NOTE: This story was produced by Emily Siner for member station WPLN in Nashville.
With an influx of Tennessee Promise students heading to community college in a few weeks, one program is trying to prepare some of them for coursework before the first day of college. The three-week Summer Bridge program is part of an effort to decrease the number of community college students — usually a high percentage — who have to take remedial classes in reading or math during the school year.
In Christina Weston’s summer math class at Nashville State Community College, a dozen students are playing a version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” featuring basic algebra questions.
“C is correct!” Weston shouts, after one student picks an answer.
Her students are reviewing what they’ve learned in the past three weeks, before the big test Friday when they can place out of remedial math. Incoming freshman Kelvin Leavy also signed up to help ease the transition from high school to college, he says.
“By the time it’s the fall, you’ve been in the college experience for three weeks already, so you know what to expect,” he says. “I know where everything’s at, I know how classes are going to be, I know how long it takes to get from one place to another.”
Similar classes are finishing up at community colleges around the state, with about 500 students overall. But it’s relatively easy to help them succeed — if they choose to come here during the summer, they’re likely already more motivated, says Bridge program organizer Jackie Hartmann. It takes much more effort to help the thousands of incoming Tennessee Promise students who aren’t here.
During the school year, Hartmann’s organization contacts them “by email, by Facebook, by Twitter, by text message,” she says. “We’re constantly making them aware of the resources available to them, checking in on them to see if they need help.”
But she says she hopes the Bridge program will become more popular next year, after this year’s students taking it promote it to their younger friends.