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Getting ready for high school success: Summer program ‘coaches’ middle school students for a positive transition

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | July 13, 2017

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Carlos Barrera, an incoming high school student at LA Unified’s Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine (HPIAM), gives his presentation Thursday morning as part of the summer bridge program.

Students of the “Prep for Success Summer Bridge Program” at the Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine (HPIAM), one of three pilot schools on LA Unified’s Linda Esperanza Marquez High School campus, wore their best formal outfits Thursday morning for their final presentations.

Carlos Barrera fixed his tie as he prepared to talk about how he had learned to manage stress as an incoming high school student. He gave his presentation to a panel of teachers and senior students who mentored the 150 freshmen in the three-week summer program.

This is the third year that HPIAM has held the summer bridge program with the support of the Center for Powerful Public Schools. The objective is to “coach” incoming students with high school curriculum and to ease the emotional transition from middle school to high school.

“Deportation, financial struggles, and crime are the main sources of stress in my community,” said Barrera in his presentation along with four other students.

Stressing about those issues was nothing new for Carlos. He said he has seen that first hand in his parents and relatives. What was new for him was learning how stress is a health issue and how it can be discussed in a classroom — something he will have to do on a regular basis once he begins school at HPIAM in August.

The pilot school with nearly 700 students, 99 percent of whom are Latinos and from low-income families, has a medicine-themed curriculum supported by LAUSD’s Linked Learning initiative that is aimed to prepare students for college and careers through rigorous academics and work-based learning.

Ryan Goins, a Linked Learning specialist with the Center for Powerful Public Schools, said the program is an important element for eighth-graders who will become high school students in the fall. “It really acclimates them to the school, to the school culture, to what being a high school students means, and at the same time there’s also a pretty rigorous curriculum component to it.”

Goins also highlighted the positive response from the school’s teachers to the program.

“Teachers have told us that students that have gone through summer bridge are the students who seemed more prepared in ninth grade and are the ones who step up into leadership roles when they are engaged in big projects later on.”

Jesús Espino is one of the student leaders in the summer bridge program at HPIAM and will be a senior this fall.

Jesús Espino is one of those students. He was among the first to participate in the summer bridge program. He is now going into his senior year and has spent the last three weeks as a summer bridge “program leader” mentoring freshmen. He has helped them with basics such as creating Gmail accounts, using Google drive, giving guidance on their presentations, and showing them how to do online research.

“They ended up doing better presentations than what I have seen from some other junior students,” Espino said.

“I used to be a B- and C-grade student, but the summer bridge and the summer STEM programs here have helped me a lot to develop my confidence and my leadership skills,” said Espino, who came from Mexico with his parents when he was a 1-year-old.

“When you’re not from here, you need to show that you have a purpose to be here.” He plans to study sports medicine in college and is determined to go to a UC university. UCLA and UC Riverside are his top choices.

“Coming from a Hispanic culture, my family has always pushed me to do better than them. I believe I can, and my family knows I can do it, so I don’t want to settle for anything less.”

According to HPIAM’s principal, Jonathan Chaikittirattana, the school is supporting its students to be college- and career-ready by offering 10 Advanced Placement (AP) classes and 19 junior college courses available to seniors. It will soon offer a bio technical certification. The school’s current graduation rate is 91 percent, but this coming year he expects it to be 95 percent. LA Unified’s graduation rate is 77 percent.

“I had really nothing to do in the summer, now being part of the program I have learned a lot! It has opened my mind on many things and also now I feel more confident to start high school,” Barrera said. “I’m sure it has been a great advantage to be in this program, plus now I have new friends.”

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