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Summer Bridge Academy Helps Students Transition to the Next School Level

Rising sixth graders, freshmen and seniors participated in a two-week Summer Bridge Academy, a program designed to engage students in areas of academic acceleration, social interaction and leadership development for a successful transition to the next school level.

“The period from elementary to middle, middle to high and high to post-secondary can be an overwhelming experience for some students,” said Leigh Anne Frye, high school director. “The Summer Bridge Academy experience encouraged students to take responsibility for their own education and to learn essential qualities that will benefit them throughout their entire educational journey, especially during those transitional periods.”

Students attended informative seminars, visited college campuses, engaged in STEM activities, toured local attractions and learned more about governmental agencies and service organizations in Caldwell County.

 “Summer Bridge Academy allowed students and teachers an opportunity to collaborate and build relationships across the district,” said Amy Brawley, high school academy administrator.  “This has definitely been a rewarding experience, and it gave rising ninth graders an opportunity to better acclimate themselves to the high school learning environment.”

During the two-week span that began on June 20, more than 90 rising sixth graders and approximately 40 high school freshmen and rising seniors were introduced to a variety of activities involving field trips, hands-on learning and team-building exercises. By design, these experiences enhanced learning through quality curriculum and evidence based practices.

For example, an academic, hands-on learning lab was provided by Betabox, a mobile STEM unit funded by the state legislature to help mitigate the impacts of learning loss in rural parts of the state. During the onsite field trip, students focused on autonomous vehicles, robot cars, drones and 3-D printers.

“We want them to think like a scientist,” said  Rafi Vaca-Tricerri, onsite STEM instructor. “Ask questions, use critical thinking skills and apply these methodologies to real-world scenarios.”

Students also worked in teams to build projects on the school district’s Code to Go bus using hands-on investigation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEAM) concepts while incorporating literacy, math, marketing and social-emotional development.

“These fun and engaging activities piqued their curiosity to learn more about technology and coding,” said Amy Philyaw, STEM director and grant writer/coordinator. “Hopefully, the Summer Bridge experience will encourage them to dive deeper in computer science and other academic fields of interest in the upcoming school year.”

In addition to exploring STEAM onsite, students traveled to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, planned for college entrance through orienting post-secondary campuses and expectations, tested their math and physics skills at rock climbing, and heard from motivational youth speaker Brandon Lee White who addressed issues affecting young people, such as bullying, substance abuse and mental health.

 “It’s very crucial for them to make connections with each other and to become acclimated to their next level of learning,” said Savannah Cole, West Caldwell High School science teacher. “It’s been amazing to watch them grow and build relationships together.”

The Summer Bridge Academy was offered to middle and high school students at no cost to families. Breakfast and lunch meals were also provided as well as transportation to off-site learning environments. High school students met on the campus of West Caldwell High School, led by Amy Brawley, and middle school students reported to their respective attendance schools, directed by Celine Ellison, Christy Byerly, Kristy Hollar and Phillip Little.