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

Courtesy of Project Success
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.

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.”

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.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 10/27/2015 - 06:24 pm.

    Kudos to you for doing this!

    Great idea!! We took some Coon Rapids middle schoolers to the University of Minnesota a few years ago to do the same thing. You would surprised to know how many of them had never been to the University campus and how many had not even ever been to the Twin Cities.

    We really have little knowledge of how much poverty affects our students and their families. The benefit of activities such as these is that they will affect far more than the 39 who actually make the trip. Their families and everyone they talk to will get the benefit of their trip to a prestigious college and hopefully will help expand the horizons of their friends and fellow students.

    Also, articles like this in MN Post can help spread the word too. Ibrahim, thank you!

  2. Submitted by Genevieve Evangeline on 10/29/2015 - 01:05 am.

    Who’s paying for this? If it’s that charity, I guess it’s okay. But if it’s the public schools. I saw a sign that said it costs like $75,000 for a single classroom in Minneapolis. But I think it must be at least $75,000 to send 39 people to Harvard.

    I think the newspaper guy should make that clearer — so we can say yeah, that’s okay if its that Successful group because it’s their money. But we should also know if the public schools are paying for it … because nobody took me or my kids on a trip to Harvard. So we should say hey wait a minute. Adn the catholic schools and the charter schools — if they can’t go on a trip, it’s not fair for the city to pay all that money for these 39 students.

    Signed, Show Me the Money

    • Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 10/31/2015 - 09:27 am.

      Here Is The Money

      If you Google the webpage of Project Success you will see the names of the Corporations and Foundations that support this activity. I very much doubt any taxpayer money was involved.

      I would also encourage you to dig a little deeper on the sign you saw. Here is where your taxes go – One classroom teacher would cost about $68,000 on average, then add books, computers, heat, lights, maintenance, special education support, ELL support, central office support, etc. Minneapolis Public Schools could give you the actual number but it will be far greater than $75,000. Beware of simple signs with simple statements.

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