Thirty incoming Riverside-Brookfield High School freshmen got an early introduction to high school this month by participating in a new non-credit Summer Bridge program.

The students came to RBHS for three hours a day for two weeks. One hour a day was focused on reading. Another hour was devoted to math, while the third hour was devoted to time management and study skills. There were quizzes daily.

“It’s a program that’s designed to give students a head start,” said Tim Scanlon, assistant principal for curriculum and instruction. “We concentrate on two specific areas – reading and math. But, in addition to that, we concentrate on executive functioning skills like goal-setting and organizational skills, and we do a lot of extended orientation.” 

While the new program was initially aimed at students who might need an extra boost to ensure a successful transition to high school, it was open to all students and included a range of students, including a couple of incoming honors students.

The students, who completed the two-week program last Thursday, seemed to enjoy their introduction to high school.

“It was lots of fun,” said Sabrina Connor, who won an iPod in a drawing on the last day of the program. The participants in the drawing were those who were recognized for good character during the program.

Students said the program would make those always-scary first days of high school easier.

“I thought it was helpful, and it’s going to give me a head start for high school,” said Nicole Capone. “I just got a feel for high school.”

Students climbed the climbing wall in the fieldhouse to gain confidence. They heard from current RBHS students, faculty, counselors and administrators.

They got a lot of advice. One main message they heard was to get involved in activities in high school and join things.

“They kept telling us to get involved, and I’ve always known that when you get involved it’s a lot easier to be successful, because you’re forced to manage your time,” said Danny Corcoran.

Scanlon taught the novel Touching Spirit Bear in the English and reading part of the program. Math teacher Tim Olson taught the math component. Reading specialists Sarah Johnson and Kathy Wyszynski taught the executive functioning component and helped out with reading comprehension. Math teacher Sandi Czajka and science teacher Lori Sullivan also helped out especially with the math.

Scanlon and the other five teachers will serve as informal mentors to the students next year. The team approach to teaching is one that is becoming more common at RBHS.

“It was invigorating for me, because it was a team approach.” Johnson said “We were assisting each other in the classroom and we were debriefing every day. “

Often there were as many as three teachers in one classroom affording the opportunity to work one on one with students who needed some help.

“We had the ability for a student who was struggling with something to have a teacher with that student,” Johnson said.

Johnson, Olson and Wyszynski were the only teachers paid extra for their work. Scanlon is a 12-month employee and Czajka’s and Sullivan’s participation was part of an administrative internship.

The program was funded through grant money from the Arthur Foundation and students were charged $25 to participate.

For Scanlon, who will be retiring a year from now, it was a final opportunity to get back in front of a classroom and return to his roots as an English teacher.

“For me it was a great closing of the circle, because this is my last year teaching,” Scanlon said. “It was reinvigorating and it gave me a lot more insights into kids’ learning.”

Scanlon said that students made strides during the program. 

“I saw a significant change in the kids from the beginning to the end,” Scanlon said. “We would like to expand the program to all freshmen.”