Chris, the school’s vice president, maintains a healthy rivalry with the president. “Someone had to be the brains of the operation,” he jokes with us. Brian, the man in charge, just laughs. We’re sitting at Senior lunch, relaxing after the first half of classes, getting to know why these students think the SEED school is so special.
“Without SEED, I don’t know where I’d be. Maybe not in school,” Malik tells us. TJ adds, “our eighth graders are reading like ninth graders, our ninth graders like tenth graders. I was helping a whole class of twelfth graders with Algebra II at the big public high school and they never realized I was in tenth.”
That morning, we began to see how SEED inspires its students to the ultimate goal: college. In Mr. Brown’s English class we talked about our first week at Harvard, making new friends, and figuring out time management. After hearing the phrase, “when you get to college” about 10 times a day, SEED students wanted to know what it was really like.
“What’s the most challenging thing at college?” Malik asked. Organizing our priorities so that we had enough time for class and friends, we all agreed.
“What’s your advice for classes?” we heard. Check out office hours! We responded. The teachers can’t help you all of the time like in high school, but try to reach out to them early and they’ll never be scary anymore.
Students asked about what GPA it took to get into Harvard, and what our application essays were about. I explained that I wrote my essay on my friend telling me to make chocolate chip pancakes whenever I felt stressed. “Really? For Harvard?” TJ asked me. He later introduced me to RayRay as “Jake the pancake kid.”
After lunch we ventured downtown to the see the National Mall. It was unseasonably warm and swarms of tourists tried to walk through our photo in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Sarah, one of our team leaders, recited the Gettysburg address from memory after learning it for a project in sixth grade. I remembered that Mr. Stephens’ class had just finished the Civil War, and will ask the students for their opinion on the speech. Rahim, a Harvard freshmen who grew up in Tanzania, was excited to finally see the Capitol building after three years in the US, but had been under the impression that the White House was much larger.
Back at SEED after dinner we met up with our new friends for some pick-up ball in the gym. After Kevin spun around and slammed the ball through the hoop, Chris tried to show off by dunking for us, but could only get to the rim in his academic-dress Sperry’s. TJ, the only member of the varsity team under six feet, joked, “why don’t we let everyone have some fun and lower the basket down a bit?” After a brief five on five game, where Kai, a sophomore on the trip, scored three times and earned rave reviews as Harvard’s next Jeremy Lin, Chris called off the game. Time for homework.