In Part I of our Summer Bridge reflection series, I shared my immense admiration for our PREP 4 SUCCESS Summer Bridge Leaders. For Part II of the series, I sat down with several SBLs to learn more about their perspectives. I spoke with Tiffany Juarez of East LA Performing Arts Magnet, Janet Sanchez and Eliza Reyes of Orthopedic Medical Magnet, and Tristan Kendall of Global Academy of Interdisciplinary Media Studies to hear their experience as Summer Bridge Leaders within PREP 4 SUCCESS program.

How do you think being a Summer Bridge Leader has impacted your educational experience and your development as a student leader? 

Tiffany: It’s honestly a really good opportunity to connect with people who are younger and I feel like I really understand how to connect with people who are not the same age as me. It’s important because in life, you’re going to be working with younger people, older people…and in school, we have a lot of experience working with older people (our teachers). So connecting with younger people is really important.

Eliza: This is my second year as a Summer Bridge Leader and I’d do it again next year – trying to get in next year! I definitely think this is preparing me for different internships that I do want to apply to.

Tristan: I can now sense that my summer bridge students like me (when I’m not making them work hard), but they do know that I’m trying to get them to do the best work that they can. They respect me. They see that I have expectations for them.

Eliza: In summer bridge, we are always like, “If you guys need our number or snapchat, anything, we’ll always be here for you to mentor you guys and to be a friend to you.”

Tristan: I really like to put my heart in everything I do now and make it the best that I can and try to improve things.

Tiffany: One thing I would like to see is way more students involved in this because it’s a great way to make friends and to know ahead of time what path you’re going to take in school.

Tristan: Since being an SBL, I’ve joined Keystone which is a student-led service organization and I’m a volunteer at Northridge Hospital (shows his volunteer badge hanging from his lanyard).

Do you have any insider “hot takes” on the work of educators that you’ve learned from being an SBL?

Eliza: Both me and Janet have a new found respect for teachers because we see that they work really hard to plan out one day. We were having trouble planning out a whole week and they’ve mastered that!

Tristan: My inside take is that I understand the work of teachers and want to be a good student now. I think having a general care for these students and a desire to push them has developed me. I used to want to be a lawyer but now I think I want to go into psychiatry or psychology. I’d like to do something where I can help people and make an impact. I’d like to help people get out of situations that they may not be able to get out of on their own.

Tiffany: I’ve gotten a lot of leadership skills connecting with people. I’m building a strong relationship with my teachers and I understand their work. I respect them a lot more and I appreciate them a lot more.

Eliza: Interacting with our teachers, getting to know them on a personal level and them getting to know us is super cool.

Tiffany: I feel like these [summer bridge] students are much more understanding about how this school’s going to work and how to get involved.

What skills have you acquired as a Summer Bridge Leader that you didn’t have before? 

Janet: Learning from prior Summer Bridge Leaders helped us to understand what our experience might be like and how to handle certain situations. So actually interacting with the kids this summer and getting to know them on an educational level wasn’t as intimidating and was really fun.

Tiffany: I feel like I am able to teach! I really want to be a film teacher in the future because of this program.

Eliza: Interacting with the kids, bringing out their personalities and us helping them and showing them our school and how great Ortho is…that was really cool.

Janet: This is my first year as an SBL so this was honestly a really great experience seeing how I deal with a lot of different kids. Maybe it’s the same when I get an internship here, where I will have different people to work with. So I kind of get a feel of how it is to work with other people and that’s very helpful.

Tristan: When I was in middle school I never thought I would be doing programs like this. I was always a shy kid…I never liked doing anything that put me on the spot. I’ve learned that I have the ability to do this. I realized I need to be organized and that I have those skills that I didn’t think I had when I was younger.

Janet: I’m more confident now, being able to work with different people and understand them. I can see that there are different methods for trying to get a person to talk to you. Some of our students are quiet so we actually have to engage and approach them. And we started to see that throughout this program, they have gained new friends and become more outgoing. We’re really impacting them.

Tristan: This program has helped me develop organizational skills. I know how to use google in organizing and planning and I’ve also started to plan fundraisers at my church now. I’ve become a planner.

Eliza: I learned that I can be responsible. If I know who I am, it is easier to help someone else hatch out of their shell. Different people with different learning styles – we have to adapt like teachers because we really are teachers here, planning for the kids.

Every single teacher I have coached throughout PREP 4 SUCCESS has raved about the incredible work of their SBLs. It is clear that programs granting students access to their own leadership capabilities – like PREP 4 SUCCESS – greatly benefits the health of a school’s culture and community. At Reseda High School’s PREP 4 SUCCESS program, we’re seeing SBLs actually teach the medical curriculum after the advisory. The teacher is the facilitator of the program and ensures that SBLs are supported, but the SBLs are entirely running the educational program.

It is amazing what students will do when we build their leadership capacity and hand them the keys. As an educator, it relieves me to accept that student leaders are much better at unlocking the capacity of incoming students than adults are.

For more information on running a PREP 4 SUCCESS Summer Bridge Program at your school site, contact jschmieding@PowerfulEd.org.