Rennie Center Says Wentworth’s Summer Bridge Program is ‘Powerful Model’ for Other Universities

August 19, 2020

The 'Bridging the gap: How Wentworth provides a personalized and local approach to college and career readiness' report from the Rennie Center

Wentworth Institute of Technology’s summer bridge program for Boston public school students is receiving high marks in a new, independent report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. The program, called RAMP, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and experiencing record enrollment this summer, according to Wentworth officials.  

The Rennie Center’s report characterizes RAMP as an exemplary model for how bridge programs should operate.

“Our research is clear: RAMP offers an incredible opportunity for Boston students to connect with campus resources and take on meaningful, real-world learning experiences,” said Chad d’Entremont, Rennie Center executive director.

“Now more than ever, with so many students and families facing uncertainty about their postsecondary plans because of the pandemic, it is critical for institutions to keep students connected to their learning and place them on a path to success. RAMP demonstrates a powerful model for responding to these needs, making its approach particularly valuable and timely in this moment.”

Summer bridge programs allow students to explore postsecondary opportunities before enrolling in a college or university. They include a range of experiences designed to orient students to on-campus resources, build their academic skills, and generate a sense of community among participants. Organizers say the programs represent a cost-effective means to increase postsecondary access and bolster matriculation, particularly among first-generation college students.

RAMP kicked off for this summer on July 6. Virtual programming took place through the month of July with on-campus classes and workshops being held in August, for a total of eight weeks. Program participants on campus this month are following anti-COVID-19 protocols in the university’s campus reentry plan. The program serves as a way for students from mainly underperforming schools to familiarize themselves with college coursework through meeting with mentors, receiving front-line academic instruction and taking on project-based learning activities.

Since 2011, the RAMP program at Wentworth has offered Boston students an early taste of campus life and college-level classes. The Rennie report cites three areas where RAMP excels:

  • Student compensation: Bridge programs across the country offer varying levels of compensation to participants, recognizing that many students need to earn money during the summer. RAMP offers approximately $13.75 per hour, above the state minimum wage, along with transportation support for students who commute to campus.
  • Real-world learning: RAMP, like many summer bridge programs, engages students in hands-on learning opportunities. Where RAMP differs is its focus on making this learning relevant not only to college but also to students’ lives away from campus. Student teams can work alongside community-based partners to design solutions for complex challenges that require creativity and critical thinking. For example, in one past collaboration, a team worked with a Boston-based organization to design ways to improve the lives of those in rehabilitation from spinal cord injuries.
  • Career connections: Summer bridge programs frequently feature mentorship opportunities with community and industry leaders to help students broaden their contacts in the field. RAMP goes even further by building dedicated industry partnerships that offer students career pathways with mentorship and guidance. For example, Turner Construction has welcomed RAMP students for site visits and job-shadow days and has hired RAMP alumni as interns and full-time employees. 

--Dennis Nealon
The Rennie Center's staff contributed to this article

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