There were many reasons for the group of twenty-nine Berkeley High seniors to gather and celebrate with family, friends, teachers, and mentors in the school library on May 29th. Back in 2015, these students became members of the sixth cohort of the BHS Bridge program determined to successfully transition to high school, carrying with them a dream of attending college. Their four year participation in the academic skill building and college preparation program has paid off! All twenty nine of the Bridge graduates will soon be spreading out across the state of California from Chico State in the north to UC Merced in the east, and UC Riverside and UC Irvine to the south. Others will attend colleges right in their backyard, including students committed to UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College, SF State and CSU East Bay.
The goal of Bridge is to prepare more African American, Latino, and low-income students to make an academically successful transition from middle school to BHS, and from BHS to college. Bridge demands a significant investment of time, energy, and effort from students as they develop the ability to navigate the often complex pathway to a college education. Beginning with the two-week summer session prior to the 9th grade year, and continuing with daily afternoon meetings, weekend study sessions, and regular tutorials throughout their four years at Berkeley High School, these Bridge students invested between 150 and 250 additional academic hours per year in their education. With the daily support and expertise of the Berkeley High Bridge teachers, and through their own hard work and resiliency skills, students are rising to meet the challenges on their pathway to college.
It takes a special commitment from Bridge teachers who spend long hours on campus to be available to their Bridge students and support them along the way. BHS English teacher Sean Stevens beams when he thinks of his first cohort of seniors heading off to college, “Working as a teacher for the Bridge program has been one of my greatest joys. Seeing these kids grow from aimless youths, to proud and driven individuals has been a joy to behold. They have shown me the strength of their spirit, and the depth of their dedication. This has been my most rewarding experience in my teaching career.”