Meet Kwame

Kwame recently learned that he had been accepted to his dream internship. Kwame's career aspirations had been shaped by his early teenage involvement with the juvenile justice system and a desire to improve his community's relationship with law enforcement.

Kwame came to one of Project Rousseau's Community Service programs to share his news with our staff and students. Kwame was extremely proud to tell our younger students about his success and how his hard work had paid off.

Kwame's internship, however, brought new challenges. Kwame would have to move across the country and live alone for the first time; he was, understandably, very nervous. Kwame worked with Project Rousseau staff to find housing, plan his budget and prepare for his new role.

A week after starting his internship, Kwame texted one of our team to ask for help planning his grocery list and meals. Kwame told this member of staff that he remembered her making a list of groceries in Montréal on his first international exchange and that reminded him it might be a good idea to do similar. In the midst of all the exciting opportunities of an international exchange it is often easy to forget that the these experiences can provide students with more practical, useful lessons for college and beyond.

Kwame is thriving at his internship, he now makes his own grocery lists, and we look forward to welcoming him back to Project Rousseau's programs soon to share more news and success with younger students.

(Names, likeness and some identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals)

Nashville Student on the News

Shawn, one of our students from the Nashville chapter, was recently featured in the local news for spearheading a project to distribute school lunch leftovers to student families in need. Shawn truly embodies our pillar of Community Service, as demonstrated by his seeking out a creative solution towards food insecurity in his school community. 

Check out the story here!

D79 and Project Rousseau Partnership

Last week our New York City office hosted a meeting with two members of the NYC Department of Education District 79 team to discuss the next steps in our partnership with the district. 

D79 serves over-aged and under-credited students in the NYC public education system, many of whom have recently arrived to the United States or have been involved in the juvenile justice system. The D79 members presented to our team about the diversity in students they serve and outlined the different ways in which students can be referred to the district. They also discussed the success of many of their programs and the recent expansion of the Pathways to Graduation program, the program with which Project Rousseau will work most closely with.

 The meeting served as a great opportunity for our staff to learn about the different paths and services available for students learning in these non-traditional settings and how students might be referred to us from these different programs. Additionally, the D79 representatives were able to address many of our questions regarding the district as a whole and those which were specific to the situation of some of our students. 

In the coming weeks, Project Rousseau will be presenting to the Principals’ Cabinet of the Pathways to Graduation program in both the Bronx and Queens. Furthermore, D79 staff across the district will make referrals to Project Rousseau, and we are delighted that our first three referrals were received this week!

We are very grateful for those D79 team members who took time out of their day to meet with us and look forward to working with them further to help more students reach their full potential, no matter their life circumstances.

Meet Katya

Katya faced many challenges in her life. When we first met Katya housing security was the first thing on her mind. Our Student Needs staff worked with Katya to address this need, and others such as food insecurity and ensuring that her healthcare needs were met.

Katya soon began to come to our academic programs and worked extremely hard on foundational reading and math skills. It was after one of these programs that Katya told her staff that she thought “school wasn’t for her.” Unlike many students who might say this though, Katya had carefully thought about what she was saying and, with the help of her mentor, set about creating a plan towards high school graduation and exploring vocational programs. Project Rousseau prides itself on working with students of all academic abilities and we continued to support Katya as she made steps towards her new goals.

Katya continued to show great determination and work-ethic. Katya is well on her way to graduation and looking forward to entering a career in the media industry after graduating.

Meet Pia

Pia’s family learned some tragic news in her senior year which meant that she had to stay in her hometown for college. This news, however, made Pia even more determined to succeed in college and pursue a career in the health sciences. Pia also resolved that she wanted to volunteer with Project Rousseau to give back to younger students.

Pia is part of our College Success program, she spoke to her Project Rousseau College Success Coordinator recently when she was having difficulty registering for classes. Pia had been told by someone to register for both biology and chemistry in his first semester, however, she was very concerned about such a heavy course load so early in her college education, particularly as she is the primary carer for a family member. Pia and her College Success Coordinator worked together to formulate a plan for her classes balancing both her academic goals, extracurricular interests and family commitments.

Pia is now a weeks into her first semester and is thriving at college!

(Names, likeness and some identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals)

Rysensteen Gymnasium Visit

This past weekend, we hosted our 6th visit of students from the Rysensteen Gymnasium high school in Copenhagen, Denmark. This class of students hosted us last spring, so this visit served as a nice opportunity for the host siblings to reunite. 

On Sunday, our Danish exchange partners joined us at Amsterdam Nursing Home for our weekly community service excursion, where they participated in discussions with our Project Rousseau students regarding the differences between the Danish and US social welfare and medical systems. Besides remarking that the Danish students were “pretty cool!”, PR student Gary noted the different level of social services provided by the Danish government, including universal health care and education. He also observed that the minimum wage in Denmark is a much more livable wage than the minimum wage in the US. Gary and the group surmised that these differences may be due to the fact that Denmark is a much more  homogeneous country, which may allow for their own citizens to relate more to each other as they mainly share the same skin color and culture. 

After the nursing home, all of the students ate lunch together at Tom’s Diner-a tradition! So many students turned out that we packed the restaurant! Sharing a meal allowed the students to discuss in a much more casual way and continue to learn from each other. Gary noted that the Danish students and PR students share many similarities in their teen experiences, and that the Danish students even used some of the familiar American slang. 

The day ended with an “Urban Solutions Collaborative” workshop related to food insecurity in NYC and possible solutions. Each group of students brought a different perspective to the problem, and the exchange of international ideas contributed to the creativity of solutions proposed.  

