All Things MHS: Manchester’s Summer Bridge Program Inspires Confidence Among Incoming Freshmen

Grade 9 SuccessRISE by 5 StrategiesStudent Voice and Success

In a classroom at Manchester High School, students sit in a circle of desks as their instructor engages them in a conversation about how to write an effective essay. She asks the class what a citation is and one student enthusiastically calls out the correct answer. It’s a school day like any other, except this one takes place on a hot July morning. The students are incoming 9th graders participating in Manchester’s “Jumpstart” summer bridge program. 

Across the RISE Network, schools invite rising freshmen to participate in Grade 9 summer bridge programs to facilitate strong and successful transitions into high school. With Grade 9 on-track achievement serving as the best predictor of on-time graduation, students can benefit from targeted transition supports as they enter this crucial year. These impactful programs help incoming students prepare for and get excited about high school by giving them the opportunity to build critical relationships, sharpen skills, and familiarize themselves with routines and expectations.

At Manchester High School (MHS), Grade 9 assistant principal Roy Roberts, in partnership with summer bridge coordinator and language arts teacher Kaitlyn Kennedy, has intentionally developed a program with a strong emphasis on academics. “We want to transition students in a way that is going to prepare them for the school year, and so the program was built around creating an academic setting for students to engage in,” he said. In addition, Roberts says that the MHS “Jumpstart” program facilitates relationships between students and the teachers and staff, which is helpful in creating a comfort level for students as they begin at their new school.

“We want to do what we can to set these kids up for success,” said Roberts. “We want to knock down barriers. We want to show them that this is a place where we expect you to have success, and we’re going to help you succeed.”

In addition to taking preparatory courses in core subject areas, students also take a special class called “All Things MHS.” This course covers everything it takes to function at the school, including how GPA is calculated and how to look up their grades, as a primary focus is placed on empowering students to become facilitators of their own education. “Math is content, social studies is content, English is content, science is content,” said Roberts. “But it’s the auxiliary skills and the soft skills that we want to make sure that we’re preparing our kids for. Those skills are equally as important because they teach the kids how to function in the building.”

Judging from student feedback, Manchester’s program is highly effective. “The All Things MHS class is where you learn about credits and the requirements needed for graduation,” said Carsyn, an incoming 9th grader. She said she and her classmates took a “field trip” around the school to learn where things are and how to move around the school. 

Ayla, another incoming freshman, said she has learned about the different levels of classes you can take, including honors courses, and generally, about the environment at Manchester. “The teachers gave us different scenarios and told us who we would go and talk to for each scenario,” she said. 

Fellow classmate Danni agreed that the MHS course had been very helpful, adding that she learned about transcripts, how to read them, and everything she needs to know to get ready for high school. 

Aleniz, also an incoming 9th grader, said that the summer program at MHS helped instill confidence as she prepares to start high school. “Jumpstart helped me become more familiar with high school so that when I come back in September, I won’t be as nervous as I was before,” she said. 

At the end of the day, this is the guiding motivation behind all RISE summer bridge programs. As assistant principal Roberts explained, “We want these students to feel comfortable with being here. We want them to get a ‘jumpstart’ on the school year, getting to know where their classes are and making connections, so that they will have a positive relationship with school from day one.”