Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies is Project Rousseau's newest elective course, bringing together students from across all grades and partner schools. The course provides students with an opportunity to learn about and discuss a range of cultural topics, alongside an introduction to French and German. Through a combination of linguistic and cultural topics in each lesson, students begin to develop a sense of how and why cultural and linguistic understanding are intertwined, and in turn experience what a language and cultures class in college might be like.


Cultural Studies is like a really innovative way to learn without the feeling of just drilling information in your head. It’s also easy to remember the greetings, and conversation starters because, nothing is in English so you become very accustomed to reading in French and German without hassle. It’s not only languages but we enhance our prespective on the world around us by learning stereotypes and the effects it has on mind and how we percieve certain groups of people.
— Queentera, an A Phillip Randolph 10th Grade Student

So far we have covered topics as diverse as nationalism, the United Nations, and European art at the turn of the 20th Century, each combined with visits to cultural landmarks in New York. Thus a second aim of the course is to open students' minds to the linguistic and cultural opportunities available to them on their doorstep.


I have really enjoyed the cultural studies elective ! It allows for us to discuss cultural topics such as language, stereotypes, and global trends with a class size that allows for everyone to contribute. It also gives us the opportunity to visit interesting places relating to the course.
— Virginia, a Global Learning Collaborative 10th Grade Student

On our most recent trip, our students visited the Neue Galerie to see Gustav Klimt's Woman in Gold. Along the way they learned about using color theory to convey tone and the history behind the paintings. This is one way we connect what the students are learning inside the classroom to the real world. 

Meet Kadijat, a Project Rousseau student who interned in Jordan

Project Rousseau gives our students opportunities to travel internationally. Our students have been on educational trips and exchanges to destinations such as England, Germany and Japan. Our former student Kadijat, our latest who now attends the University of Pennsylvania, went on our London exchange and interned at a school in Jordan this summer through Project Rousseau.

Kadijat told us that the best part about London was that by staying with a host family, "we felt like we were older, and gained more independence, especially in a foreign country. I think that was really important, it asserted that you can survive on your own, you can do adult things... it was helpful for when I travelled abroad last summer, as it took away some of the fear about living with strangers."

"In the summer, I went to Jordan to teach middle schoolers... it was awesome! For three weeks I taught them back to back, and I was also their counselor kind of, because we had duties outside of the classroom- for example we did room checks. Because we were older, we were accountable and responsible for the students."

"Staying in Jordan was great. I knew no one there when I went, but it was great, I loved the people I was working with, and the kids were wonderful… the food was amazing, can’t forget the food!"

More broadly, Kadijat cited our SAT Prep classes and community service program as key to her success, and told us that "In terms of applying to college, the thing is a lot of people outside of Project Rousseau were telling me that I don’t think this is realistic, this will not happen, you can’t do this and that, and Project Rousseau told me that you can do it, if you work hard enough, you can do it, versus other people telling me no. It helped re-affirm that I did really want to apply to these schools, and that I wouldn’t let other people’s opinions deter me from going big, like go hard or go home. I won’t settle for something else."

 

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Danish Students Visit

Last Sunday's community service was filled to the brim because we had the pleasure of introducing the Danish students from Rysensteen Gymnasium to our weekly visit at the Amsterdam Nursing Home. They came with great interest and spend the afternoon with our students and the residents learning a great deal. It was filled with laughter and all parties were very engaged in participating in the games and fun. The visit was followed by an American inspired lunch at Tom's Diner, and thereafter a tour of Harlem planned by Yaya, with personal stories from Rony and Yaya about growing up in Harlem.

Yaya's tour of Harlem

Yaya's tour of Harlem

On Tuesday both Danish and Project Rousseau students met up at the Global Learning Collaborative to discuss cultural differences. Not only did it help the Danish students with their Global Citizenship project, but it broadened their horizons about growing up in New York and the United States. Our students loved hanging out with them, and will look forward to their next visit!

Trip to Williams College

On September 14th, four of our students went to visit Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. They left New York City early in the morning to arrive at the college later that day where they met by enthusiastic students, delighted to share their college experiences. Project Rousseau student Mangbe said about her host, "Sophie was amazing. Absolutely nice and genuinely wanted me to enjoy my stay, loved her school and promised to stay in contact with me after the overnight trip." They also got the opportunity to sit in on lectures and seminars. Mangbe's favorite class was the 'Black Literature Matters'-class because it "spoke a lot about Truth and Identity, how black people should be viewed in the media and does anyone with that platform have to make it political statements for us black people as a whole." The students appreciated that the small seminars meant they got to participate in discussions, despite not being college students. Rony said, "I enjoyed the amount of attention I got from both the professors and students when visiting classes. The instructors gave me the same amount respect, attention, and help. I felt very comfortable even though there was a significant gap in education. They always made sure that everyone was on the same page and engaged."

The students also got a taste of the exciting events and lectures that happen outside of class at college. Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy, spoke at the college about his life and career as a public interest lawyer. Kevin stated, "I really enjoyed Bryan Stevenson's talk about mass incarceration in the United States and his struggles with being a black lawyer in the south. It was great to see everyone bond together at this event and see such a powerful person and speaker." 

