The Jesuit Summer Bridge (JSB) students filed into the Multi-Purpose Room on Friday (July 13) mid-morning to find it already occupied by some of their parents and loved ones.
No worries – their seats had been reserved, the front two rows saved for graduates.
The ensuing commencement ceremony completed JSB's 9th – and biggest – year of making a major impact on dozens of local middle school boys in an instructive and nurturing environment.
JSB principal Paula Collazo handed out the diplomas, several students gave informational readings, and JSB teachers Eric Price (a Jesuit High School math teacher), Jake Pedrero '12 (a Plant High teacher), and Cameron Ruff '13 (a Trinity School for Children teacher) presented the awards to JSB's top students over the 5-week, instruction- and action-packed program.
JSB's top student honor is the Men for Others Award. This year's winners announced Friday were Ashton Stavish (Incarnation Catholic School), Jaden Carr (Horizons Charter School), and Francisco Dominguez-Perez (Pierce Middle School).
Culminating graduation was an impactful presentation by Bob Morrison '71, whose sons, Robert Morrison '19 and Edward Morrison '21 served as JSB counselors this year. Morrison's message resonated with the parents and students. "There are no shortcuts in life; help somebody every day; always get better; and make tomorrow a masterpiece," Morrison said.
This year, JSB registered a record 60 boys from 32 schools, mostly Hillsborough County public schools, to experience the comprehensive summer program. Each morning includes focused academic instruction in three areas – math, critical thinking, and language arts (grammar/reading) – mixed with an array of specialty sessions such as robotics (with Jesuit Engineering teacher and robotics moderator Lauren Hescheles), art (with Fine Arts department head Kevin Ball '03), science/math labs, cooking, and recycling, plus guest speakers and more.
The JSB theme this year was Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." While the students are boosting their academic foundation at JSB, they also make friends and develop leadership skills. Each day concludes with an elective activity – many choose sports such as soccer and touch football – and the program also includes two field trips, including a one to MOSI this summer (see the photo slideshow below).
In addition to Collazo (who is a Jesuit math teacher), Price, Pedrero, and Ruff, Jesuit admissions director Steve Matesich '91 is the JSB coordinator, and Fr. Francis Brou, S.J. is the chaplain.
Several Jesuit students and young alumni serve as JSB counselors, including some who also are Jesuit Summer Bridge alums. In addition to the Morrisons, the counselors this summer were Oscar Lopez '20, Anthony Maceovsky '20, Daniel Marrero '20 (a JSB alum who earned the Counselors Award this year), Alex Medina '20, and Zion Jacobs '21.
With the great success so far, the JSB program is poised to develop even further in the coming years.
"We're reaching more students than ever, which is exciting," Collazo said. "We had a great group of young men to work with again this summer, and it was another wonderful experience. They learn so much. You can see their progress and development over the five weeks.
"Like I always say, we want them to return to their respective middle schools this fall better prepared as students and as leaders among their peers. These guys are going to do that."
Jesuit Summer Bridge is offered at a steeply discounted cost to the participants and is supported in part by the Tiger Lilies, the club comprised of mothers of Jesuit alumni. The students are tested at the beginning and end of the program, demonstrating their improvement every summer. The most improved test scores were among those receiving awards at graduation.
Please view two photo slideshows below, the first is from the last two weeks of JSB and includes the MOSI field trip and graduation, the second is from the first few weeks of JSB.