Going away to college is a big step for anyone. It means shedding out of your comfort zone and being exposed to new surroundings. It hits harder being a first-generation student because our parents are not able to guide us through the process.
First-generation students in the Educational Opportunity Program at Cal Poly are given the opportunity to attend a program called Summer Institute. It usually runs through the end of July to the middle of August. They stay in on-campus apartments, take a General Education course and attend supplemental workshops. The program also includes activities that helps them get familiar with San Luis Obispo. The program is held every summer. This last summer, 89 incoming EOP freshmen got to attend. The 2013 program ran from July 27 – August 20th. This year’s theme was DC superheroes with the motto being “Made of Steel.” The Summer Institute Program Coordinator and Program Assistants are in charge of the program.
“The purpose of Summer Institute is to help out students transition to college,” Jon Diaz, Summer Institute Program Assistant said.
On the first weekend, students moved into the on-campus apartments, got a campus tour, met their learning assistants and got free iPads this year.
For three weeks the students took Psychology 201 which fulfills the Self-Development General Education course requirement. They had two midterms, a final and term paper. They were enrolled in a Psychology supplemental workshop which was led by their Learning Assistant, a Summer Institute alumni.
“They get a better idea of what the pace will be at Cal Poly,” Diaz said.
There was eight learning assistants and they were each given a group of 11-12 students whom they assisted through the program. Students attended a writing workshop that helped them prepare for the type of writing that is expected in college. They also went to research seminars at the Cal Poly Kennedy Library where they were taught how to research using resources offered by the library. They also enjoyed of social activities on and off campus:
- Farmer’s Market
- Hiking the “P”
- Bonfire at Avila Beach
- Night at The Grad
- Stargazing at the Architecture Graveyard
- Sports Day in the Recreation Center
- Bowling at Mustang Lanes
- Challenges: Learning Assistants vs. “SIers”
The program also included presentations about alcohol awareness, financial aid, and different resources on campus.
On the last week, students attended the Alumni Banquet where they got to interact with Summer Institute alumni. The program ended with a closing banquet where the students shared memories, gave gifts and awards, reflected on the three weeks and enjoyed of food provided by Cal Poly Catering. In those three weeks, the students created a family, a support system and come September were ready to start their first real quarter at Cal Poly.
“They get that college experience ahead of time,” Diaz said.
2013 Summer Institute students share about their experience:
“Participating in SI changed how I looked at things. I gained the knowledge of being able to communicate and express my feelings in class as well with the people that are my support for the years that are coming. My favorite part of SI was how close we got to each other. It seemed that we knew each other for a very long time but it was just a short three weeks. It helped me form my family away from home and helped build the feeling of belonging here at Cal Poly.” – Carlos Barrios, Math major
“SI gave a good idea of how college was going to be like and how to better prepare for Fall quarter. It was an eyeopener, we were learning that our previous methods of studying no longer applied and we couldn’t just pass by with listening to the lectures. With Summer Institute you gain a lot of resources and people who want to help you succeed. It’s not just you EOP advisors but even after SI ends the Learning Assistants are willing to help you. They like to stay in contact and are there for you. I feel I got a connection with a myriad of people who can help me and are supportive. That’s something that can be very hard to find.” – Guadalupe Chavez, Food Science major
“SI exposed me to what college life was like. I got to understand what it was like to live with roommates, how to care for myself, and just trying to get in a groove with how to handle school. Being first generation gave me more of a drive to want to succeed. The degree isn’t just my degree, but the degree of everyone that helped me get to where I am. Without SI I wouldn’t have all the support systems I currently have. I would’ve been so lost at the beginning of the year. Knowing so many people already made the college transition so much easier.” – Samantha Dubon, Biology major