Innovation: SALT Center Pre-College Summer Program

Hilary Cummins

In 2013, the SALT Center successfully hosted its inaugural Pre-College Summer Program with the goal of giving high school students who learn differently a taste of college life. After the program ended, we gathered feedback from students, families, and staff. By the time the fall semester was upon us, the team at the SALT Center was eager to start planning for year two. A number of changes came about because of that feedback; our Summer Program 2014 staff shared their perspective on some of our improvements.


Communication started as soon as students submitted their online application - each applicant was asked to participate in a phone interview so that our staff could get to know them and identify their unique needs: “The phone interviews offered our team a wealth of information about each student that wasn’t available to us last year,” says Paul Bastedo, Residence Life Coordinator, “we felt like we knew these students before they set foot on campus.” The communication continued with reminders and messages from the Summer Director before, during, and after the program.


This year, our overall student-to-staff ratio was roughly two to one: “We serve a student population who often benefit from more one-onone interaction with staff members, whether it be in the classroom setting, in the residence hall, or when we’re at the beach,” says Summer Director, Sarah Sampe. “We wanted to make sure that our quality of service was really off the charts for this program.” Students weren’t the only ones receiving extra support; the SALT Center hired a Summer Program Leadership Team, comprised of a Summer Director and three Coordinators, to support staff, faculty, and resident assistants on-site.

"I learned how to manage my time wisely and how to make new friends."

– 2014 Summer Program Participant


Structure and routine are very important for students who learn differently: “While we wanted to give students a taste of the freedom that they’d experience at college, we also needed to make sure that they were acquiring skills to address the hidden curriculum presented in college courses,“ says Geoff Thames, Faculty Coordinator. To achieve this, the Summer Program offered four college-style courses (each student took two), as well as required skill-building courses, designed with the unifying purpose of teaching students how to implement learning strategies in their coursework. Students also met with a Strategic Learning Specialist twice a week: “The Strategic Learning Specialists helped students identify their unique strengths and challenges, and then set goals for personal growth,” says Lupe Thompson, Coordinator for Strategic Learning Specialists.

The SALT Center Pre-College Summer Program is still evolving – we plan to use feedback from year two to make year three even better. Information about Summer Program 2015 will be available on our website later this fall.

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