We are so thankful for all of our international partnerships, such as the Rysensteen Gymnasium,  and we look forward to meeting with our Danish friends again this coming spring, but in the beautiful Copenhagen! International exchanges such as these are central to Project Rousseau’s mission of developing students who are passionate about lifelong learning beyond the classroom, and we are thrilled to be able to have this partnership in Denmark.

SAT Successes

Here at Project Rousseau, our most recent SAT Test Preparation Group achieved remarkable results! A particular group of students were enrolled in extra SAT prep after being selected as likely to achieve high scores, and these extra hours of work paid off. More than merely learning how to shade in bubbles, students learned important grammar, English comprehension, and mathematics lessons all while figuring out how to manage their time effectively in a high stakes situation.

Every single student saw improvement from their Junior Year PSAT score in October to their SAT scores for March, with an average increase of over 100 points!! One student equalled Project Rousseau’s highest ever SAT score, improving their score by over 200 points in the process. Many students scored well in the upper-90th percentiles and nearly all were above the 85th. These extremely impressive scores are a testament to just how hard students prepared multiple nights a week on top of their full coursework.

Through standardized test prep under our Academics pillar, Project Rousseau is able to help students place into selective pre-college programs, such as QuestBridge and LEDA, and to obtain excellent college acceptances. This year, students were accepted at Stanford, Harvard, the University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, and McGill University, among many others. Test prep is just one way in which we are able to help students receive a higher education and achieve their goals.

Class of 2023 College Acceptances!

March was a busy and exciting month for our Project Rousseau seniors! Many received college acceptances and are now in the process of deciding where to attend. We are so proud of each student in Project Rousseau who is in the process of making this decision to go to college, and are proud that we could help in the preparation process. A few seniors are highlighted below:

Jery recently found out that he was accepted to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California as well as Emory University. It’s been incredible to watch Jery grow in Project Rousseau over the last four years and we look forward to continuing to support him in college!

Project Rousseau regular, Carolina, recently found out that she’d been accepted to Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others! Carolina was worried about this process, but we never doubted her potential, and now she’s busy touring each college to come to a decision.

Assul has been another incredible student at Project Rousseau, especially focused on our Community Service pillar. She even started a Girls in STEM initiative at her old middle school, and this passion helped her obtain acceptance into colleges like McGill University, Syracuse, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Finally, Patrick is very excited to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania where he is looking forward to living in a new environment. Patrick was also accepted at Georgetown.

No matter where our seniors end up, we are so proud of all their accomplishments throughout high school and of their willingness to apply to college and work towards their futures. We are proud to have been a part of their successes and hope to continue mentoring them in this next phase of their lives through our College Success initiatives!

Copenhagen Exchange 2019

During the first week of April, a group of eight Project Rousseau students traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark as part of the ongoing exchange program with peers from Ryensteen Gymnasium, who are applying to American colleges. Project Rousseau junior Kadidia reflected that going to school with the Danish students and living the life of a teenager in Denmark was her personal favorite part of the trip, attending longer classes and having more breaks than the system in the U.S. Quinn learned through attending the Gymnasium that school should not be something he dreads attending, but chance to learn about the world! His passion for education was reignited. Melissa appreciated the amount of trust and respect between teachers and students, with open communication between youth and their elders, and hopes to bring this less rigid mindset about age back to American society.

Outside of the classroom, students were able to explore Copenhagen and tour Freetown Christiania, a commune with independent rules outside the Danish government. Students were incredibly fascinated by the political scene in Denmark. Quinn was most surprised about how the ideology of community was so prevalent in Denmark and even in Christiana without government intervention. Deoles loved the forgiving nature of Danish society, where drug-users are treated with humanity and taken care of, rather than ostracized. Deoles was also incredibly shocked at the high tax rate, but felt that free health and dental care, along with education, clearly made this worth it. Students were inspired by the political scene in Copenhagen, and hope to make meaningful change in our American government based on this model someday.

Project Rousseau is incredibly thankful for international partnerships such as with the Ryensteen Gymnasium, and we look forward to hosting Danish students here in New York while strengthening our ties and friendships! International exchanges such as these are crucial to Project Rousseau’s mission of developing students who are passionate about lifelong learning beyond the classroom.

Project Rousseau visits the UN

On March 7th and 8th, four Project Rousseau students had the opportunity to attend the United Nations International School’s annual UNIS-UN conference. For the past 42 years, this conference has attracted high school students from around the world to debate pressing global issues. This year’s theme was Ripple Effect: The Water Crisis. Our Project Rousseau students were able to discuss sustainability and geopolitical issues with 700 of their peers from 5 continents. Students heard famous authors, UN officials, and Columbia professors talk about solutions to droughts and political instability caused by water access. Students also attended half-a-day of cultural showcases and performances at the UN, which was a fascinating addition to the conference. Along with the educational aspect of the conference, Project Rousseau students also made lifelong friends from the other schools, proving the ability to overcome geographic and language barriers.

Project Rousseau student Benicya especially enjoyed hearing New York Times journalists speak on the water situation in Israel. She learned about creating a 10-year conservation plan in order to combat worldwide droughts and educate citizens on water conservation. Student Michelle enjoyed hearing an artist speak about how her works can influence environmental policy. The speeches were inspirational and varied from authors to professors which allowed the water crisis to be presented from multiple lenses. Both students viewed the conference as a lesson in gratitude and awareness.

Overall, the 2019 UNIS-UN conference was an incredibly enriching experience for these Project Rousseau students and we are grateful for the invite along so many esteemed schools. This visit inspired students to start thinking about careers in sustainable development or diplomacy and allowed our students to improve their negotiating and communication skills. We are looking forward to partaking in the conference in 2020, and hope that UNIS continues to succeed in planning such a large event.


UNIS-UN 2019

Project Rousseau