Bridges Students Complete Virtual Summer Program and Celebrate Successes

By Umu Graham, Academic Advisor, Bridges to Success

It’s safe to say that the Bridges to Success (BTS) program went through a series of “firsts” this past summer term.

From virtually finalizing the acceptance process for the incoming cohort, to facilitating a fully virtual summer program for our freshmen, as accustomed as the BTS team is to working under pressure, this was quite unlike any challenge we could have anticipated. Through it all, it ended up being a successful semester, and the summer program was capped off with our first ever Virtual Awards Recognition Summer Bash, where we got to celebrate all 123 students of this freshman class.

The theme for this year’s event was “Creating History for the Future.” Right on the cusp of graduating from high school, the world changed for our incoming students. They had to forego taking part in longstanding traditions like going to prom, saying goodbye to friends with hugs and kisses and walking across the podium during commencement. In its place, they had to navigate a world dealing with a global pandemic and a nation grappling with racial injustice and social unrest. In the midst of it all, they were also just starting college in the most unique of ways.

With all this in mind, it only made sense to acknowledge the fact that their experiences this summer will be woven into the fabric of this moment in history. So to commemorate the event and the summer semester, our students were asked to write and submit a letter sharing their story and experiences over the course of this past year so we could save these in a time capsule not to be opened until the year 2070. The words in these letters from our students captured the resilience and true commitment they demonstrated in accomplishing their goals this term, even in the face of such unprecedented challenges.

Held on Friday, July 31, 2020, the virtual celebration took place via Zoom and was hosted by our dynamic sophomores, Gabrielle Ekhator and Braxton Blue, while our DJ entertained us in between presentations. We also had our very own freshman, Ian De Jesus Ortiz, charm the audience by playing his ukulele with a beautiful and emotional rendition of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by the band Green Day.

Between Valencia’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Isis Artze-Vega’s moving opening and Assistant Vice President of Partnerships for Educational Equity Eda Davis-Lowe’s inspiring address to our students, it is safe to say our 2021 Bridges cohort got not just a unique first summer semester, but also an exceptional send-off as they transition into the fall term.

“The 2020 Summer Bash was a huge success,” said Reginald Drummond, East Campus academic advisor. “Seeing the students’ reactions to receiving awards and watching them interact with each other was very rewarding. The responses in the chat box made the entire summer program worthwhile. Every student that won an award showed genuine emotion and often showed humility while accepting their award”.

Tynecia Frazier, a West Campus student, shared that “Starting college for the first time and having to do so virtually was nerve-racking because I didn’t know what to expect. I also thought it would be difficult trying to balance [virtual] meetings, class and work, but managing my time and putting what was important first made it so much easier.”

At the end of the term, Tynecia was able to look back and see how much her hard work paid off.

“When it was all done, I felt good and more confident in myself being able to balance everything,” she added.

It was a one-of-a-kind summer, for sure, but our students exceeded expectations.

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