Every year, Harvard invites local high school students to participate in several initiatives that aim to set them up for future success. These initiatives range from encouraging college readiness and educational goal setting, like the The Crimson Summer Academy and Project Teach, to providing opportunities to develop real-world skills like the Summer Youth Employment program.

Sahil Ahmed Sheikh, a 2019 alumnus of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and a 2018 graduate of the Crimson Summer Academy and 2018 participant in the Harvard Summer Youth Employment Program, wrote an account of his experiences during his summer at Harvard:

My family immigrated to Cambridge from Bangladesh in 2008. My parents wanted to provide me with a better opportunity for success than they had when they were my age. My mom took on two part-time jobs, and my dad went back to school to earn his medical degree in the U.S., and I was busy going to school.

I was considering a career in the field of computer science. At the time, I was not taking challenging classes to broaden my horizons. I always had the impression that in order for me to potentially get a job as a computer engineer, I needed to focus on — and excel at — only one subject.

This way of thinking was altered in 7th grade, when I took part in Harvard’s Project Teach program. The program brings local students onto campus and teaches them about educational paths tailored to their individual interests. I participated in an engineering-based class, which allowed me to interact with professors and Harvard students. This experience gave me a much better perception of life in college and beyond, but I knew l still lacked the skills and work ethic to reach my career goals.

Luckily, after my first year of high school, I was accepted by the Crimson Summer Academy — a pre-college program for low income students who spend three consecutive summers at Harvard, engaging in rigorous courses in a college-like environment. By participating in this program, I got the motivational boost I needed. I was surrounded by classmates and mentors who were highly motivated and ambitious. I was able to direct my attention toward biology, my hidden passion. Without the help of the Crimson Summer Academy, I would not be as prepared for the real world as I am today.

Those two experiences led me to come back to Harvard, where I completed an internship. I was where I wanted and needed to be — in a professional environment where I was learning real life skills. My responsibilities included completing economic impact research, researching venture capital investments, data analysis, and more. The internship taught me responsibility, punctuality, and, most importantly, to seek help when needed.

This year, I started at Clark University as a pre-med student. With my intent to fight for justice and my passion for biology, I have chosen to pursue a job in forensic science. The skills I acquired from this internship will be necessary to reach my goal.

Prior to my arrival in the United States, my idea of the Western world was completely different. I had never even heard of the name Harvard, let alone thought I would spend time there. The time I spent at Harvard helped me to build vital skills that will assist my future.