The Harvard Crimson Summer Academy has welcomed 60 ready, willing, and eminently able high school freshmen and sophomores to the academic enrichment program’s second year. The students represent 25 different public and parochial schools in Cambridge and Boston.
On Sunday (May 22), the inaugural class of 30 Harvard Crimson Scholars and their families returned to Harvard’s campus, joining academy teachers, staff, and Harvard faculty to become an enthusiastic welcoming committee for the brand-new cohort of 30 scholars and their families. Of course, the welcome ceremony was also a class reunion, with returning scholars chatting excitedly with the Harvard College students who mentored them last year, and parents getting acquainted – and reacquainted – with program staff.
As Ticknor Lounge in Boylston Hall buzzed with talk and laughter, it became clear how much the academy has grown, not only in numbers, but in confidence, purpose, and a sense of its own community.
“We are really tight,” returning scholar Laura Ospina, a sophomore from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, said of the returning class. “The first day we were here we were so nervous, but by the end of the summer last year, I cried. Coming into this, I knew I was going to make lifetime friends.”
While the inaugural group recalled the challenges, surprises, and accomplishments of the past year, the new cohort talked about their anticipation for the summer ahead. All scholars were particularly excited about the academy’s newest component – staying in Harvard Yard’s historic Weld Hall for the duration of the program.
“I’m looking forward to living on campus,” said Laura Mujenda, a sophomore from Cathedral High School in Boston. The idea of living on campus like Harvard students, she noted, came from the Crimson Scholars themselves. “It will make the Harvard experience more alive.”
The Crimson Summer Academy is an academic enrichment program established last year by President Lawrence H. Summers for talented, low-income youth from Cambridge and Boston. As Crimson Scholars, the students take part in a stimulating mix of science and technology activities – quantitative reasoning, writing, academic projects, field trips, and extra-curricular activities aimed to support their academic performance in high school and help them prepare to become strong candidates for admission to a range of challenging four-year colleges and universities.
Thomas Fowler-Finn, superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools, said, “This is an extraordinary opportunity. Where some students had only hope or didn’t know the possibilities, this program makes going to a challenging college real and attainable. Each one of these students has set their sights anew as a result of this program.”
Sunday was a day for welcoming and reminiscing. In a presentation to the growing Crimson Summer Academy family, Director Maxine Rodburg congratulated the scholars for their motivation and achievement over the past year and commented on the family they had created.
“We really are a community, all the people in this room and many, many more,” she said to a crowded Fong Auditorium.
Clayton Spencer, associate vice president for higher education policy, who welcomed the group on behalf of President Summers, summed up the spirit of the afternoon saying, “You have been chosen for the Crimson Summer Academy. We believe in you. It enriches the Harvard family to have you here and we hope you will welcome us into your families as well.”