#SmashHighSchool: Summer Bridge Camp Prepares Students for 9th Grade

Transitioning from middle school to high school can be a scary thing. For kids in foster care who have experienced abuse and neglect, adjusting to a new school can be overwhelming. That’s why Child Advocates partnered with Santa Clara University, the Santa Clara County Department of Children and Family Services, the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Pivotal, and the Bill Wilson Center to host a two-day Summer Bridge Camp to prepare 12 foster youth for their freshman year in high school.

First order of business: Students developed their own hashtag for the event: #SmashHighSchool

Students toured the Santa Clara campus, created a virtual reality (VR) experience at the Imaginarium and developed a personalized educational plan for the next four years. Each student received a backpack of school supplies, gift cards, movie tickets, logoed t-shirts and hoodies from their new high schools and a laptop.

“Holding the camp on the Santa Clara University campus opens up exciting opportunities for students who may not have previously aspired to attend college and gives them the resources they need to make and follow educational plans to successfully graduate from high school and attend college,” said Frederick J. Ferrer, CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley.

Ferrer noted that the camp is designed to be aspirational and inspirational. “Aspirations have to be set early. If students want to attend college, they can’t decide during their senior year of high school. Our hope is that students will be inspired to ask themselves what do they hope to become and what classes do they need to take to achieve their goals? Our CASAs can help elevate the goals of our youth and help them access resources in order to be successful.” 

“It was a really cool experience,” said David, age 14.

“I wasn’t thinking about attending college, said Kishhana, age 15, but now, I really want to go here.”

Damita, age 14, initially worried that the camp might be boring but attended after encouragement from her CASA. “I’m really glad I came. I learned how many classes I need to take to get into college.”

“We don’t want student to simply attend high school,” said Sabrina Martire, CASA Specialist, who helped organize the camp. “We want them to have a plan and to know what their options are—from vocational school to college, so they can set goals and enjoy brighter futures.”