The founders of this site had the opportunity to develop a summer educational initiative two years ago. We had a little more than 100 high school juniors coming to a summer residential program in southwest Indiana and our plan was to in bring college students, who would facilitate the programming.
“Who is going to come to Vincennes, Ind., to do that?” That was a nagging question, but that first cohort was stellar. We landed some great in-state students and recruited others from places like Dartmouth, Georgetown, Princeton, Wisconsin and Yale. Folks were indeed surprised, even ourselves just a bit. But from that very first moment, we saw that the program could have an impact on the high schoolers and the collegians alike. Three of those first 13 would be accepted into Teach For America.
So in year two, we cast an even wider net. This time we hired 15 fellows and, certainly not by design, more than half of them were either track athletes (three) or Ivy Leaguers (five), including our first Heps’ athlete — Harvard’s Kirsten Jorgensen (see note below).
That group did a wonderful job. After learning lessons the first year, we made some adjustments and the high school students left campus with a well-earned collective grade-point average of 3.3 in rigorous college courses. Most of these participants would be first-generation-to-college students. They left campus knowing that they could navigate and find success at college and they built a college-support network. The collegians — the Fellows — do, in many cases, stay in touch.
And again this year, the intersection of the Ivy League and track & field supplies more than half of the Fellow slots (12 of 23 this time). Two great Hepsters — Cornell triple jumper Kristin Brandt and Columbia high jump champion Monique Roberts — have joined the 2012 cohort, along with five other tracksters (Bucknell’s Lenny Joseph, USC’s Tony Martinez, Denison’s Katie Navarre, Maryland’s Zack Ray and Eastern Illinois’ Bridget Sanchez) and five other Ivy Leaguers (Brown’s Demitrius Burnett, Columbia’s D’Meca Homer, Princeton’s Kathy Qu and Yale’s Zenab Keita and Adriana Ortiz).
We have 11 others from around the nation coming to Indiana to have an impact on young people. There is more interest for the program than we’d imagined. And that has given us an tremendous amount of respect for today’s students.
If you are interested in learning more about X-Mester and the Fellows, please click here.
— Patricia Melton
UPDATE: After putting this up, Mary Boggs alerted me to Ms. Jorgensen’s huge honor last night at the Harvard Athletics dinner. From the release:
“The Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women’s Athletics (HRFWA) Prize, presented to Harvard’s top female scholar-athlete, was awarded to Kirsten Jorgensen from cross country and track & field. Jorgensen will work with Partners in Health in Peru next year before attending medical school. She is interested in public health and policy, particularly in relation to the practice of medicine along the physical frontiers of the United States. She explored that topic in her undergraduate thesis and has hands-on experience, as a former glacier guide and first responder in her home state of Alaska.”
Hardly a surprise to us!