Graton Rancheria continues its support of SSU’s most underserved students

December 16, 2021
SSU Summer Bridge students

(Rohnert Park, CA) — The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have pledged nearly half a million dollars to Sonoma State to fund the university’s 2022 Summer Bridge Program, helping create a smooth and supportive college transition for SSU’s most educationally vulnerable first-time-first-year students. 

The $425,000 gift continues a long history of generosity from the Graton Rancheria in support of SSU’s underserved students. The Graton Rancheria has supported the Summer Bridge Program since 2017, helping incoming Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students ease their transition from low-income or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The Graton Rancheria has been instrumental in expanding and revitalizing the program, which now includes programs such as the DREAM Center, PUERTA, and Seawolf Scholars in the Center for Academic Access and Student Enrichment (CAASE). The number of participating students has steadily increased, and the Summer Bridge Program will serve an estimated 225 students in summer 2022. 

SSU Summer Bridge students sit at a table

“We are humbled by the continued generosity and partnership of the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria,'' said University President Judy K. Sakaki. “Their support of Summer Bridge has enabled SSU to expand this valuable program supporting California’s historically underserved students. Because of the Graton Rancheria, our most vulnerable students will be better equipped with the resources and support they need to help them thrive as first-year students at Sonoma State University and beyond."

"Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have supported the Summer Bridge program since 2017 because we believe in giving all students a chance at college success,” said Greg Sarris, Chairman of Graton Rancheria, Endowed Chair, and professor at SSU. “I know first-hand how Summer Bridge can help low-income and first-generation students. Both Summer Bridge and the Native American Studies Department endowment are examples of our commitment to educational achievement and an equal playing field for all.”

With the Graton Rancheria’s generous support, even amidst the uncertainty of the past two summers, Sonoma State has found ways to create an effective learning environment where students can access valuable campus resources while fostering a community that will help them embrace and navigate college life. In 2021 Summer Bridge transitioned from a nine-day on-campus residential program to a virtual four-week program in which students received six credits towards their bachelor’s degree. EOP offers students one-on-one individualized tutoring, and to reduce the technological divide, SSU provides access to critically necessary technology, including laptops, noise-canceling headphones, calculators, and WiFi hotspots.

The funding will help bring to life a new hybrid four-week program with an additional eight-day residential experience. Moreover, the grant that each Summer Bridge participant receives to help purchase books and instructional supplies will quadruple in size.  

Students are encouraged by the educational resources provided during Summer Bridge. “It was everything. It allowed me to feel like I belonged. It made me feel welcome. It gave me a community,” said Yeymi Perez Bravo of her time in Summer Bridge in 2017.  As a first-generation college student, the Richmond native has made the most of her time at SSU and is set to graduate at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. She credits Summer Bridge with setting her on the right path. “I was with other EOP students and a subgroup of students who became super close. My time in the program was critical for me in my transition to college,” she added. 

The gift is a demonstration of the Graton Rancheria’s longtime commitment to supporting and expanding access to higher education at Sonoma State University, which sits on the borderlands of the Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok whose descendants comprise the citizens of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

The Graton Rancheria has also pledged to create a second endowed chair at SSU that the Native American Studies Department (NAMS) may use to establish a new associate or assistant professor, contingent upon SSU’s current trajectory in expanding the department. In 2018 Hollis Robbins, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at SSU, made NAMS a department, and the university is now working to transform it from a minor to a major program.  

Visit the Educational Opportunity Program website to learn more about Summer Bridge and the life-changing work of their staff to help SSU’s underserved students reach their academic, personal, and career goals.

Media Contact

Julia Gonzalez