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10 Years of Jesuit Summer Bridge

10 Years of Jesuit Summer Bridge

Jesuit Summer Bridge (JSB) is back on campus again this summer, marking the 10th year of impacting the lives of local middle school boys in an instructional and nurturing environment.

The 5-week program, which runs this summer from June 22 to July 24, is led by Jesuit faculty and staff, including Jonathan Barlaan '07, a teacher in his sixth summer of work with JSB. This year, 35 middle school boys from 20 different schools – conscientious students from modest socio-economic backgrounds, mostly from Hillsborough County public schools – are participating. The student experience remains educational, fun, developmental, and most importantly, safe, with COVID-19 protocols and practices built into the comprehensive summer program.

"They're very excited," Barlaan said. "They're eager to see each other, eager to just get out of the house. This group, particularly, they're very eager to learn."

Each morning includes focused academic instruction in three areas: math, critical thinking, and language arts (grammar/reading). But in addition to boosting their scholastic foundation – the students are tested at the beginning and end of the program, demonstrating their academic improvement – JSB participants also learn leadership skills and make friends. Each day concludes with an elective activity. Many choose activities such as dodgeball and ultimate frisbee, or play online computer games together.

"It's great to be able to mold them a little more and teach them all about the Jesuit way, teach about being a 'Man for Others' early on, and hopefully instill those values in them," Barlaan said.

Coronavirus safety precautions for JSB include disinfecting all class areas at the beginning and end of each day, taking the students' temperatures each morning, masks for all participants, installing hand sanitizer dispensers at the doorway of each classroom, placing desks six feet apart, and having teachers change classrooms rather than students.

In addition to Barlaan, who is a Jesuit science teacher (he teaches math at Summer Bridge), Jesuit admissions director Steve Matesich '91 is the program's coordinator, Jesuit theology teacher Audrey Merck is the JSB principal, Jake Pedrero '12 (whose class is pictured on the homepage) is the language arts teacher, Cameron Ruff '13 is the critical thinking teacher, Robert Morrison '19 is the graduate counselor, and Fr. Angel Rivera-Fals, S.J. is the chaplain.

Several Jesuit seniors serve as the program's counselors, and some counselors are also Jesuit Summer Bridge alums. This year's Jesuit student counselors are Andrew Garateix '21, Nick Garcia '21, Frankie Machado '21, Edward Morrison '21, and Nick Vega '21.

"The Jesuit Summer bridge kids look up to (the counselors)," Barlaan said. "The counselors realize they're a role model. And they definitely are doing a great job, being an example to the students."

JSB is offered at a steeply discounted cost to the participants due to the generosity of benefactors, notably Nancy and Mike Petters '77. The Petters' have demonstrated a leadership commitment to JSB and to providing unique opportunities for local youths to experience a Jesuit education. Other benefactors include the Tiger Lilies, the club comprised of mothers of Jesuit alumni, who every year host special events for the JSB students.

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