After weeks of problem solving, engaging activities, critical thinking, and camaraderie, the students of Jesuit Summer Bridge (JSB) walked across the stage Friday (July 9) for graduation in recognition of their hard work.
The ceremony inside the Tiger Palace concluded the five-week program (June 7-July 9), during which 50 middle school boys from 24 different Hillsborough County public, charter, and private schools participated. It marked the completion of the 11th JSB program, which provides young men with quality education during the summer along with the opportunity to make friends from different schools and become familiar with Jesuit High School.
The ceremony began with a prayer led by graduate counselor Edward Morrison '21 and a speech by JSB coordinator and Jesuit admissions director Steve Matesich '91. Then, JSB principal Audrey Merck handed out the diplomas to each student, and Summer Bridge teachers Jonathan Barlaan '07 (Math), Jake Pedrero '12 (Language Arts), and Matthew Kaiser (Critical Thinking) named awards for excellence in each of their respective subjects.
JSB's top honor each summer is the Men for Others Award. This year's winners were Elijah Givens (6th grade, Villa Madonna), Jafet Rodriguez (7th grade, Channelside Academy of Math and Science), and Rocco Falcon (8th grade, Villa Madonna).
Jesuit principal Mike Scicchitano '01 concluded the commencement with the keynote address. He spoke to the JSB graduates about continuing to be Men for Others in their homes, their communities, and their respective middle schools, and applying the virtue of "Magis" on a daily basis.
"If you choose to, you are able to see the multitude of ways that you can be a force for good in the world," Scicchitano said. "Every day you can do something around the house without being asked, help a classmate who is struggling, pick up litter in your neighborhood, help an elderly neighbor with yardwork."
Fr. Angel Rivera-Fals, S.J. served as the JSB chaplain this summer, and several current Jesuit students served as counselors: Eddie Benito '23, Ajani Edwards '22, Andre Gilbert '23, Eliaz Lopez '22, Cristian Rojas '22, and Dominic Rozance '22. Rozance was recognized as the Outstanding Counselor at the ceremony.
Jesuit Summer Bridge 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.
The JSB 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 see below a photo slideshow from Friday's graduation, and below that is a slideshow from the first few weeks of JSB this summer.