“What makes Summer Springboard programs different from the rest?” We get this question a lot from prospective parents and students. And we love answering it. We know that when it comes to summer programs, there are a lot of options out there. But what makes Summer Springboard stand out? Read further as we explore this question, and a few others, with our Campus Directors David Allen (UC Berkeley Campus Director), Dianne Nolan (Yale Campus Director) and Jake Friedman (Georgetown Campus Director).

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

David: I’ve moved around a lot, living in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, New Jersey, Provence and the Côte d’Azur in southern France. In the end, I find I’m happiest when there’s a beach nearby, so I’m at home where I live now in San Diego, California where I enjoy kayaking, running, writing and growing my two business ventures. I’m a father of two grown children, a boy who is starting college in San Diego this fall and a girl who is a college senior in Boston. Because I lived and worked in France for ten years, I have many friends in Europe and enjoy visiting often. 

Dianne: I am a positive, fun loving inquisitive person, married to my highschool sweetheart Mark, mother of three sons, and professionally an educator, mentor and collegiate radio analyst. In my free time, you can find me buried in a book, writing a screenplay, jogging, arranging family gatherings and exploring the world. I am a lifelong learner and get a kick out of meeting new people, hence belong to various groups and organizations.

Jake: I put most of my time into my work at the Community Charter School of Cambridge. In addition to teaching, I am the head coach for two of our high school teams. Coaching girls’ soccer and boys’ basketball have been two of the most rewarding experiences of my life. In the winter when I’m not working with students I’m usually watching college basketball. I love playing pick-up basketball and going for runs. I’m currently alternating between re-reading the Harry Potter books and reading books on behavioral economics.

What is your educational background? If you could go back and study something different, what would it be?

David: My BA and MA degrees are in English, with a specialization in American Literature. I loved my years at university, far more than I enjoyed high school, but I’m also a bit jealous of my children because the variety of paths and the level of customization they have in college developed so much. If I were to begin my college career now, I think I would still choose a Humanities major, probably go for an MFA in Creative Writing, but I’d double major in something complementary, like Entrepreneurship or International Business. Another thing I wouldn’t change is going abroad as often as for as long as possible. Fluency in a second language and true cultural immersion is a game changer.  

Dianne: I received my undergraduate degree at Rowan University majoring in Health and Physical Education, and immediately moved on to West Virginia University, serving as a teaching assistant, earning an MS in Physical Education with a concentration in psychology. In anticipation of changing careers, I continued my formal education at Fairfield University with a MA in corporate and political communications. If I could turn back time, I am more inclined to go to Law School with a concentration in political and media relations.

Jake: I went to Lexington High School in MA and graduated from Duke University with degrees in political science and economics. I also have a masters in effective teaching from a teacher training program in Boston. I would love to go back and study behavioral economics and some psychology. 

How important to the college admissions process is knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, what you like and don’t like?

David: Well, a loaded question, because of course Summer Springboard is premised upon the belief that awareness and reflection are key components of college admissions and indeed of a rich and fulfilling life. I couldn’t agree more. I work with a lot of students on their college application essays, or personal statements. Colleges are almost pleading with you in the essay prompts to step out from the data–grades, test scores, lists of activities–and tell a story that exposes who you are at your core. That’s because they REALLY want to see if you have bothered to ask yourself that question. If you haven’t, they know you aren’t sure where your passions lie, and by extension, what you have to offer their campus communities. 

Dianne: It is extremely important to have a strong sense of self as each University has its own personality and is a unique community. Each offers something different and goes about its business its own way. Charting your collegiate course is all about finding the right fit, a place that is challenging yet comfortable depending  on your personality, values, goals and ‘likes and dislikes”

Jake: I actually went to university of Michigan for a year before transferring to Duke. Even once at Duke, which I absolutely loved, it was tough to adjust to a place when seemingly everyone already had their group. I learned two really important things in that process. One was that I personally wanted a much smaller school than Michigan. I loved the size of Duke. It was just the right such that you regularly saw friends and were always meeting new people. There are components like size of school, style of campus, academic strengths, and in my case quality of sports, that can be identified beforehand. However, I also learned how important your personal mindset is to being successful. Part of why I fell in love with my campus is because I wanted to fall in love with the school. After transferring I wanted it to be the right place for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted out of college and using what was available on campus to give myself that experience. 

What is your favorite part about the Berkeley/Yale/Georgetown campus?

David: Every university campus and community is unique, but Cal Berkeley is … “uniquer” than most. It may be consistently ranked as the #1 public university in the US and one of the top research universities in the world, but it is also referred to fondly as Berkeley. It’s an urban campus with a lovely Sequoia grove and a river running through it. It’s the edgy 1960s vibe of Telegraph Avenue on one side of campus and the bourgeois chic of the Gourmet Ghetto on the other. It’s diverse, beautiful, full of energy, and there are reserved parking spots for Nobel Laureates … because they have so many Nobel Laureates on the faculty!

Dianne: Everything is special! The Yale Campus is unique, rich with  tradition yet top notch in technology and facilities. Living in one of the residential colleges during our stay, enjoying the courtyard, butteries and rooms make for an engaging experience. I enjoy working out at Payne Whitney Gym, visiting the Art Gallery, and exploring Chapel Street.

