A Summer Program Well Worth the Time

Javier Benavides, left, Gabriela Franco and Heriberto Meza

Victor Cruz Jr. admitted he had reservations about forgoing summertime indulgences such as sleeping in late for a month of intensive writing and college preparation at USC.

But the recent John Marshall High School graduate said he knew he couldn’t compare himself to his peers if he wanted a leg up when he started at the University of Notre Dame this fall.

“In life, I cannot conform to cultural norms , but must break out and be different,” Victor wrote early in the program. “This program is going to make that difference.”

That’s why Cruz, along with 90 other college-accepted seniors from Los Angeles Unified School District high schools, joined the SummerTIME program at the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at the USC Rossier School of Education.

Now in its eighth year, SummerTIME is designed as a crash course of sorts in the advanced writing skills, analysis of complex topics and self-reliance students need for success in college. The experiences of Cruz and two other students have been documented on the Center for Higher Education blog “21st Century Scholar” at http://21stcenturyscholar.org/

Ligia Hernandez, 17, a recent graduate of the School for Visual Arts Humanities and an incoming University of California, San Diego freshman, said the program has helped her develop a writing style more appropriate to higher education.

“In high school, you have this way of writing essays, but in college, it’s not that five-paragraph essay anymore,” Hernandez said. “It’s more thesis driven and evidence based.”

The discussions in the program have expanded her world view as well, she said.

“My friends said, ‘Why are you here if you’re not getting credit?’ ” Ligia recalled. “It’s a good experience. Here, you get many more points of view and you get more individual help. You’re not exposed to these topics in depth in high school. They teach us to go outside the norms and outside our comfort zones.”

Every morning, the students attend seminars where they discuss various topics from thick readers filled with literature, essays and poetry. Then, they attend college knowledge courses, where they learn tips on how to survive and thrive amid the demands of college. After lunch, the students attend an intensive writing section.

In one morning seminar, Linh Chuong, 17, finished presenting her analysis of an article on sexual violence as a tool of genocide.

The graduate of Downtown Magnet High School and incoming Hendrix College student said she has gained more benefits from the SummerTIME program than she ever expected.

“I did it because I wanted to write better, but I didn’t expect to be covering these topics and that’s the best part of it,” Chuong said. “It has allowed me to build my own identity.”