Part of College Possible’s high school curriculum during junior year is to encourage students to make the most of the summer before senior year. For some students this means finding a job, internship or volunteer opportunity. For others it means applying to academic enrichment opportunities. One of the more prestigious academic options is to apply as a scholar with the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) program. LEDA is a highly selective program for high-achieving students from under-resourced backgrounds that focuses on supporting success in selective colleges. LEDA begins by bringing all of the scholars to Princeton University for seven-weeks of intensive programming over the summer.
Jared, a College Possible student at David Douglas High School, was named a LEDA Scholar last year and spent his summer at Princeton. We interviewed Jared about his transformative experience.
Why did you apply to LEDA?
My dad taught my brother and I to strive to do our best in everything we do and to make use of every opportunity we have. So I want better for myself, too. I want to go to college to become the most capable I can be to help other people. I applied to LEDA because I knew it would help get me there, and it would help me get into a school with a good financial aid package because the last thing I want is for my dad to worry about paying for college. I also applied to LEDA because I would be able to travel to the East Coast and meet a whole bunch of other amazing, beautiful leaders who I now call family.
How did it feel when you found out you were a LEDA Scholar?
I didn’t believe it at first. I mean I did, but I didn’t. I didn’t fully think that I was that special, or at least that I was that spectacular to get accepted to a program like this. But, thankfully I did, and they helped show me I was. I was so happy and excited and thankful to God and my dad and my coaches.
What was it like being at Princeton over summer?
It was hot. That was the first thing I remember. It was my first time experiencing humidity, which was wild because it was like the shade was broken. The temperature was the same whether I was standing under the tree or the sun. It was also the first time I saw fireflies. But it was really unreal. Being physically there at Princeton and seeing the facilities helped solidify for me that going to a college like this wasn’t just some fantasy but could be an actual reality for me.
What is your favorite memory from the summer?
There’s so many good memories. But a lot of them have to do with the community I formed there. Like when we watched a movie called The Walkout together. It was on the weekend and it was mandatory and a lot of us were complaining that we were going to be forced to watch some movie we thought was going to be boring, but it was actually really good. It was about students in California during the Chicano rights movement, but the conversation we had afterword was memorable. We talked about injustice and immigration stories of ourselves and our families and prejudices and racism we’ve faced and a lot of us were crying. But all of us were loving. It was a moment I remember because we were all there for each other. We all really cared about each other. We were/are a family.
Do you know what you want to study in college?
Kind of. I’m looking toward studying political science, sociology and Spanish but have other interests as well. For the first two, I want to understand the mechanisms of government and society better to learn how to create change to help people. I want to study Spanish because of a resident mentor, a LEDA scholar that was currently in college, inspired me. I know Spanish but I want to be at a level where I can have academic conversations and debates and have my Spanish be on the same level as my English.
Rachael, Jared’s College Possible coach, is back at David Douglas High School for a second year of AmeriCorps service. She knew LEDA would be a great match for Jared, and has been impressed with the impact his experience has had on their entire cohort of seniors at DDHS.
“I knew Jared was an extraordinary student in so many ways from the moment I met him, so LEDA seemed like a perfect fit for him. For me, the most amazing thing about Jared attending LEDA and a testament to his character is that upon returning, I have been able to openly discuss the mission of College Possible with him (helping all students from low-income backgrounds get into and graduate from college), a mission that really resonates with him. Rather than deciding he didn’t need to come to College Possible this year because he has a college-access mentor from LEDA, he continues to attend sessions to share LEDA resources and general encouragement with his peers.”
Summer enrichment opportunities are important, sometimes life-changing, experiences. For Jared, it allowed him to “…realize that college, and not just college, but highly-selective colleges, were an actual reality…”