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Bridge Program 2022-2023

Bridge Program


In La'Kech

The Mayan concept of In Lak’ech embodies the idea that "We are a reflection of one another and the other is a reflection of us." With this concept in mind, the Bridge Program seeks to focus on empathy and compassion, beyond just respect. At Bridge, we believe in the importance of understanding each other’s experiences and how that relates to learning in the classroom. Bridge students are the heart of the classroom - we center their experiences in our teaching practice. Bridge staff puts an emphasis on love, family, relationships and community with the classroom and outside of it. In Lak'ech anchors the way we teach, respond to challenges that may arise, and build a community that supports one another's individual and collective goals.

The Bridge program serves recently arrived ELD Newcomer students entering the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) as 11th and 12th graders at ELD I level with few to no academic credits. This allows our staff to design educational experiences that specifically meet these particular students’ needs, take into account that they have gaps in their education, and prepare them to be successful in their transitions after Bridge, whether that be our Adult School, college, career, or other path they choose.

Mission and Vision

Grounding ourselves through In Lak’ech pedagogy, our mission is to support recently arrived newcomers in their academic and social development and healing. In Lak’ech pedagogy focuses on prioritizing our relationships and responsibility to one another in order to foster a supportive learning community. Our staff is dedicated to creating a safe and compassionate alternative educational space centered in love, hope, and justice in order to support the educational and personal goals of our students.

Who We Serve

The vast majority of our students are unaccompanied minors from Central America. To be eligible for the Bridge Program students should meet the following criteria:

  • Entering the district as 11th and 12th graders;
  • Eligible to graduate under AB2121 (allowing modified graduation requirements)
  • Identified as ELD I through intake assessments
  • Identified as SLIFE (student with limited or interrupted formal education) or underschooled (not on grade level);

Additional criteria that may be considered:

  • 11th graders entering as an ELD I with fewer than 60 academic credits
  • 12th graders entering at ELD II
  • Pregnant or teen mothers in ELD
  • ELD I or II students identified to have experienced trauma
  • Students with extenuating circumstances (pregnant teen, need to work, etc.)
  • Transfers from high schools that meet the above criteria would be better served in an alternative setting
  • 10th graders with extenuating circumstances, who are a year behind in credits, may be eligible

Program Design

Students in the Bridge Program are enrolled as students of Peninsula High School but attend classes at a satellite campus - the San Mateo Adult School. The goal is to accelerate students’ language acquisition through all of their courses. Students have the opportunity to take English, Math, Social Science, Science, and PE courses. Additionally, we have a soccer team that participates in the District ELD Soccer League and offers additional extra-curricular activities.

We believe education extends beyond the classroom and strive to support all students’ needs; we have weekly community circles, a social worker, mental health therapist, family engagement coordinator, and bilingual support staff.

Bridge Contact

Bridge Program Logo

Bridge Bell Schedule

Period 1: 8:30 - 9:20 a.m.

Break: 9:20 - 9:30 a.m.

Period 2: 9:30 - 10:20 a.m.

Break: 10:20 - 10:30 a.m.

Period 3: 10:30 - 11:20 a.m.

Break: 11:20 - 11:40 a.m.

Period 4: 11:45 a.m. - 12:35 p.m.

Period 5: 12:40 - 1:30 p.m.

Bridge Staff 

Samia Shoman
Bridge Principal and Manager Academic Support Programs 

Nina Finci
ELD Teacher and Department Head

Cristina Gutierrez
Social Science Teacher

Asha Kalonia
Art Teacher

Gretchen Owens
ELD Teacher

Jessica Valera
Science Teacher

Nicole Duffy
Math and PE Teacher

Student Testimonials

"The Bridge Program is a bridge with so many opportunities especially for students like me who need a lot of support to continue their studies." - Lily, Class of 2022

"The Bridge Program is the only school in my whole life where the teachers and staff have always supported me." - Robelio, Former student, current Bridge soccer coach

Staff Testimonials

The Bridge Program is….

"...the love and support students are looking for/need; a safe space for all students and staff"

"...home for brave/resilient newcomers filled with hope, joy and love."

"...a welcoming educational setting with a goal to support each student where they are; to encourage them to pursue their goals or to set goals."

Award Winning Program 

SMUHSD's Bridge Program was a recipient of a 2020 Kent Award, given by the San Mateo County School Board Association. Watch the video to learn more about the Bridge Program.