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Summer Program Helps Students Cross the Bridge from High School to College
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JUNE 17, 2013 –The Summer Bridge program at The University of Texas at Brownsville is building upon its success of last summer to prepare incoming freshman for university-level classes when they start the fall semester.
 
The program is designed for students whose COMPASS test scores, required for placement in courses at UTB, indicate them to be “almost college-ready” in reading, writing and/or math – but needing a little boost.
 
“We are focusing on helping our students succeed in the classroom,” said Dr. Leslie Jones, Co-Director of Learning Enrichment. “From a practical standpoint, students pay only $50, as opposed to approximately $800 to spend a full semester taking a non-credit developmental class. The program also introduces students to college-level expectations in the target areas of college algebra, composition I and history I.”

Jones said 88 percent of the students who completed the 2012 Summer Bridge Program satisfied the college-ready standards and took college level courses in the fall 2012 semester.
 
Two additions to Summer Bridge this year are online lessons from Khan Academy, a non-profit educational enterprise, and the use of iPads in some of the math classes.
Summer Bridge students Manny Perez and Bernadette Garza like the interactive capabilities of using iPads to work Khan Academy ma Summer Bridge students Manny Perez and Bernadette Garza like the interactive capabilities of using iPads to work Khan Academy math problems.
 
“The classes are really helpful, and I especially like using the iPads to do the Khan Academy lessons in math because it is one-to-one and interactive,” said Bernadette Garza, a recent graduate of Brownsville’s Porter High School. “It’s so user-friendly, and really pretty fun and keeps you focused.”
 
Garza wants to become a physical therapist. She hopes to be accepted into the 3+3 Early Acceptance Program for physical therapy that will take her to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio for her last three years of study.
 
“The trainer at Porter, John Prosek, told me how he liked his work, and I became interested in it,” Garza said. “Then I tore my ACL during a volleyball game, and after surgery I had physical therapy, and that’s when I knew it was the thing for me.”
 
Manuel Perez of Rancho Viejo, a new graduate of St. Joseph Academy, is in the math class with Garza.
 
“I think this is a good way to refresh what we’ve already had but have forgotten,” Perez said. “The Khan lessons are visual and hands-on and go step-by-step, and I feel like I am really developing my math skills now.”
 
When he was in eighth grade, Perez visited with his neo-natal doctor and learned more about his time spent in an incubator as a premature baby. That connection has inspired him to work toward becoming a physician assistant.
 
Jones said one of the critical components to the program that proved invaluable last summer is incorporating peer tutors and peer advisors into the learning process.
 
Pamela Acosta, 21, and Luz Cepeda, 23, are the peer tutor and advisor, respectively, in the reading class being taught by S. Shane Snelson, an Ed.D. candidate in the College of Education. Acosta just received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from UTB in May, and Cepeda will graduate at the end of the summer with her Bachelor of Business Administration in international business. Both have worked in the Learning Enrichment lab and are familiar with assisting students. 
 
Peer advisors often refer to the standard text given to all Summer Bridge students: “Connections: An insider’s Guide to College Success” by Jennifer Latino and Scott and Sheri Moore.
 
“We are helping the students in many ways,” Cepeda said. “We have covered several chapters; one on time management and another on learning styles and ways for students to figure out what works best for them. We have also covered reading strategies, following up on Mr. Snelson’s instruction.” 
 
One of Snelson’s reading students is Luis Villarreal, 22, a 2009 graduate of Pace High School. Villarreal attended South Texas Vocational Training Institute and has been working for a pediatrician since December 2010.
 
“Now I am ready to get my RN, and I want to continue with my bachelor’s degree in nursing,” Villarreal said. “My only problem is my language skills, and that is what I’m working on. Only the fourth day, and I feel this class is going to help me a lot.”
 
Mariana Gomez, who just graduated from Rivera High School at the age of 16, will be 17 by the time classes start in August.
 
“I had all my credits and I was ready to get on with my life, so I am really excited about being in college,” Gomez said. “I was just a couple points below the requirement on the Compass test, so I’m taking math in the mornings and reading in the afternoons. Mr. Snelson is really good and he does a lot of activities and involves us in the lessons. And he always explains things so clearly. I can tell this is going to bring up my test scores.”
 
Dr. Janna Arney, Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, said the incorporating Kahn Academy and the iPads in select classes are among several initiatives being implemented in the fall semester that begins on Monday, August 26.
 
“Our faculty is ready to innovate and to transform the classroom experience using technology,” Arney said. “We are excited to launch these new programs, and we look forward to learning from the students who participate. We have approximately 20 faculty members who will be participating this year, and this is just the beginning.”
 
Summer Bridge runs through Monday, July 10. For more information, contact Limor Chavez at 956-832-7380 or limor.chavez@utb.edu.

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