When I started working in college access as a tnAchieves intern, my first assignment was to research summer programs to help our high school graduates prepare for college. We found that over 80 percent of our students were not prepared for college-level classes after high school, and we knew we needed to build a program to support them. Thus came the tnAchieves Summer Bridge Program. The pilot program started with 28 students and expanded to serving approximately 1,000 high school seniors across the state of Tennessee each year. In fact, several other programs have developed out of the success of the Summer Bridge Program.

tnAchieves is the partnering organization to TN Promise in 90 of the state’s 95 counties. We help students transition from high school to college and provide them with resources to be successful once they get there. Our ultimate goal is for more Tennesseans to have a postsecondary credential in an effort to make Tennessee a better place for all. On a daily basis, tnAchieves is working with 85,000 students and their parents as they transition to and through college, but in the summer, tnAchieves staff members work one on one with a group of 20-100 students every day as they pursue their postsecondary dreams. It’s inspiring to get to know these students personally and be part of their sometimes nerve-wracking transition to college. In fact, tnAchieves staff members say that Summer Bridge season is their favorite time of the year.

Launched in 2012, the tnAchieves Summer Bridge Program serves TN Promise students transitioning from high school to college. Designed to address remediation challenges, Summer Bridge Program is a three-week academic boot camp providing instruction in English, math, and reading. The program is free to any TN Promise student and boasts an 88 percent success rate with students either testing out of remedial courses or dramatically increasing their test scores. Ninety-eight percent of participants enroll in college the fall following high school graduation, and first-year persistence for Summer Bridge Program participants is 17 percentage points higher than students who enroll at a community college with remedial need but without a Summer Bridge Program experience. Cameron, a Summer Bridge Program student, described how the program helped him: “It showed me that college wasn’t going to be easy, but in the end the hard work pays off. It showed how we get treated like adults, too. Lastly, it showed that making new friends is easy if you are yourself.”

After offering the Summer Bridge Program for five years, tnAchieves wanted to dig deeper and develop a program that offered more to students who need a next level of preparation. We partnered with Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis to create a 10-week program called Summer Institute. Summer Institute provides students with 18 hours of co-requisite instruction and relies on high-impact practices such as student cohorts, prescriptive scheduling, academic tutoring, and intrusive advising. Summer Institute is continuing at Southwest Tennessee Community College this year and expanding to Nashville State Community College.

In addition to the Summer Bridge Program and Summer Institute, tnAchieves is also offering the Online Bridge Program in partnership with Western Governor’s University Academy. This online version of Summer Bridge Program allows students from rural communities who have transportation challenges or students with work conflicts to participate in a summer program and better prepare for college.

We are thrilled to offer three summer program options to students and hope that if you know a TN Promise student, you encourage them to apply. More information, deadlines, and applications are available at the tnAchieves website.

Jackie McDonald is the deputy director of operations for tnAchieves.