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A visit to Harvard offers information, and inspiration, for Minneapolis students

The 39 students, most of whom are English-language learners, will head to Boston to get a feel for what it means to pursue higher education. 

In partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools, Project Success to take ESL students to Harvard University as part of a three-day college tour in Boston.
Courtesy of Project Success

Dozens of Minneapolis high school students will head to the East Coast this week for a three-day field trip to colleges in Boston, including Harvard University, to get a feel for what it means to pursue higher education at the Ivy League school. 

Mostly English-language learners, the 39 Minneapolis Public Schools juniors and seniors are scheduled to fly Wednesday night. During their visit, they’ll participate in workshops and lectures about living and learning in Boston. 

Their tour will begin on Thursday morning at Boston University, where they’ll explore the campus and its surrounding neighborhoods. The students’ many hands-on exercises will include discussions on what they look for in a college community and how that matches their values and plans.

“We want them to do these things with their practical skills, planning and researching,” said Adrienne Diercks, founder and executive director of Minneapolis-based Project Success, which organized the field trip in partnership with MPS. “We want them to think about how that affects what choices and what values they have.”

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The students will spend Friday at the Harvard campus, speaking to students and alumni about life at a prestige school. They’ll also meet with a professor who heads the global education program at Harvard, followed by an information session. 

“One goal I have for this trip is to learn more about the necessary things these types of colleges look for in a student and explore the campuses,” said Pa Kou Lee, of Roosevelt High School. “My dream is to go to a four-year college, and graduate with a degree so I can help my family.”  

Many of the traveling students, Diercks said, are likely to become the first in their families to attend college. Like many first-generation college students, many immigrant students don’t know that they’re actually able to attend big universities right after their high school graduation. She hopes the trip will inform them about some basic college admission questions that many people take for granted. 

Diercks said this is the first time her organization is collaborating with MPS to fly students to Boston. But Project Success has previously taken Minneapolis students on national college tours to New York, California, Arizona and Georgia. 

“What I love is showing them what’s out there, rather than say, ‘You have to have this, you have to do this,’” she added. “No. Let them explore it and get inspired for they may say: ‘So, what if I go to Harvard, what do I need to do?’”

But there’s more to the trip than just inspiring these students and giving them a college experience, Diercks explained: “Some of the students have been calling the office to say, ‘I have never been on a plane. What do I need to do? Do I need my ID?’”

Six of the students were selected from Wellstone International, an all-immigrant high school catering to students between 17-21 years old.

“Most of these students are new to the country,” said Ali Kofiro, a counselor at Wellstone. “Their parents never went to college. It’s a great opportunity that they’re taken to this important trip.”

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @IHirsi.