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Jesuit Summer Bridge

Jesuit Summer Bridge

Jesuit Summer Bridge (JSB) is back again this summer, marking the 13th year of impacting the lives of local middle school boys in an instructional and nurturing environment at Jesuit.

The 5-week program, which runs this summer from June 5 to July 7, is led by Jesuit faculty and staff, including JSB principal Jonathan Barlaan ’07, a Jesuit science teacher in his eighth summer of work with JSB. This year, 45 middle school boys from 20 different schools – conscientious students from moderate socio-economic backgrounds, mostly from Hillsborough County public schools – are participating.

"There are many new faces that are excited to be part of the Jesuit Summer Bridge program, as well as some familiar faces returning for another year," Barlaan said. "Everyone came in ready to learn and they're having fun doing it. The kids want to be here and that is always amazing to see."

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 electives, including art, biology, chemistry, and sports. Many choose activities such as dodgeball and ultimate frisbee, or drawing some of their favorite pop art characters.

Later this summer in the program students will be making a trip to One Buc Place, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as students will have the opportunity to meet rookies from the Bucs 2023 NFL Draft class and learn about everything that goes into creating a successful team.

The JSB students also will take a field trip to the Esports Players Club, where they will learn about graphic design and coding, and also have the opportunity to play and compete in vast array of video games.

Throughout the JSB program, the students learn the characteristics of what it means to be a ‘Man for Others.’ During the first week the focus was on ‘Respect’ and the second week focused on ‘Faith.’

"It's great to be able to teach them all about the Jesuit way, teach about being a 'Man for Others' early on," Barlaan said. "Hopefully we’ll instill those values."

In addition to Barlaan, the JSB staff consists of Jesuit admissions director Steve Matesich ’91, who is the program's coordinator; Jesuit math teacher Paula Collazo teaches math; alumnus Jake Pedrero ’12 is the language arts teacher; Jesuit social studies teacher Kyle Cramer is the critical thinking teacher; Frankie Machado ’21 and Gilbert Morgan ’23 are the graduate counselors; 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 alumni. This year's Jesuit student counselors are Ashton Tran ’24, Caal Cisneros ’25, Justin Thurman ’25, and Henry Bravo ’26.

"We have some returning counselors and even Summer Bridge alumni who are willing to give back some of their own time to be part of the program once again," Barlaan said. “It’s great to see them come around full circle as counselors when just a few years ago they were Summer Bridge students themselves. They’re always asking what else needs to be done and are a great help in the classroom."

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.