Jake: Within the campus I love the views of the Potomac. I’ve always loved U.S. history so I’m a bit of a kid in a candy shop in Washington DC. 

What inspired you to be Berkeley/Yale/Georgetown campus director?

David: I’ve been directing summer academic programs for college-bound teenagers for 25 years, since I was a young college lecturer in my late 20s. I like working with teenagers because they are in one of life’s great intersections, and the decisions they make at this point in their lives can have enormous consequences. They’re also funny, and full of excitement about life and friendship. They love being taken seriously as young adults, showing what they are capable of, and they know anything is possible. It’s launch time for them, and as exhausting as this job is, it’s also very satisfying to mentor students and staff. I’m grateful for the chance to be part of this crucial juncture in their lives. 

Dianne: The Program, The Students, and the Yale Experience. Last summer was a life changing experience for me. Being a part of a program that offers students the opportunity to grow as young adults was extremely rewarding. I totally enjoyed our weekend trips and activities with the staff and students. Living at the college and getting
to know the students was special and we left as life long friends. I am a Yale
Junkie and hooked by being surrounded by greatness.

Jake: A friend and coworker suggested the organization. He had led one of their international trips and raved about the quality of experience provided for students. As a teacher and athletic director I’m excited to work with students in a new setting. I love Washington DC and have always enjoyed my time on Georgetown’s campus. I am particularly impressed by the range of offerings provided by Summer Springboard and the focus on the whole individual. 

What do you think sets Summer Springboard apart from other pre-college summer programs?

David: There are a lot of great summer experiences out there, but I think Summer Springboard stands out for a couple key reasons. One is the focus on reflection, self-discovery and taking the time to pause and carefully consider the next steps in life. It’s not just a collection of summer classes; working through the big questions is baked into the experience here. I’m also a big fan of the academic track system. Again, it breaks up the traditional model of a morning and afternoon course, which may have little connection to each other. Instead, there’s a real focus on doing a deep dive in one career area and making real-world connections through field trips and project-based work. 

Dianne: The quality and content of the programming including the accomplished instructors,and speakers along with the personal touch sets Summer Springboard apart from other programs. Each student is offered a unique course of study and the opportunity to explore their intended major in college taught by outstanding professionals. Additionally the emphasis on individual growth such as  “True You”  away from the classroom serves our students well. The programming in the evenings is fun and the students are able to bond with each other.

Jake: I think what sets Summer Springboard apart from other pre-college summer programs is the thoughtfulness in their approach on helping students with their future decisions. Summer Springboard is committed to providing a wonderful experience while students are on campus in addition to ensuring that students walk away knowing themselves better than when they entered the program. 

Why do you think a summer program like Summer Springboard is valuable?

David: We all know that planning, preparation and practice are the keys to success in everything from sports to career, and for that reason, Summer Springboard is aptly named. It provides a launching pad, an extra boost of power as students prepare for a major new phase of their lives. What is it like to step out of the rigid class schedules of high school and explore whatever direction your passion leads? What is it like to study in a selective group of students who all place in the top 15% nationally? What is it like to manage my own free time, finances, and take responsibility for my own health and safety? Our residential staff and faculty are all here, not to step in as surrogate parents, but to act as guides and facilitators as our students figure all of this out on what amounts to a dry-run for college and independence. I often think of it as training for a trapeze act with a net and some safety ropes.

Dianne: Charting your collegiate course is challenging and often a difficult task. Summer Springboard affords students the opportunity to explore, learn, and seek guidance, side by side with students and staff from around the globe. The sharing of ideas while  participating in hands on projects is priceless. It allows for individual growth, opening  the eyes, ears, mind and heart to different views. I often hear from former students, how much they appreciate their Summer Springboard experience and the positive effect it has upon their lives.

Jake: Academic areas of interest, building relationships with peers and understanding what makes you happy away from home are crucial pieces to having a successful undergraduate experience. So much of freshman year of college is about getting to know yourself and Summer Springboard is carefully design to give students a head start on that process.

What will Summer Springboard students take away from program once they return home?

David: Summer Springboard students benefit from all of the program elements I mentioned above, however, the greatest takeaways might be those that aren’t even mentioned in the brochure or on the website. I always enjoy watching students develop confidence in their “soft skills” on program. They arrive worried about making friends, feeling homesick, being on their own. A few late-night conversations with a roommate, some pizza delivery and a game of cards in the hallway, a walk into town for lunch with new friends … it quickly feels like college and it’s amazing the effect. Students leave full of confidence in their ability to succeed in college, to thrive independently as a young adult, to make friends and build a life away from home. That’s an awesome thing to know in advance of one’s college years. 

Dianne: They will go home with a clearer picture of their future. The academic experience provides hands on experience in their intended major, their participation in the True You program allows for individual growth and living at Yale in the residential college, with SSB students and staff is an experience that stays with you for a lifetime. It is a two week experience to be surrounded by greatness.

Jake: I hope Summer Springboard students take many things away from the program after they return home. It would make me very happy to know that students stay in touch with friends they’ve made during their time with us. I know our wonderful academic programs will ensure that students have a better understanding of the field in which they student and their level of interest in that field. There are so many components to deciding what college is the best fit for someone. I do not expect students to walk away with everything figured out but I do expect that our students will take away a stronger understanding of what they are looking for in their college experience.