab where we taught the differences between a computer and the human brain. I led the Powerpoint with Luis O and it went well, we had very interesting conversations with the students. Most of the girls in our class were interested because they were all adding their own ideas when I made a Venn diagram on the board on the differences between a computer and the human brain. The students will learn more about programming and I’m excited for the future activities we have planned. In conclusion, I’m excited to create more memories and spend my summer with all the wonderful students. 

By Miller G.

Week 2 of the Peninsula Bridge Summer Program has blown by, and I could not be more impressed with the joy and enthusiasm that all of the students exhibit at every turn.  In math class this week, the students learned how to be expert bankers during their study of compound interest.  This built well off of our lessons on converting between decimals, fractions, and percents, as well as the lessons on discounts, tax, and markups.  They are all well on their way to becoming expert business-men and -women!  This week, we also embarked on our very first Embark Lab.  During this lab, the students learned about the numerous, significant differences between computer and human thinking.  We then asked the students to think like computers, playing a couple games that involved giving directions to another student like you would for a computer, requiring explicit, direct instructions.  This led into our study of the difference between position and orientation, which is involved in multiple computer programs such as GPS.  We finished off the lab by teaching the students about binary, the language of computers.  Although there was certainly some confusion, I was highly impressed with the persistence that the students exhibited and how they worked together in groups to understand the concept.  Similarly exciting was Wednesday’s activity, in which the students worked together in groups to build a logo out of Legos based on directions that were anything but clear.  My group surprised me by working together as if they were an actual construction company, asking for input from each student and making sure that each step had been successfully and correctly completed before moving on.  They all exhibited advanced communication and teamwork skills, and I can see many of them overseeing a construction project in the future!  Once all of the learning was over, Enrichment this week was extremely fun and enjoyable this week, with spirited games of dodgeball, knockout, soccer, ping pong, foursquare and many other games resulting in laughter and fun for everyone. This week of Peninsula Bridge has been extremely successful, and the attentiveness and excitement that all of the students bring into their classrooms is unparalleled.  I am looking forward to a great Week 3 and a fantastic rest of the summer!

Sacred Heart - Week 1

Exciting Beginnings!
By Julia B.

Peninsula Bridge at Sacred Heart Preparatory is off to a great start! As a returning TA, I could not wait to meet the kids and get to know their personalities. At the end of the first week, the students are comfortable with navigating between classes and engaging with their teachers and TA. Most students are building up to singing the daily ‘Bridge Song’ at the loudest decibel possible, but the 5th graders are definitely in the lead in this respect.

This is my first year being a TA for a 5th grade section, and I was pleasantly surprised at how eager all the students seemed about the new material. Every day, they start class excited to be with each other and share what they learned from the previous night’s reading. Being a Teacher’s Assistant for English – both 5th and 7th grade – is my favorite part about Bridge. I love interacting with the kids on a personal level, and getting to see the progress they make every day in deeply understanding the texts we work with.

A favorite activity of the week was Thursday’s scavenger hunt. Accompanied by TAs, the students raced in small groups to campus locations like the pool, farm, auditorium, and a mural of our Lady of Guadalupe. At each location, they had to perform certain actions or poses in order to earn the next clue to advance. Here, class 7C tried to include every member in a human pyramid!

I love the energy in and out of the classrooms at Bridge this year. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings!