Chicago SAT Boot Camp

Last week, Project Rousseau's Founder and President, Andrew Heinrich traveled to Chicago to lead a weekend SAT Boot Camp for the students that are involved in their local chapter. Students from 9th through 11th grade, who currently are attending Hyde Park Academy and Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, met with their mentors at the University of Chicago to study for the upcoming SAT test. The Boot Camp focused on the fundamentals of the standardized test, walking the attendees through the reading, grammar, and math sections. Students received a total of 9 hours of instruction and one-on-one academic guidance/planning for their testing experiences.

Students learned many valuable grammar lessons and were able to work through challenging math problems using their personalized counseling. During breaks, students were able to discuss and navigate their upcoming college processes. They were also able to learn study skills and ways to be a more involved student at their high schools to prep.

SAT Boot Camp at Project Rousseau goes much further than shading in bubbles for multiple choice questions, it inspires a brighter future for students across our nation-wide chapters.

“I had a very good experience at Boot Camp. It was really helpful for My PSAT, especially in reading. I’m hoping to go to college to be a Paramedic or to be a musical artist and actress.”

— Chicago 9th Grade Student

Visiting Colleges in Boston

Boston is home to some of the world’s most esteemed universities, and it is a city full of culture and history.  On Wednesday, Project Rousseau students travelled to Boston to visit colleges and take advantage of the many opportunities in the city. The first thing on the agenda was the annual Harvard University Bioethics Conference, here the students learned about the controversial case of Jahi McMath and watched experts in the field debate what it means to be "brain dead".

The students also packed in many campus visits during the trip starting off with Boston University. From there they travelled to Cambridge to see Harvard University. A short ride on the T after lunch and our students were at MIT. Here they took a tour of Professor Cheeseman's lab and learned about chromosomal segregation during mitosis. On our final morning in Boston we visited Northeastern University to learn about their unique co-op program, as you will see below Northeastern was a popular choice among our students! 



Visiting these universities opened my eyes to the environment that I see myself in due to the diversity of the campuses we visited. I’m considering applying to Harvard now because I was able to see it in person rather than just virtually!
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I loved visiting Northeastern and MIT. I got to see some new things and learn more about the colleges and I’m definitely gonna apply for both those colleges. MIT made my top 10 colleges.



My favorite part was visiting Northeastern University. It’s a lovely campus and the experience I had there made the school one of my top 5.
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Copenhagen SAT Boot Camp

This March, some of our students had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen, Denmark for our fourth annual International SAT Boot Camp program! Here, students worked alongside Danish students who are preparing to apply to college in the United States. Our students shared their passion for learning with the Danish students.

 

One student reported that the Danish students had “greeted her with kindness,” and that she had truly bonded with her fellow SAT prep class mates. Another student stated that they were “excited about the constant SAT prep” and now they can walk into the upcoming SAT test with confidence in achieving their “goal of getting a higher score.” At Project Rousseau, we work with students to achieve these goals to round out their college applications and expand their horizons to top tier universities.

Our students also had some time to explore Copenhagen while taking a break from SAT prep, for a guided tour of Freetown Christiania. This has been our seventh exchange with the Rysensteen Gymnasium. Project Rousseau students had a fantastic two weeks prepping for college applications and the SAT with their Danish peers, learning about Denmark's history and culture, and experiencing "hygge" with their host families. One student said in reflection on the that they learned that “meeting new people helps better your understanding of the world,” which is why Project Rousseau encourages learning beyond the classroom.

Elective Opportunities

Project Rousseau students from the New York chapter have been hard at work this past semester in Business 101 and Cultural Studies, the two different electives available to them. Taught by a retired business professor and a teaching fellow respectively, the Business 101 and Cultural Studies electives are intended to further the students’ knowledge in subjects which might not be part of their everyday lives and help them discover new topics of interest to them.

The Business 101 elective is an introduction to the fundamentals of business, including lessons around how companies are structured, the world of work, and marketing. The students  are led in discussion by an experienced professor with teaching experience in 10 different countries around the world. Each week, students engage in conversation about how business works around the world, and how it differs from country to country.

This semester in the Cultural Studies elective, students focused on learning about the value of cultural exchange, in particular about the experiences of other Project Rousseau students who have travelled abroad. One lesson included discussion of students’ experiences while abroad in Japan, followed by a lesson about the experiences of Japanese Americans in the United States and a trip to a talk about the Japanese Incarceration. The event, which included a poetry reading, was linked to the exhibition "Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II" at the International Center for Photography. Students heard from those who had personal or family experiences with the Japanese Incarceration and had the opportunity to explore the exhibition.

Meet Dariam, who recently received her high school equivalency diploma

At Project Rousseau, we assist talented individuals who were not able to receive their High School diploma before their established graduation date. We a provide a need based curriculum to students who want to work for their secondary equivalency diploma.

Meet Dariam, a Project Rousseau student who recently received her TASC. Her sister, a former Project Rousseau student and now college freshman, first brought Dariam to Project Rousseau in the summer of 2016. Dariam has worked tirelessly over the last few months to prepare herself for the TASC. Having passed the TASC just last month Dariam is already exploring her future options, here she is with one of our volunteers looking into possible healthcare majors at local community colleges.

Dariam says that her key motivation for finishing her education is her young daughter, who she wants to set a strong example for. Dariam is, rightfully, extremely proud of herself as are we and we are excited to see what the future holds for her!

Japan Exchange 2018

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Before entering into a world so different than New York, Project Rousseau students were debriefed on the etiquette and traditions in Japan. Cultural differences were addressed, especially in terms of etiquette, such as the removing of shoes before entering certain restaurants, temples, and even museums. After the long flight, Students were welcomed to Japan with a ramen dinner and prepared themselves from a fun day of sushi making to come. The next days were filled with adventures through the fish market, Tokyo Opera, museums, and the colorful area of Harajuku.

After Tokyo, the next stop was Kyoto to meet the host families. In Kyoto, Project Rousseau students attended classes at Kyoto Gaidai Nishi High School and even participated in a Model United Nations debate representing the US. During the school day, students picked up some useful Japanese phrases they were able to use while they visited the Golden Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, a monkey park, and other famous monuments around Kyoto. Aside from sightseeing in Kyoto, the students were also able to tour the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies to learn about the new program in Global Studies. After a few days spent in Kyoto at school, the Project Rousseau students spent the weekend with their host families, doing activities ranging from going to Osaka to visit its Koreatown to visiting an aquarium in Kyoto.

Once returning to Tokyo, it was a sad goodbye for the students as they left Japan and transitioned back into their daily lives of school and work.

Meet Assul, who has started her own STEM Community Service Program

Women in the United States make up forty eight percent of the workforce, and yet only twenty four percent of STEM workers are women. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women of color makeup fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers. Assul, a Project Rousseau student is working to defy these odds. She founded a project at a local middle school called the STEM Initiative, which seeks to inspire young students to become interested in STEM. Assul is an exemplary, highly motivated student who uses her academic strength for good.

In the 10th grade, Assul noticed a discrepancy in her community and strived to bridge that gap. “Not everyone gets the same opportunities, I didn’t have that chance when I was their age” Assul stated. She followed by explaining that she wishes she could have had the early exposure to this material that she is giving to her students. Her time as the president of her school’s chapter of the National Society for Black Engineers inspired her to launch this program. Now Assul provides students with homework assistance, tutoring for state tests, and interactive STEM projects to apply what the students are learning.

The creation of her dream project was not a fluid process, it required time, effort, patience and most importantly, communication skills. Launching the program was the most difficult part, not only coordinating the space and lesson plans but establishing relationships with students so that they would return to the lessons every week. Assul creates the lesson plan every week and spends the sparse amount of time that she has a junior in highschool to come up with innovative ways of teaching and assisting her students.

Assul credits Project Rousseau as a major contributor to the formulation and execution of the program. Staff at Project Rousseau worked with Assul on time management. Assul stated “how the staff at Project Rousseau treat me inspires the way I want to treat my students.” She followed up by stating that “All of the help that I have received from Project Rousseau has made me want to give back.”

Assul has also recently been awarded a Peace First Mini Grant to help fund her initiative. She worked with Project Rousseau staff to write this grant application and hopes to use the funds to purchase materials for her tutors and snacks to encourage attendance among her tutees. The support of Peace First will be invaluable to Assul and will allow her project to flourish. 

In the future, Assul wants to pursue a career in biomedical engineering and do well in her field by doing good for others. When asked why she chose the path of biomedical engineering, Assul responded that growing up she wanted to be a doctor but she soon realized that she could make an impact on the medical community through creating helpful technology. Assul stated “even when I go to college I want to make an impact on others,” inspiring them to feel the same passion for the STEM field as she does.  

London Exchange 2018

From historical sites and museums to visiting prestigious universities our London 2018 Exchange was once again a huge hit for all participating students.

The trip included a whistle-stop tour through British history with students learning about various key periods including Shakespeare's London, Churchill's war time efforts and women's suffrage. Indeed, many students said that one of their trip highlights was visiting three museums in one day, something they had never done before. 

During the trip we also visited various elite universities, including the London School of Economics and Oxford University. While in Oxford Carolina and Ruby were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in a tutorial alongside current students and Dr Caroline Phillips. They discussed the evolution of human violence and the use of chimpanzees and bonobos as a model to explain this. 

Another high point of the trip was visiting the Houses of Parliament and sitting in on a debate in both chambers. In the House of Commons we heard about the impact of Brexit on different regions and their industries in the UK and also about outsourcing in the public sector. This second debate was particularly of interest to Denzel, who had recently learned about outsourcing in his community college classes! 

For chaperones, a highlight of the trip is without a doubt conversations had with the students on the tube, at lunch or walking between museums. Notable student observations from this trip included, the differences between NYC housing projects and London's council estates, diversity in the various career paths and financial aid in the UK vs. the USA.  Throughout the trip students engaged with their new environment in a very impressive manner and we hope that they will continue this while back in NYC and when they travel again in the future. 

As ever, we are extremely thankful for the host families and schools in London which make this trip a success. All of our students had fantastic experiences with their hosts and a running theme  was how welcome they felt. 

Meet Faija, Columbia Class of 2022

Faija, a current high school senior, would call herself “an original” Project Rousseau student and has maintained a close relationship with Andrew over the course of high school while developing new relationships with other staff members as the organization grew. Faija and her family immigrated from Bangladesh to the Bronx at the age of 9 and she joined Project Rousseau during middle school.

Recently, Faija was accepted to Columbia University where her sister is a student. Columbia has been Faija’s dream school for a long time, as she has grown up visiting the campus with  Project Rousseau, and then later exploring the neighborhood with her sister.

The application process was strenuous, but Faija takes pride in her determination and “was at the office every day working [to complete the application on time].” Faija describes the doubt she felt before opening the portal to view her acceptance. She says, “I knew the statistics of who gets in and I don’t have connections to Columbia,”.

 Faija in Boston with Project Rousseau in 2015 where she visited Harvard, Tufts and MIT. 

Faija in Boston with Project Rousseau in 2015 where she visited Harvard, Tufts and MIT. 

Faija opened her decision letter with her sister, Tahiya, on campus: “I had to decide if I was going to visit her at Columbia and cry about Columbia at Columbia or cry at home.”. When Tahiya relayed the good news to Faija, “[Faija] didn’t believe her.” “I was in tears because it has been my dream school since freshman year,” Faija says of the experience. She “was shaky in the moment,” and, “couldn’t believe that [she] could do something like this.” For Faija, she had made not only her dream come true, but her parents’ dream as well.

Looking back, Faija spoke of the SAT process as stressful, but is grateful for her opportunity to participate in Project Rousseau’s SAT Bootcamp in Denmark. With the help of the Project Rousseau team, Faija also set due dates for herself and as well as a timeline to finish her personal statement. Faija, unlike her friends, felt like she “had a schedule to stick to” which motivated her.

 Faija at the 2017 Copenhagen SAT Boot Camp with her Project Rousseau and Rysensteen Gymnasium peers. 

Faija at the 2017 Copenhagen SAT Boot Camp with her Project Rousseau and Rysensteen Gymnasium peers. 

Faija is appreciative of her Project Rousseau family and says, “Project Rousseau is always there for me, not only in terms of college or SATs, but they are always there to listen to me and guide me and tell me what to do. Project Rousseau is not only about academics but personal issues too.” She offers her advice to college applicants and is adamant that it is important to “start studying for the SAT early,” and to, “use your Project Rousseau resources if you are stuck!” Faija reflects on her application process as a test in discipline and perseverance, and is excited to be attending Columbia next fall!