"The idea is to offer opportunities for these kids to get college credits through an accredited program," said Jorge Rodriguez, Director of Multicultural Services at UVU.
The three programs students can participate in through UVU are Latino Educators of Tomorrow, Latino Scientists of Tomorrow, and the Wasatch Back College Prep program.
Cindy Montes has participated in the college prep program for two summers now. Her dream is to go to college and eventually medical school.
"I'm not sure yet what type of doctor I want to become, or if I want to be a nurse or a radiologist," said Montes, "but I do see a successful future for myself in the medical field."
Montes took a Career and Major Exploration class where students were taught how to create résumés, cover letters and personal statements. On Thursdays, they took educational field trips to places like Deer Valley, a local bank, and the Park City Medical Center to talk with employees about their careers and what courses they would need to take to embark on the same career path.
According to a press release from UVU, the Summer Bridge Programs started in 2009 with the School of Education's Latino Educators of Tomorrow program with the goal to increase the number of Latino graduates and to create a support system for them.
Rodriguez said that the most rewarding part of being involved in the Bridge Program is the confidence the students gain over the course of the summer after realizing that they do have support.
"At first, a lot of the students expressed that they didn't think they would be able to go to college," said Rodriguez. "At the end of the summer, so many of them told me they felt like going to college was now possible and that they wanted to go right away."
Montes' parents own and run Los Montes, a Mexican food restaurant. Her oldest sister went to college in Hawaii and is now attending the University of Utah, and her older brother works at the restaurant, owns his own cleaning business and attends UVU.
Her dreams of going to college are fully supported by her parents and siblings and even more so by Rodriguez.
"He is very inspiring," said Montes. "He helped us out so much with anything that we needed, and he was always there to support us."
Rodriguez dropped out of college to join the U.S. Army and was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. He moved to Utah 10 years ago and graduated from the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at UVU. After graduating, he realized that the Latino community was underrepresented and he wanted to help extend multicultural outreach efforts.
He was approached by Michael Walker, Assistant Administrator at the Wasatch UVU campus, to become the new Director of Multicultural Services. The opportunities he saw that the program provided the students made it hard for Rodriguez to say no.
"This program helps the transition from high school to college seem as easy as from junior high to high school," said Rodriguez.
While it was first created to aid Latino students in Utah, it has now reached a variety of minorities, from Latinos to students from places like Tibet and the Middle East.
It is an affordable opportunity for students of all ethnicities to become better prepared for college and graduate with college credits or even an Associate's Degree at a fraction of the cost, Rodriguez said.
"Everybody should give it a shot, even if you're not Latino," said Montes. "It's worth it."