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Fall 2014 Newsletter
In This Issue
ED Update
Parents Advisory Launch
Conversation with Rita Levinson
Student Profile: Anysa and Amaya
Sailing to Success
Upcoming Events

October 5th
Sacred Heart Soccer Field

November 14
Woodside HS

Program Dates
Transitions: Sep - May
Bridge Academy: Oct - May


In the News


2014 Students Say...


I feel more confident about starting middle school in the fall.


I'm not afraid to talk in public anymore. I am also better about taking risks and getting out of my comfort zone.


I am now excited about learning!


My math, reading, and writing have improved so much.

Peninsula Bridge
PO Box 963
Menlo Park, California 94026

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Dear Friends,                             
We are pleased to report that Peninsula Bridge had a very successful summer!  420 motivated students participated in our 5-week program at seven independent school sites.  Top-notch teachers led engaging classes in English, math, science and art daily with a rigorous curriculum tied to Common Core.  140 Teaching Assistants supported our students in the classrooms and led varied enrichment electives.


A few highlights from our summer academic program include:

  • In language arts, we focused on vocabulary development, literature analysis, research and annotation. 
  • In math, we focused on pre-algebra, algebra and mathematical reasoning.  We expanded our STEM programming including 3D design and printing, robotics and coding.  The STEM program was taught by retired engineers as well as teachers and TAs.
  • We arranged career exposure field trips to Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yelp, and Yahoo.  The students learned firsthand about careers in technology and how innovation is integrated into facility design, organizational culture and product design.  As one 11 year old student, Anthony, said while he was devouring an ice cream sundae topped with sprinkles and marshmallows at Facebook, "Everything about Facebook is so creative, even their ice cream shop.  I would love to work here one day."

 In addition, Peninsula Bridge now has three expanded programs during the school year:

  • The Transitions program for 8th graders has 65 students enrolled this year.  In Saturday classes, students will shore up academic and study skills and prepare for the critical transition to high school.  This year we will also support students applying to independent high schools.  Our partner, AJ Tutoring, will lead ISEE Exam prep classes, and numerous volunteers from our community will work with students on the application process.  
  • We have launched Bridge Academy for High School, an academic support program for about 15 9th grade students this fall.  (All of the students also participated in Transitions as 8th graders.)  Students will receive ongoing academic counseling from Program Director, Paula Calamato, who will interface with students, schools and parents.  Students will also attend ten Saturday workshops focused on high school success plus college and career readiness.  Tutoring will be offered as needed.
  • We have launched a College Mentorship pilot program and matched nine college-bound Peninsula Bridge alumni with local adult mentors.  This program will offer ongoing support and guidance to our Peninsula Bridge students throughout their college years.

As we head into fall, we are focused on our school year programs and on getting ready for our October 30th Gala.  We look forward to celebrating 25 successful years of supporting motivated, low-income middle school students on the college track.  We hope you can join us.


Best regards,


Randi Shafton and Jocelyn Swisher

Feature Articles
Peninsula Bridge Launches Parent's Advisory Committee
2014 Parents Advisory
Committee members Dina Abarca, Jose Navarrete, Patricia Orozco, Elvia Acevedo, Elvia Davila, Elizabeth Araiza, Maria Picos, Rosalia Gonzales, Ana Luz Guevara, Ajene White, Diana Chan.

Peninsula Bridge launched a Parent Advisory Committee in the Spring.  The Committee is comprised of eleven current or former Peninsula Bridge parents. The goals of the committee are to support the parents and families of Peninsula Bridge, to seek input and direction on parent engagement and communication activities and to develop leadership amongst our Peninsula Bridge families.  Our Parent Co-Chairs are Ajene White and Elvia Davila. Peninsula Bridge advisor Liz Waymire has been instrumental in helping us with the strategy and focus of our parent engagement program.


We hosted our first workshop on the Teenage Brain in July. Renee Cordobes, a Bay Area psychologist led the workshop. 

Top 10 Recommendations:

  1. Listen.
  2. Be available, involved and supportive.
  3. Be a role model of healthy behavior.
  4. Be organized.
  5. Talk about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.
  6. Remember that teens think with their emotions.
  7. Help your teen eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep.
  8. Help your teen learn self-care and to manage stress.
  9. Provide activities that have a "perception" of thrill/danger, but are monitored.  For example, rock climbing.
  10. Don't worry about your teen's messy room!

The Committee plans to have more parent workshops throughout the year, will continue to support and engage parents, and be a liaison between parents and Peninsula Bridge staff.

Interview with Rita Levinson 

Bridge Math Teacher

CSU teacher Rita Levinson Rita Levinson has been a math and coding teacher at Peninsula Bridge's Crystal Springs Uplands School site since 2008.  She taught math for six years at Lawrence Hall of Science and also taught math at Mills and San Francisco State University.  She has always loved math and teaching, and is a favorite teacher at Peninsula Bridge.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love the opportunity to help high potential kids with limited resources grow and thrive.  I love to see the excitement on students' faces when they exclaim, "I got it."

