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Summer Bridge Graduation!

Summer Bridge Graduation!

Jesuit Summer Bridge (JSB) celebrated its graduation ceremony Friday (July 7) inside Shembekar Auditorium, completing its 13th year of impacting the lives of local middle school boys in an instructional and nurturing environment at Jesuit.

The 45 graduates came up on stage one-by-one in front of family and friends to receive a graduation certificate from JSB principal Jonathan Barlaan ’07, and several more received individual graduation awards.

The special keynote address was given by professional football player Travell Harris 17. During his heartfelt presentation, he shared with the middle school students the academic adversity he faced in high school. Harris buckled down and raised his GPA from 1.9 to a 3.0 during his time at Jesuit, earning a football scholarship to Washington State, where he became a Pac-12 Academic All-Conference selection. He urged the graduates to develop as 'Men for Others' and to "work hard, be disciplined, and focus on your dreams."

After Harris' address, Barlaan and JSB faculty Paula Collazo, Jake Pedrero 12, and Kyle Cramer presented the special individual awards. The most prestigious was the 'Men for Others' award, which was earned by Lamar Hood, Noah Powell, and Thomas Fulks. Additional award winners were:

Excellence in Mathematics: Nathaniel Nelson, Brynner Gibbs, Nick Cucanan-Potoy

Excellence in English Language Arts: Andy Gonzalez, Logan Cotney, Remington Rooth

Excellence in Critical Thinking: Andrew Aliakbarian, Aiden Valdes, Sadieu Joseph

Most Improved Test Score: Ayden Earl, Logan Cotney, Chase Davison

Highest Test Score: Andy Gonzalez, Nick Cucanan-Potoy, Aiden Hobbs

Outstanding Counselor: Henry Bravo ’26

Sportsmanship: Aiden Hobbs

"It was another phenomenal Summer Bridge," Barlaan said. "It's amazing how much was accomplished and how quickly it flies by. We had a great group of students who wanted to be here, who bought into the program and invested themselves every day, and the faculty and counselors created a great atmosphere for learning, growth, and development."

The 5-week program included boys from 20 different schools, conscientious students from moderate socio-economic backgrounds, mostly from Hillsborough County public schools. Each morning included focused academic instruction in math, critical thinking, and language arts (grammar/reading), and JSB participants also learned leadership skills and made friends. Each day concluded with electives such as art, biology, chemistry, and sports activities. JSB also always features a distinguished guest speaker, and this year Robert Morrison ’19, who recently was named the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader at Loyola University New Orleans, spoke to the students. 

"It was great to be able to teach them all about the Jesuit way, to teach about being a 'Man for Others,'" Barlaan said. "Hopefully we instilled those values."

Among the JSB highlights were two awesome field trips. The first was to One Buc Place, where they met Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, P 21, 23. The second, coming just a couple of days before graduation, was to the Esports Players and Coding Club. They learned about graphic design and coding as well as playing some amazing games.

After the graduation ceremony, everyone walked across Loyola Lane from the Antinori Center for the Arts to the cafeteria, where JSB 2023 officially wrapped up with a pizza lunch. More than 50 Jesuit Summer Bridge alumni have later enrolled at Jesuit High School, with many currently at the school and 21 who have graduated and gone on to attend universities such as Boston College, Central Florida, CEU Cardinal Herrera University (Spain), the University of Chicago, Embry-Riddle, Florida A&M, Florida State, North Florida, Saint Leo, South Florida, the University of Tampa, and Tennessee State.

In addition to Barlaan, Collazo (math), Pedrero (language arts), and Cramer (critical thinking), the JSB staff consisted of Jesuit admissions director Steve Matesich ’91; graduate counselors Frankie Machado ’21 and Gilbert Morgan ’23; Jesuit student counselors Diego Alvarado-Borjas 26, Ashton Tran ’24, Caal Cisneros ’25, Justin Thurman ’25, and Bravo; and chaplain Fr. Angel Rivera-Fals, S.J.

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.

For individual photos of each graduate receiving his certificate at graduation, please email the name of the graduate to