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The 2019-20 Engineering Summer Bridge Program cohort
75 first-generation incoming freshman recently completed the 2019 Engineering Summer Bridge Program | Image: Hannah Conrad

In the soft lighting of the Bethancourt Grand Ballroom in the Memorial Student Center, a throng of first-generation students chattered among themselves in anticipation.

As the opening speaker took the stage for the 2019 Engineering Summer Bridge Program’s (ESBP) closing ceremony, a hush fell over the cohort of 75 incoming freshmen and their entourages. Cheers of their class year rang out proudly as presenters addressed the freshmen, interwoven with grateful applause for sponsors and the movers and shakers involved in the program.

A parent recording the closing ceremony off a smartphone
The cohort is comprised of students who will be the first in their family to pursue a higher education degree | Image: Alexandra Salazar

Then, as each student’s name was called out and they walked across the stage, “graduating” from ESBP, the room was illuminated with the delighted glow of smartphones as the surrounding crowd of family and friends recorded each moment.

“Of all of the programs that I am privileged to coordinate, the Engineering Summer Bridge Program is my favorite,” said Danisha Stern, program specialist for Access and Inclusion. “I am truly connected to this program and invested in the success of the students because I, too, am a first-generation college student and I participated in a similar program when I was starting at Texas A&M. This year’s cohort of students was unlike any other and I’m certain they have what it takes to be successful Aggie Engineers.”

Led by the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University and the Women in Engineering and Access and Inclusion programs, the four-week long ESBP acclimates incoming students to university life.

Incoming first generation students in the audience at the summer bridge program closing ceremony
ESBP gives students a head start on their upcoming semester's math course as well as a sneak peek of campus life | Image: Hannah Conrad

“Students who attend ESBP will be prepared for the upcoming year,” said Shawna Fletcher, director of Women in Engineering. “These students are building connections to the college and our programs. They now have a head start and know how to navigate the university.”

In addition to meeting faculty and peer mentors, the cohort was guided and tutored through the beginning of the mathematics course they will take in their first semester at Texas A&M. Their preparation seminar readied them to take a final placement examination at the end of the program.

“We are beyond thrilled with this year’s cohort performance,” said Dr. Sonia J. Garcia, senior director of Access and Inclusion. “Early math placement exam results show that they scored higher after completing the program.”

Another round of cheers erupted when that achievement was announced at the ceremony – the gathering of new friends proclaiming their excitement for one another as they celebrated each and every one of them improving on their test scores.

Jorge Hernandez receives his certificate of completion for the summer bridge program
Jorge Hernandez standing with key sponsors and ESBP leaders | Image: Hannah Conrad

“Being an Aggie engineer means everything to me,” said Jorge Hernandez, an incoming freshman. “I mean, I’ve been building up to this moment my entire life and (ESBP) really helped me get started with that.”

Equipping first-generation students like Hernandez with resources and campus know-how is a vital element to success – helping them overcome the barriers associated with being the first member of their family to pursue a higher education degree.

This year, ESBP was sponsored by the Zachry Corporation as well as the AT&T Foundation.

The lasting impact that ESBP will have on the excited members of the class of 2023 will serve as the building blocks for their educations, their careers and their better futures.

 Watch what some of the students have to say to the next generation of Aggie engineers, as well as the generous sponsors for this year:

Video: Justin Baetge/Texas A&M Engineering Communications