I want students to see math as a creative problem-solving activity, not as a list of things to memorize.  Doing well in math is about failing and trying again, not about being good at math.  There are many approaches to solving problems.  It is not just about getting the ONE right answer.


Why does Rita do it?

Too many students feel they aren't good at math and that too many people do not like math.  I want to change those attitudes.  Anyone can be good at math and there is a lot of joy in doing math.  My goal is to present math with understanding and purpose. I love math and I love solving problems.  I am constantly looking for strategies and tools to give students that they have not had before. I want kids to believe it is cool and important to work hard and do well at school.


Do you have a favorite teaching moment?

My favorite time in the classroom is watching students explain problems they have solved to the class or to visitors.  Explaining their reasoning helps them understand and remember it even more and shows other students that there are different ways to approach problems.


What surprised you this summer?

Every year, I am surprised and delighted if I find that a student that has never liked math feels that they are enjoying it for the first time.


What are the benefits of Peninsula Bridge?

The small class size with individual attention and support is key.  The students benefit from having time to explain their thinking and reasoning and for the kids to see that there are many approaches to solving math problems, not just one!

Student Profile: Anysa and Amaya


"We call her Buzzkill #1."
"Oh yeah, she's a mega buzzkill."

"She was getting really worried when we used the computer."
"Oh, so worried. She was like, shaking."


Twins Anysa and Amaya are 12-year-old Peninsula Bridge students who clearly feed off each other's energy. They are both wearing some kind of athletic gear: Amaya's in soccer sweats, Anysa's in a practice jersey and MVLA (Mountain View Los Altos soccer) shorts. My interviews with students are supposed to be around 3-5 minutes, but I find that my session with the twins lasts around 14 minutes, because we're having so much fun. I can tell that they bring endless laughter to the classroom.


In the 2014-2015 school year, Anysa and Amaya will be 7th graders at Girls Middle School in Palo Alto. They tell me that the change to GMS wasn't easy at first: they didn't want to leave all their friends at their old school. "But we got into GMS on a full scholarship, both of us, so we had to go," Anysa tells me. But now they are enjoying the school, especially by playing on the girls soccer team.


"We just like to play soccer," Amaya says. "We're really competitive. Some girls don't really care [about physical education]." One of the first things I can tell about these rambunctious middle schoolers is that they are not only playful, but incredibly athletic, and proud of it. Switching one sentence after another, the twins tell me how they went surfing by themselves on a field trip at GMS. They prefer to perform independently, rather than be supervised and told what to do.


Does Bridge give them that sort of intellectual and physical freedom? The twins believe so. 

"[Bridge is] basically a summer camp with academic classes," Amaya explains to me. "It's fun; I like this better than actual school because I work better with the people here." She says she appreciates the playfulness of the teachers and their assistants (TAs). Anysa adds: "I like Mr. Bennett, he's the math teacher [at Pinewood]. He's funny, most of his jokes are corny." The twins then laugh and discuss the funniest joke he's ever told.


But these girls do more than enjoy their classes at Bridge. They have the power to influence, even change the program. "In PE, they separate the girls and the boys," Anysa explains. "Me and Amaya took a stand... and now we get to play with the boys. We were like, I am not playing until I can be competitive." Way to go!


But they have done even more - the twins tell me how they've helped other girls find their confidence. "At our old school, we were known as the only girls that would play with the boys. People would go up and say that to us," Amaya says, grinning. "And now at Bridge, there's other girls who have confidence to play with the guys." The twins are excellent role models for other girls their age. Their confidence, intelligence, and physical capability have inspired many girls at Bridge to take a stand and join the boys during PE. That way, everyone can improve and have fun.


Anysa and Amaya are two very special girls, and Peninsula Bridge has given them the environment in which to strengthen their passions. They are not only impressive students, but also confident, sure role models for their peers. The twins will only continue to grow and improve. 

Bridge Students are Sailing to Success!
Jackson with students

Menlo School student Jackson Wagner led a 2-day sailing clinic for 20 enthusiastic Bridge students, assisted by a team of 8 instructors from the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation. The clinic took place at the Sequoia Yacht Club in Redwood City on August 18th & 19th, and was a huge success. "All of the kids loved being out on the water - so much more than I expected! It was a really fun experience". 

The class format was based on student-instructor interaction. Brief explanations were held on land, but the vast majority of learning took place on the water. Students were split up into groups of 2 and were assigned to an instructor. They would then go out in a boat and the instructor would assign tasks to execute until gradually the students became competent sailors.

There were 7 boats in the water at a time with one group in the motorboat rotating in frequently. Jackson explained, "We started the clinic by exploring and playing tag on the water just so that the kids could learn the basics of sailing. We then moved into races. By the end of the clinic the kids were steering and trimming the sails with only vocal instruction. They were all so excited and eager to learn. They would always tell me that they couldn't believe sailing would be this fun and never wanted to go back in to the dock". At the end of the clinic, all of the students were awarded with a participation trophy and ribbons for placing in any of the races. A huge thank you to Jackson and the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation for providing this opportunity for our students!