Campus & Community

Crimson Summer Academy celebrates first graduating class at Commencement

2 min read

Harvard students weren’t the only ones commencing in Harvard Yard on Commencement Day (June 7) 2007. It was all smiles and cheers, and a few tears, at the afternoon exercises for the Crimson Summer Academy’s inaugural graduating class. The 30 Crimson Scholars, joined by their families, enjoyed the festivities of Commencement with a graduation ceremony before walking in the Harvard reunion parade.

One by one, the scholars, dressed in black caps and red gowns, made their way to the podium underneath the tent behind Wadsworth House, where Maxine Rodburg, director of the academy, handed out framed diplomas.

“When I looked out at all 30 students in their caps and gowns, I found myself choking up with emotion,” said Rodburg. “Over the years I have come to know each of them very well, and I have the deepest affection for each of them, as well as enormous respect.”

The Crimson Summer Academy, founded in 2004 as part of an initiative to improve access to college for economically disadvantaged students in the Boston and Cambridge areas, exposes the high school students to a summer academic program; provides yearlong mentoring by Harvard students; and offers financial support, including a laptop computer, a stipend to replace lost summer earnings, and a $3,000 scholarship to the college of their choice on completion.

While the academy was established as an academic enrichment program with a focus on getting students into college, it is also about the close relationships that the students developed with their mentors and the program staff.

Sabrina Antoine, 18, who will be attending Smith College next year, shared one of her fondest memories of the past three years.

“Getting an A-minus in my writing class, and seeing the excitement in Maxine … and Ben, my mentor, [over] me getting an A was a great moment for me,” said Antoine.

After receiving their diplomas, the students were treated to a congratulatory speech from former President Lawrence H. Summers, who said, “Harvard is proud to have you as part of this summer program, and proud of what you’ll achieve.” During afternoon exercises, the students were recognized by interim President Derek Bok for their accomplishments.

All 30 of the graduates will be going on to college next academic year; two of them will be returning in the fall to join the Harvard College Class of 2011.