Students in Anne Arundel Community College's Black Student Scholars Summer Bridge Program start their college careers a little early to make sure they make it all the way to the end.
The initiative, conceived five years ago by a group of black faculty and staff, offers help in reading, mathematics and English and introduces students to the college's different departments and support services.
Interspersed throughout the four-week session are lectures on important but less tangible skills that ensure student success: time management, how to study and healthy choices.
When the Black Student Success Team was formed in 2000, "we were concerned that black students were coming to the college in greater numbers but not graduating or transferring," said Summer Bridge administrator Carlesa R. Finney.
Nearly 12 percent of the college's more than 14,000 undergraduate students in 2003 were black, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
The college's planning, research and institutional assessment office said nearly 57 percent of those African-American students returned in 2004. By comparison, 64.1 percent of the general population came back for a second year.
The goal is to nurture students and help them make the transition by introducing them to faculty, clubs and other aspects of student life and showing them how to succeed despite other pressing concerns, including work and family. Finney said students even get lunch every day to expose them to college food.
Finney said the college admissions office, guidance counselors at county high schools and other people in the community helped recruit Summer Bridge's 32 students. Students who would be the first in their families to attend college are eligible. The program is free, but students must commit to attending every day. Faculty and staff volunteer their time to participate. In all, the college spends about $12,000 for the farewell banquet and field trips.
Students also take a one-credit Student Success course to teach them college-level study habits.
Last week, representatives from the college's allied health departments described the medical assistant, pharmacy technician and human services programs before introducing students to the nursing labs.
Members of the group also make their own lunches at the college's Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute in Glen Burnie and learn about etiquette while they eat, Finney said.
Finally, the Summer Bridge students visit a four-year institution to consider transfer options. This year they will tour Morgan State University in Baltimore as well as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.
Students can even save money by enrolling in Summer Bridge. Program members can apply for scholarships later on if they take advantage of college advising and other services.
Also, Nyra Pindell, 18, of Annapolis said her advisers suggested that she take three noncredit courses to prepare her for college-level work after she took the placement test in November.
Most students perform much better on placement tests after completing reading, math and English reviews provided by Summer Bridge, usually reducing the need to take such classes to develop their skills.
Pindell, who graduated from Annapolis High School in June, said the student success course has helped her reconsider her habits.
"In school I would read just enough to get by, to get a B," she said. "Now that they've showed us all these different things, ... I'm going to read the whole thing."