- Stop by Home Depot for some blue paint
- Develop metrics for a business plan proposal
- Come to work in scrubs
- Make the enrollment steps to the local community college easily digestible for students
- Assemble IKEA furniture for the office
- Update the team’s meeting agenda
It may look odd, but that’s how my to-do list reads on any given week this summer. I could’ve opted to write the responsibilities that were listed in my job description, but the truth is that wouldn’t come close to encompassing this out of the ordinary internship experience. The wide range of my day-to-day activities is the result of interning for a nonprofit startup in education, BridgeYear. Bridge Year is the brainchild of two former college counselors, Victoria Chen and Victoria Doan, who I’m delighted to call my mentors, and was founded in the summer of 2016 in Houston, Texas.
BridgeYear started off as a community college transition program for first generation students from low-income communities. The goal was to battle the phenomenon known as summer melt, which “melts” away recent high school graduates’ plans to enroll in college the fall immediately after graduation. To decrease the rates of the phenomenon, BridgeYear provided support to students through near peer advisors -college interns like myself– that helped students matriculate into community college. While enrollment rates were doubled, as the summer progressed, BridgeYear realized there were things beyond summer melt affecting students’ futures. After recognizing that students in low-income communities also lack access to workforce opportunities, the program now immerses students in career simulations that expose them to high-growth careers and propels them toward economic mobility.
This is actually my second summer with BridgeYear, as I was part of the inaugural team back when this was only an idea. It was a life altering experience to establish a nonprofit from the ground up; an opportunity I wanted so desperately to repeat because I felt my work wasn’t done.
And so here I am. A few seasons have passed and my passion, purpose, and philosophies on education have only grown. I knew that round 2 of
BridgeYear was right for me since I could not, and did not want to, leave the mission and the people. After some meaningful, reflective chats with the co-founders, I was welcomed back with open arms.
This summer is very different than my last. Our organization is more clear in its mission and there is more structure. Instead of working out of one of the co-founder’s homes and promoting the program by crashing high school graduations, we have an office space, 250 registered students, and a network of educators connected to the organization across the city. As one of 6 interns, I’m balancing my time between leading the Advising Team, advising 22 students, developing a career simulation, and doing research for future programming.
Because my interests have always been student-centered, my main focus this summer is the students we serve and the Advising Team that makes it all happen. Leaning on my experience from last year, I’m determined to properly train and support the other advisors through it all. Students live the BridgeYear experience through the bonds they create with their advisors, and so it’s my privilege to lead our team in order to accurately and efficiently do what’s best for our students, while helping expand the organization’s mission.
By the time we call a wrap on BridgeYear for the summer, my goal is to have 80% of the students that we work with successfully enrolled in community college this fall. Beyond having them complete the steps on the enrollment checklist, I want to them to feel excited, empowered, and confident about their decision. On a personal level, I hope that I’m able to say that I made an impact on the institutions we work with and the people we serve.
I don’t know how the next month and a half will unfold and that is my favorite part about BridgeYear. The right people, with the right attitude, and some good playlists make long trips into unknown territories easier and more manageable. I’m happy to say that I have great people, with great attitudes, and great tastes in music around me this summer, and I couldn’t be more excited to journey into the unknown along side them.
Dariana Resendez, ’19