When summer rolls around, Ronald Irano Duncan knows his mother’s plans are not far behind. Once school lets out, she has a habit of asking her 17-year old son what he plans to do with his vacation and before he can burst out an answer, she tells him.

“You know my mom,” said Duncan, a senior at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. “She tells me I’m going somewhere.”

This summer, Duncan headed to Broward College, where the Pre-College Summer Leadership Institute (PLSI) welcomed high school students like him in grades 10-12 for three weeks of life adjustment training or, as the program’s brainchild says, “the employability skills that pay the bills.”

Pre-college students at BC“We gauge them on a number of things – leadership, financial literacy,” said Billy Jones, the PSLI coordinator and an assistant professor of English at Broward College. “We want to see what they know, but also what they need.”

For the most part, those essentials are centered around registration in an actual Broward College course. The 46 PSLI students who enrolled this summer in “Strategy for Success — SLS 1001” gained exposure to the tools and resources that will contribute to their success in college, well in advance of their high school graduation. That means an introduction to strategies for studying and test-taking, techniques for note-taking, skills for time management, and concepts for building leadership and emotional intelligence.

“Coming here has taught me a lot of skills that I can use throughout life,” said Noah Cihal, a 15-year-old at Hollywood Hills High School. “I’ve learned how to read a room. If I go to an interview and someone is giving off a bad vibe, I can figure out why and make it a lighter situation.”

Head-Start on College

The high schoolers are also made aware of various academic disciplines offered at Broward College and the careers they can pursue. On other days, the students take part in mock interviews, writing resumes, and cover letters or connect with adult role models from the community who visit campus to share their personal stories. For a few hours a day, over a couple of weeks in July, the students are better equipped to return to high school in the fall with three college credits as well.

Jones said PSLI is an extension of the Minority Male Initiative, a Broward College strategy that provides underserved students with the support they need to complete their college goals.

“We wanted to create an opportunity that would impact young minority men,” said Jones. “Our data confirms that minority males are more likely to drop out of college, so we had to look at retention mechanisms that will show these young men how to take initiative and become advocates for themselves.”

Make Room for Parents

Parents of the students have been greeted with such positive reviews from their children that plans for an offshoot of the bridge program are underway.

“Every year, I get parents that come up to me and ask, ‘Is there something like this for me,’” said Jones. “The parents recognize there is value for them, as well as their kids.”

Beginning in September, “Parents Mentoring Parents” plans to meet every other week on campus. So far, 13 parents from the group of 46 students in PSLI have registered.

“We are showing people we value them,” said Jones. “If we can support these parents, they will, in turn, be supporting these young men.”

Parents and their children looking for strategies for success can explore opportunities through the Pre-College Summer Leadership Institute at Broward College.