REAL Deal Summer Bridge Program eases transition from high school to college, increases  post-secondary success for first-year students

REAL Deal Summer Bridge Program eases transition from high school to college, increases post-secondary success for first-year students

REAL Deal Summer Bridge Program eases transition from high school to college, increases post-secondary success for first-year students


REAL Deal Summer Bridge students and mentors

REAL Deal Summer Bridge students and mentors visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as one of their field trips.

UDC’s REAL (Reaching Excellence in Academics and Leadership) Deal Summer Bridge Program provides first-time college students with a six-week summer program, giving them enrichment support, mentors, field trips and classroom instruction. Seventeen 2022 high-school graduates admitted to UDC completed the program held on campus for the first time in two years.

The REAL Deal program allowed students to take two college-level courses, three days a week, at no cost from July to August. Those who completed the courses with a grade of C or better earned six hours of college credit and a $1,200 scholarship.

Preparation began with orientation activities, including gaining access to Blackboard, participating in a Clifton Strengths Assessment, a campus tour, a virtual reality experience, an introductory class on the CAUSES rooftop agriculture program, field trips to the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture and, for those students in need, receiving a Surface Pro computer.

“I never thought I could have so many experiences in a short period,” said Georgina Jacobi, a REAL Deal participant. “All the people involved in this program gave me something precious. I learned a lot from a diverse group of people. This program prepares me for the next few years, and I am thankful for this.”

One of the REAL Deal classes, Discovery Diversity, taught by Professors Robert Dantzler and Kerry Riley, was designed to help students understand and appreciate the global and local diversity of people, ideas, languages and cultures by examining diverse social groups and comparing cultural variations. The class also addressed unconscious bias, understanding the importance of empathy, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

“Professor Dantzler informed us about different shades of truths and biases,” said REAL Deal student Aylene Villatoro. “This topic taught me a lot because it helped me figure out who I am and proved that everyone has biases for different reasons.”

The second class, Foundation Writing, taught by Professors Frazier O’Leary and Jacqueline Hayden, focused on improving students’ critical reading and
writing skills while exploring a given academic theme. The goal of the course was to help students transition to college-level reading and writing skills, which is a struggle for many first-year college students. Students learned to express ideas and thoughts using various written forms that consider content, audience and professional standards.

The program was also enriched by several guest speakers, including, among others, Dr. Lara Thompson, associate professor of mechanical engineering and founding director of UDC’s Biomedical Engineering Program and Center for Biomechanical & Rehabilitation Engineering; UDC’s Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Riley; Cheyenne Barber, a recent graduate and former student representative on the UDC Board of Trustees; and Trinice McNally, Founding Director of UDC’s Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Affairs.

In addition to mentorship and coursework, the students benefitted from various learning experiences outside the classroom. During their orientation, they engaged in a scavenger hunt, which helped with team building.

Students also attended field trips, including visits to the Firebird Research Farm and museums. “What I enjoyed the most was doing activities outside the classes,” said REAL Deal student Maritza Ayaviri. “The activities were fun and full of purpose to help us expand our knowledge. Going to museums, urban farms and connecting with people made the program more active and engaging.”

The REAL Deal Summer Bridge program concluded with a closing ceremony on August 12, where students and faculty reflected on their experiences and time together. During the closing ceremony, students received certificates of completion. UDC President Ronald Mason Jr. and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Lawrence Potter Jr. gave remarks.

“My REAL Deal experience has been positive,” said Iris Lazo-Cruz, winner of this year’s Excellence in Academics and Leadership Award. “It is an amazing
opportunity to take two free general education courses. This program allows you to get ahead in credits starting in the fall semester. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. I met some wonderful people and lifelong friends.” The Excellence in Academics and Leadership Award recognizes superior achievement in academics and leadership as voted upon by faculty, staff, and student tutors. It came with a $100 gift card and a one-year subscription to Audible.

UDC provides ongoing support for REAL Deal Summer Bridge students through advising, mentoring, and tutoring as college students prepare for campus leadership, internships and future employment.

The program is an initiative of Dr. Lawrence T. Potter Jr. and was led this year by Associate Chief Academic Officer Scott Krawczyk, the IGED Directors, Drs. Kimberly Crews and Wynn Yarbrough, student staff assistant Ana Sanchez, and CAO staff members Wyl Strong and Denise Slaughter. .