(Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

Building a bridge from high school to college

The percentage of San Francisco Unified School District graduates enrolling in college has been steadily increasing.

The percentage of San Francisco Unified School District graduates enrolling in college has been steadily increasing. Last year, 80 percent of SFUSD graduates entered a two or four year college.

Nearly 25 percent of SFUSD graduates begin their post-high school journey at City College of San Francisco (CCSF). In the past far too many of those students who started at City College with the intention of earning a degree or transferring to a four year university experienced setbacks.

For students just entering college, their priority for registration was the lowest so students were not able to register for required classes like English and Math. Additionally, many students have to work to support themselves and their families. These, along with other challenges, prolonged their time at the community college to an average of seven years before they were able to transfer.

That’s why, nearly a decade ago, leaders from SFUSD got together with leaders from City College to come up with a way to better serve students who faced the most challenges with college completion.

Bridge to Success is the result of these conversations. Important work began, with support from a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that still continues today even after the grant money is gone and many of the staff faces have changed.

Last week I attended the Bridge to Success Leadership Symposium, where educators from the school district and City College met to review our progress, and recommit to the collective work of supporting our students.

This important and strong collaboration between CCSF and SFUSD equips young people, many of whom are African American and Latinx, with support at key stages of their academic development, beginning in middle school and continuing through their first year at City College.

Over the past decade, the Bridge to Success partnership has led to a variety policy changes and events for students. Currently, SFUSD students have priority registration when they enter City College. Students are able to sign up for core academic classes that will allow them to earn a degree or transfer within two years. The annual FRISCO Day at CCSF is attended by nearly 1,000 12th grade students and they are guided through the five step matriculation process, and provide information about student programs at CCSF.

Since it began in 2011, FRISCO Day has helped increase early registration rates for participating students by nearly 100 percent. These high school students have their college schedule set even before they graduate from SFUSD. This sets students up for success when they start classes in August.

Another opportunity, Summer Bridge, is a free, two-week program that provides social-emotional transitional support to college life, as well as academic coaching in college-level English and Math to give students a head start. Through an initiative called Summer Melt Outreach, the college follows up with students via phone or text who have applied to CCSF but not yet completed the registration process.

Students who experience college classes before they even graduate from high school have a better chance of going to college. Our Early College program supports students who dually enroll, with an emphasis on subjects connected to jobs in high-demand fields. This too has grown tremendously over the past decade. During the past school year 1,149 high school students completed college courses at CCSF. I anticipate that number will to continue to grow — Board of Education President Stevon Cook and Vice President Mark Sanchez co-authored a resolution calling for SFUSD and CCSF to continue to work together to increase access to existing courses, including career apprenticeships and language courses.

We want our students to have the option to stay in the city where they grew up, which means we want graduates who are well-equipped to contribute to SF’s workforce and community. I’m grateful to our partners at City College for helping to make that a reality.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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