Summer Bridge to success for AP and IB students

Making the toughest academic programs less intimidating

7/12/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

​Saoirse Bogart wanted to take the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Foss High School but figured she might not earn the high grades she received in the less demanding classes she’d taken before.

“I was really excited for the challenge,” said Bogart, whose first name is pronounced SEER-sha. “I think I was prepared to not perform as well as I had been in my lower level classes just because of the difficulty. But I wouldn’t say I was nervous.”

Meanwhile, Rachel Schmit wanted to go for the IB diploma too—but the mountain of work involved made her hesitate.

“I was pretty apprehensive going into it,” said Schmit, who begins her senior year this fall. “I was kind of afraid.”

The five-day Summer Bridge program, offered free each August for students intending to enroll in IB and Advanced Placement courses in Tacoma high schools, eased Schmit’s fears and gave Bogart the confidence to excel.

“Summer Bridge made me realize I was just psyching myself out,” Schmit said.

Summer Bridge provides students with:

  • An overview of what to expect in the more difficult advanced classes
  • Tips on studying, and perhaps most importantly,
  • A chance to connect with other students who will face the same heavy workload.

International Baccalaureate, in particular, encourages students to form study groups and help each other outside the classroom, much as they will be expected to do in college.

“I knew most of the stuff, but the review was helpful,” Bogart said. “And several of the teachers who teach IB classes were there, so we got to meet them and the other students who would be in our classes. We did a lot of icebreaker activities with the other students too. Summer Bridge kind of eases you into the program.”

Students enrolled in advanced programs are more likely to graduate high school and attend college, be better prepared for college course work and have the potential to earn college credit, according to The College Board, the national organization that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement exams.

Summer Bridge “explained how the work was going to be hard, but then talked about time management and how to study,” Schmit said. “That broke the ice for me on how I was going to be able to do it. It made me realize this was manageable. It’s a very difficult program, but as long as you’re willing to put the time in and keep up, you can do it.”

This year’s edition of Summer Bridge takes place from Aug. 21-25 at the Science and Math Institute and Mount Tahoma, Stadium, Lincoln, Foss and Wilson high schools. Students attending receive lunch each day and random swag donated by local businesses—previous year’s incentive prizes have included T-shirts and gift cards.

The Monday through Thursday sessions run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday’s session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students from all schools meet for the initial meeting Monday, Aug. 21 at Mount Tahoma High School. For the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday sessions, students meet at their individual high school sites. On Friday, district buses pick up students at their individual high schools for a tour of local colleges, and then end at Lincoln High School for a concluding barbecue and celebration.

Students may sign up online through Aug. 3, but those who miss the registration deadline still can show up on Aug. 22 at their local site and have lunch anyway.

Bogart skipped the seventh and 10th grades and will graduate two years early. She’s pondering whether to take a gap year after high school before going on to college (“I’ll only be 16 and hardly able to do anything,” she said), but eventually wants to teach history.

“I’m interested in the history of revolutions,” she said. “Especially people whose role in revolutions are historically underplayed—working class people, gay, trans, people of color. Their stories are vital to the American story, and to erase their stories is to erase history.”

Schmit hopes to attend Stanford University to major in either neurology or computer science. She credits Summer Bridge as an important boost over the hurdle of her own fears.

“It was kind of my savior,” she said. “I was able to get my feet in the door and see what IB was all about, instead of being afraid of it.”

“It’s a really useful program,” Bogart added. “Going into advanced programs can seem intimidating, but Summer Bridge makes it less so.”