Students attend a July 8 session on Counseling Services during the 2024 Summer Bridge program.

A group of students who struggled or underperformed in high school look to shed those perceptions while starting their next academic journey.

July 8, marks the opening of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s 2024 Summer Bridge program. Comprised of 119 students participating, the four-week program is designed to help offset deficiencies in comprehension in reading, writing, and mathematics skills.

Upon completing the program, the participants will be admitted to UMES as part of its incoming freshman class, which is expected to be one of its largest in years.

“The overall goal of this program is to help these students reach their academic potential,” said Dr. TerCraig Edwards, Director of the Center of Access and Academic Success (CAAS) and the Summer Bridge Program Director. “There are bright and brilliant students out there that need an opportunity, but we also know that all schools are not created equal academically, and some of these students have experienced educational deficits.”

Some of those deficits stem from the lingering effects of the pandemic, which altered the way the program’s students learned outside of the classroom, as well as other major life events happening around them.

“Many times it is a life event that occurred during a student’s junior or senior year that brought their GPA down — the loss of a loved one, or instability in their living situation,” said Juliana Reagan, an associate director in CAAS, who started with the program as an English instructor a decade ago. “They may have mental health challenges that were left unaddressed that impacted their academic performance. Other times it is their level of academic readiness that needs to be addressed because they did not receive coaching in study skills, classroom etiquette, and time management.

“I think the impact of COVID is still present in this cohort because their instruction during the introduction to high school was heavily impacted, but it is beginning to dwindle with the future cohorts.”

In addition to the curriculum, taught by UMES faculty and staff, the program offers lessons in developing and improving critical thinking and study skills, learning financial literacy, receiving career guidance, and other important life skills.

Students also receive mentorship from student ambassadors, some of who were Summer Bridge students previously, like psychology major Kamyah Gammon.

“I remember one of the biggest challenges was adapting to the college routine, meeting new people, and making friends,” she said. “Being involved with the program on the other side, I want to help the students who are struggling with classes or having difficulty connecting with others by being that person who helped me when I was in their situation.”

As part of the Summer Bridge program, expectations are set for students and staff members alike such as Hailey Penuel, who is in her first year as a first-year experience coordinator for CAAS.

Students attending the Summer Bridge Program work on a writing project.

“Our expectations are to show up and be here in this experience fully,” she said. “We have phenomenal activities slated to help these students soar as UMES students and beyond.”

Edwards said equipping the students with the necessary instruction to create a path for long-term success after Summer Bridge is the most important thing to him.

“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for these students to learn and grow,” he said. “But most importantly, it’s also an opportunity for UMES to take a crop of young students under the wing of the hawks, if you will, and watch them flourish and grow into productive and successful young men and women.”

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