A Summer Boost for Scholars
By: Ryan Burbridge
Ryan Burbridge is a 2013 College Bound Brotherhood scholar going into his second year at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He interned at the Marcus Foster Education Fund this summer, and supported our summer events for Bay Area youth from the Class of 2014 - “Get Ready for College and “All Aboard Oakland” - each held at Laney College in July and August. The events brought together 50-100 recent graduates and their parents for a day of workshops, discussions and presentations from local community organizations and college professionals including representatives from UC Berkeley, Chabot College, Cal State East Bay, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Fresno Pacific, East Bay College Fund, SPAAT, Young Scholars Program, Centro Legal de la Raza and the OMEGA Boys Club of San Francisco. The Marcus Foster Education Fund and its staff would like to thank all of their partners for their support to make these successful spaces of opportunity for so many young people. We would also like to thank EduSource for capturing the voices of the students and parents from All Aboard Oakland in their publication to raise awareness about “Summer Melt,” and why so many capable first generation youth suddenly misstep in their path to college. Ryan’s article highlights the many challenges young people can face that may lead to Summer Melt and the importance of summer pre-college experiences in the context his own experience transitioning to college. Thank you Ryan!- The MFEF Staff
It was Valentine’s Day during my Senior year and I woke up around 4am to get to school before any of the teachers. It was a day when others were showing love and affection while I was running on a schedule because it was like any other day. Certain things needed to be done and I knew that there was limited time to do them. Beyond my academics, I had other tasks such as making sure that the cafeteria had enough milk during lunch, to rushing to rehearsal for my first play. I was accustomed to a set schedule as a senior. I knew what to expect next and where I had to be next. Tight schedules are part of not just my, but every high school seniors’ day, even if we don’t realize it. It gives us structure and guides us to our next task and leaves us with the comfort of knowing what will come from one day to the next. Because of my schedule, my Senior year in high school was one of my best years even though most days I would say “I ran myself ragged.” It was good, I was happy. Even with extracurricular activities like volunteering at the library to being in the play “Story” for the Berkeley Teen One Act Festival, having my schedule allowed me to relax and stay focused on what I needed to do to get ready for finishing high school and starting college.
While I certainly represented the extreme among most senior as far as my schedule and active college preparation, I still struggled to manage my college applications, acceptances, and decisions. I applied to twenty-one colleges as part of a compromise with my mother. As the acceptance letters trickled in, I was overwhelmed trying to manage and compare universities to decide which one would be the best fit. I did not have a “dream school,” so I was flooded with indecisiveness and tried to make sure I had all the information I needed before signing my statement of intent to register. Ultimately, it came down to finances and how I could afford college, knowing I would have to pay for school myself. Although I knew I had the financial tools at my disposal coming from a college prep charter school, once I graduated and summer arrived, there was a sudden drop in both the intense schedule I had kept to the level of support from adults I had grown used to. Because the structure was no longer there, it was easy to get lazy and forget what I needed to stay on top of to prepare for college and getting financial aid. For many students, we are on our own during this transition. . I was fortunate enough to receive the Marcus Foster Education Fund’s College Bound Brotherhood Scholarship and be a part of a cohort of over 100 college bound black males supported to access to and persist in higher education. However, supportive programs and scholarships like the Brotherhood are not every new graduate’s reality and many students “melt” during the summer and never make it to college despite having been on track like I was to start their education in the fall.
This summer the Marcus Foster Education Fund held two events to address the “summer melt” phenomenon for our scholars and other youth heading to college this fall. Both the College Bound Brotherhood’s Get Ready For College and the Oakland-focused “All Aboard Oakland” event at Laney College gave students the opportunity to get together on a Saturday this summer, and meet others who are in similar situations. As recent graduates, we are all nervous to go to college, and to know at least one person who is going to the same university as you are can make a difference in the decision to stay home or step onto campus.
Last year as a Brotherhood scholar, the Get Ready for College event gave me a place to connect with other college bound African American young men from across the nine Bay Area counties. Get Ready for College was a positive environment for me, but it was not a space I recognized as unusual or particularly special. I remember the event not only connected me with peers, but informed and reminded me of the tools that I had at my disposal, and connected us to people who work for college financial aid and other student services offices and other professionals from the financial industry. When I started school, I knew what I needed to get done and was prepared for what to expect for each year including how to manage my finances better.
Now as an intern helping to run these events, I know others would be surprised to see these gatherings, and call it revolutionary for a group of over 60 black males from the Bay Area getting together to talk about how to be prepared when we start college. In the case of All Aboard Oakland, outsiders may be amazed to see Oakland natives who grew up in what some see as one of the worst places to be from, ready to start college and eagerly gathering advice from peers and professionals.
This year, I worked with the MFEF staff and made sure students were re-equipped with financial literacy tools and engaged in action planning through interactive workshops to develop group plans to collect and share the resources they would find at their college with each other. Like I did, this year’s students also had the opportunity to engage with current undergraduates about their experiences in college through a student panel. These events also provided wells of information to parents who are worried about us going off to college. It was gratifying to see professionals from colleges and local non-profits participate in the events, knowing they wanted to be supportive of us as we are coming into our own. Each student who participated now knows how to navigate college better, and are that much more prepared to step onto their college campus this Fall. After each event, I know they walked out feeling like those Saturdays were well spent, and that they were able to connect to a group they could relate to while taking away key information.
These events serve as an important reminder of why students need to go to college, how they can prepare themselves for the transition from K-12, and what they will need to know going forward. Even though I am not a first generation college student, the information the presenters share as well as the connections the space allowed me to make were some of my most valuable experiences, so I can only guess to what effect these events may have on a first generation student. The information that students receive, from practicing building a budget based on their award offers to managing their social profiles as young professionals, gives them the backbones to be continual supported as they move on even into the second or third year. Later as an undergraduate, they will be motivated like I and other past scholars were give back to continue this cycle for new graduates. Get ready for College and All Aboard Oakland provide support that is needed in my opinion to make sure that when students go to college they are ready for what lies ahead.