David Wignall ’25

Breakthrough Summerbridge, San Francisco, CA

Summerbridge is a three-year academic enrichment program that helps underrepresented students navigate the San Francisco educational environment. Every summer, 100 students spend eight weeks attending academic classes, meeting with advisors, participating in extracurriculars and enjoying (hopefully) a gamut of social activities. The program provides a deluge of resources to students who otherwise might not have access, helping 95% enroll in rigorous preparatory high schools and 80% attend four-year colleges.

David Wignall's students working.I served Summerbridge as a teaching fellow (TF). My primary role was to teach ninth grade geometry. In the afternoon, I fulfilled a number of additional roles. I monitored a seventh-grade homeroom, which turned out to be a shockingly difficult exercise in crowd control. I sponsored study hall and proctored a college advising class, and I helped organize a 90-minute culminatory performance.

I’m most proud, however, of my role as an instructor for a theater/improv elective. Summerbridge had just finished two years of online/hybrid programming. The San Francisco public school system spent an entire year online. These factors exacerbated the already enormous challenges of simply being a middle schooler trying to fit in. Thus, many of the students at Summerbridge were incredibly shy—they weren’t confident, they rarely spoke up and they refused to perform in front of groups.

Through my elective, I was able to work with another TF to gradually coax students out of their shells. I watched as 10 students went from rarely speaking to each other to dancing on stage. They learned to project their voices. They learned to be spontaneous even while others were watching. They became more comfortable in front of others. It is vitally important that students be academically prepared, and I’m certain that my students became stronger mathematicians as a result of my instruction. But there are skills that students need to learn that a geometry class cannot provide. I’m proud that I guided many of my students through their first-ever performance in front of a large audience. And they excelled—not only did they project their voices, they were also just incredibly funny.

I’m 19 years old and I’ve spent a frighteningly high percentage of my waking hours in academic environments. Summerbridge was an opportunity to see what education looks like from the teacher’s perspective. Honestly, working for Summerbridge was exhausting. While students went home at 2:30 p.m., the TFs would remain well into the afternoon planning the next day’s activities. All the things I took for granted—homeroom, the ability to write on a whiteboard, class control—have to be planned. I am a better teacher, a more conscientious student, and a more able speaker thanks to my time as a Teaching Fellow.

Thank you to the Public Service Internship Program and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I truly would not have been able to work in San Francisco, learn from Summerbridge and spend time with my family without this support.