Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Summer Bridge builds community and support for first-generation students

A student throws a piece of paper into a bonfire at night.
A first-generation student literally throws her fears into the fire as part of Summer Bridge activity. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

On July 26, the first-generation program Summer Bridge returned to campus to offer an in-person experience for transfer students and incoming first- and second-year students who are the first in their families to attend college.

With the coordination of Campus Diversity and Inclusion’s Peter Tupou and Summer Bridge Lead Mentors David Hazward '22, Samantha Vasquez '22, and Gabriel Olivares '22, the four-day event was planned to ensure a safe, engaging experience for students.

“Students were required to be vaccinated prior to arrival,” said Campus Diversity and Inclusion’s Peter Tupou. “Any medical exemptions meant [students] had to provide test results 24 hours prior to arrival, wear a face covering at all times, and complete the self-assessment on the Redlands App before each day of Summer Bridge.”

Students, who sampled residential life in Williams Hall, had the opportunity to get the first-hand experience in a college classroom while meeting professors and staff and engaging in community-building activities. Although the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the first- and second-year classes, the enthusiasm and relief to be on campus spread quickly.

"Before Summer Bridge, I had many worries and unreliable beliefs about college life," said Eunice Franco '25. "Summer Bridge has taught me so much about helpful resources in regards to me being a first-generation student... It has put my mind at ease. Now, I know of many clubs, professors, and friends who will help me throughout my next four years."

Throughout the four days, students were able to create connections, find new interests in majors and extracurriculars, and build community with each other. Each day carried new exercises that intended to encourage growth, individual strength, and resilience.

"My favorite memory of Summer Bridge was probably Burning Fears and the Name Game," said Peter Vargas '25. "Those were my highlights as they bonded us together in a meaningful way for me to know that I am not alone in the college process and experience."

Made possible by leadership support from The Patricia & Christopher Weil Family Foundation and the Knossos Foundation, Summer Bridge has been the foundation in first-generation students' lives as they enter the University of Redlands for more than a decade. First established in 2004, the program has welcomed hundreds of incoming students with opportunities such as college exposure, introduction to professors and staff, and mentee/mentor relationships.

“First-generation programs helped me more than anything in college,” said Gabriel Olivares ‘22. “I’m the first in my family to make it past 10th grade, so entering college was a labyrinth for me. Being part of Summer Bridge as a Lead Mentor and other first-gen programs helped me be ready for whatever college was going to throw at me, and I owe all of my current and future successes to the first-generation programs.”

Summer Bridge and other first-generation student programs held by Campus Diversity and Inclusion have become a home and reliable resource for students who want to break first-generational stigmas and change the lives of first-generation Bulldogs to come.

For more information about Summer Bridge and other first-generation programs, please contact Tupou at Peter_Tupou@redlands.edu.