Remote summer research provides mentorship and academic guidance

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This summer, Sam Adgie ‘22, Meg D’Souza ‘23, and Mohammad Asghar ‘23 worked with organizations dedicated to providing academic guidance to New York students so that they may gain the skills needed to thrive after their high school graduation. The Fiver Children’s Foundation, the Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program, and the Yleana Leadership Foundation all understand that some students face challenges that prevent them from achieving long-term success, and are dedicated to providing a helping hand so that these at-risk students have an opportunity to flourish into the best individuals they can be. This summer, the Fellows’ work focused on expanding the impact of these life-changing organizations. Below, they describe their experiences.

Sam Adgie '22 working with the Fiver Children’s Foundation

Fiver is focused on serving children from families in New York City and Central New York, who are living below the poverty line, with their career and educational futures. While they run a two-week camp every summer alongside their year-round services, for now, they are offering the camp online. For this summer fellowship, Sam is mostly working on the back end analyzing data on alumni and current participants so that Fiver can better work with and for them. One of the central goals of Fiver is to encourage and prepare their students to enter post-secondary education, so Sam has worked extensively to see the effects of Fiver’s efforts to send their students to college, evaluate what kinds of schools graduates attend most often, and filling out some of the missing information on their database. He is most excited to find new data and new conclusions that will help Fiver develop their programming in a more informed and evidence-driven manner. 

Meg D’Souza '23 working with Young Scholars

The Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program works with rising seventh graders until their high school graduation to increase their chances of professional success, specifically by raising high school graduation and college enrollment rates. The program selects students who have the potential to academically succeed but may be prevented from doing so for a variety of reasons. To combat these barriers, Young Scholars provides academic tutoring and review sessions, exam prep, counseling, community service opportunities, field trips, mentorships, and multiple summer programs. As impactful as earning a diploma can be, the generational socio-economic difficulties these Utica students face does not simply resolve itself upon high school graduation, so Young Scholars is looking to expand the population it serves to incorporate alumni. This summer, Meg worked to formalize a Young Scholars alumni community and establish avenues through which the wealth of professional knowledge alumni have can be shared. By increasing communications to alumni, establishing social media accounts to consolidate alumni happenings, and holding informational and networking events, Meg helped make Young Scholars alumni more cognizant of the ways they could get involved with the organization. This greater awareness of a Young Scholars alumni community has helped amass an unofficial alumni volunteer base Young Scholars can now tap into. Meg hopes to see the connections she started to build with Young Scholars alumni will continue to develop into a life-long, self-sustainable network.

Mohammad Asghar '23 working with Yleana Leadership Foundation

Yleana Leadership Foundation aims to reduce the achievement gap by serving high school students from traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities. They do so by hosting a three-week summer camp at their partner colleges where they provide students with SAT tutoring and develop their critical thinking skills through an entrepreneurship project and a one-day start-up fair. In short, Yleana provides its students with residential college experience at a top-tier institution to encourage them to work hard and pursue a college education. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year the summer program was held online. Yleana also has a for-profit arm called SSA (Socratic Summer Academy) which provides tutoring services and targets high-income households. The funds generated from SSA are fueled into Yleana. Mohammad’s project for the summer was to research this hybrid model adopted by Yleana and to analyze the potential advantages and shortcomings of this model. He collaborated with the CGO at Yleana and compared Yleana’s hybrid model to other nonprofits adopting the hybrid model. His final project included a set of recommendations for Yleana to improve their hybrid model and pinpointed areas where Yleana was doing well.

These three projects have demonstrated just how valuable critical thinking skills taught by a liberal arts curriculum can be when trying to solve challenges of today. To properly meet their goals for the summer, the three Fellows needed to take a multifaceted approach, weaving knowledge from experiences found both inside and outside of the classroom. In order to fully understand the challenges faced by underserved New York students, it is not enough to only look at their economic situation; it was necessary to incorporate knowledge from history, sociology, art, and other disciples to gain an intersectional understanding of why students face the struggles that they do and how the organizations could tailor their programming to completely address their goals. Understanding the importance of diversifying knowledge bases has helped the Fellows help their organizations address their mission from different lenses and create the building blocks for impactful change. Sam, Meg, and Mohammad are all grateful to have had an opportunity to bring this way of liberal arts thinking off of the hill and into New York communities where meaningful change can be made.