Marin Uncovered: Soaring Above

Bridge the Gap College Prep Gives Marin City Kids Opportunities to Succeed

Outdoors, after school, the playgrounds in Marin City ring with the ping of a baseball bat and squeals of kids riding high on the swings, while inside a cloistered classroom at Bridge the Gap College Prep (BTGCP), there’s only a murmur. At 4 o’clock, BTGCP students and their tutors hunch over homework, perched on Lilliputian-size chairs.

“Let’s focus on this problem,” says 16-year-old tutor Jack Jacoby, who has mentored a sixth grader for the past two years. As they work on algebra together, Jacoby says, “I like to show him that learning can be fun, and we talk sports.” Jacoby is a surfer, baseball player and student at Marin Academy.

Across the room, posters line the walls, along with cheery student artwork and encouraging pledges: “I promise to believe in myself and not give up.”

“I promise to help create a safe and supportive classroom by following all Bridge the Gap College Prep rules and by having a positive attitude.”

BTGCP is a free college preparatory tutoring/mentoring program for Marin City kids, first grade through high school. Since the high school program started three years ago, 100 percent of the BTGCP students have graduated from high school and matriculated to college.

The rules of the program are to work hard, show up, respect others, aim high—and believe in yourself. How hard is that? “It can be very hard if you are dealing with the chronic stress of poverty, or if you don’t feel safe, or if you are hungry,” says Jennifer Nichols, who has been manager of the volunteer program for the past three and a half years. Nichols has a B.A. in anthropology from Colgate University and a master’s degree in public health, population and family health from Columbia University. She has long been involved in community development, reproductive health care and education.

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