In all, the trip was a great experience for our seniors who are working on their college applications and provided them with a great insight into college life! 

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Meet our new Fall staff

This fall Project Rousseau is joined by 4 volunteer consultants and 1 gap year fellow.

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Johanna, Project Rousseau's Gap Year Fellow learned about Project Rousseau through the Global Citizenship Programme at her school, Rysensteen Gymnasium, one of Project Rousseau's partner schools in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before starting with Project Rousseau, she participated in various volunteering projects, such as helping refugees with school work and biking with elders. She has been an active member of various clubs in her school, attending Model United Nation conferences and traveling on various exchanges to different parts of the world. These experiences have all developed her belief that knowledge, education, and tolerance are the keys to a safer and better world, something she is excited to promote through Project Rousseau during her gap year.

Johanna wishes to travel around the world and volunteer in less developed countries to improve educational standards. She hopes to pursue a degree in Geography or Architecture, both with a focus on global warming, sustainable solutions, and an international cooperation.

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Having found that working with young people in new cultural contexts brought out the best in him, Alistair pursued a number of roles in education, both in and outside his native U.K.. As a language assistant and then business English teacher and camp counsellor in Austria he began to develop an individualised approach to help each student exceed their own expectations, which he tried to continue as a primary class teacher in North London after graduating from university. He hopes to bring the value of these experiences, and an interest in and commitment to Project Rousseau's ethos, to the charity and its students. Alistair has a BA from Oxford University in History and Modern Languages, and a PGCE in Primary Education from University College London. He is an enthusiastic runner and squash player, and captained his college hockey team.

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Susanna was most drawn to Project Rousseau's philosophy that academic problems rarely have academic causes. She just finished her Masters in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge, where she was interested in gender gaps in attainment, and undertook research on how students think and feel about their academic abilities. She was previously involved in the access efforts of her undergraduate college in Oxford, and is now excited to work more closely with students at Project Rousseau, to help them achieve their ambitions for the future.

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Ever since starting university Grace has been engaged with social mobility and education ventures, both at home in the UK and across India, Burma and Nepal. Having graduated in the summer of 2016, after studying History at Oxford, Grace has continued to work on education projects, as well as working with startups and galleries in London. She stumbled across Project Rousseau while researching renowned education charities and looks forward to being able to work on a more focussed and long term project.

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Rosalie is passionate about access to university, and is keen to go into either charity work or teaching. She was immediately struck by Project Rousseau’s mission and the effectiveness of the charity, and hopes to build on her background in access work, charity volunteering and marketing. Rosalie has graduated from Oxford with a BA in English Literature, and spent her time at Oxford working for the charity Just Like Us, being an access ambassador for the English department and as part of the university’s LGBT+ and Women’s Societies.

Meet Eliana, a Project Rousseau student at Georgetown

Eliana (pictured right) is a junior at Georgetown university, majoring in anthropology. We spoke to her for our new #humansofprojectrousseau initative about her experience going to university, and the continued support Project Rousseau has given her at Georgetown.

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“The good thing about Project Rousseau is that the helps extends past High School. I can feel alone at Georgetown or that I don’t belong in my classes, but having Project Rousseau’s support has been a great help. When I started college I had a really hard time with my chemistry classes, because I didn’t have the right foundation. We only covered one chapter of the textbook in school… you can feel behind, like you’re not smart enough to be at college. But Project Rousseau offered me tutoring, helped me keep my schedule organised, and helped cover the costs of my books.”

“My experience of Project Rousseau is like when you go to the gym, and you have a personal trainer to push you and keep you on track, but on an academic level. Our Broadening Horizons programme (Project Rousseau’s program that takes its students to events ranging from international exchanges to visiting local museums) really helped me when I was at college. With Project Rousseau I went to the Philharmonic for the first time, and to a museum, and other places like that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. So at college when people talk about visiting the opera, museums and other countries, I didn’t have a huge culture shock because I had experienced those things.”

“I also like giving back through Project Rousseau. It’s a give and take kind of relationship, we get help but we also give help that others need too. Our community service (Project Rousseau’s students are involved in a great deal of community service, such as weekly volunteering at the Amsterdam Avenue Nursing Home) is kind of a form of showing your gratitude for the things Project Rousseau are giving you. They also got me involved with teach it back, when Project Rousseau students tutor others for the SATs. I’ll definitely keep up with Project Rousseau when I’m older.”

International SAT Boot Camp

This summer, Project Rousseau returned to Geneva and Copenhagen for a two rigorous two-week SAT Boot Camp held at our partner school, the Institut Florimont and Rysensteen Gymnasium. As soon as all students arrived, we went straight to work, coursing through math, reading, and grammar exercises, both as a class and through individually tailored one-on- one tutoring. Our students also learned about the various components of the college application process, including the foundations of a successful personal essay, the basics of financial aid, and the best approaches to the college interview.

Of course, the Boot Camp was not just an opportunity to prepare for the SAT and college applications, but also for our students to broaden their horizons – meet new people and see more of what the world has to offer. Our class included students from the United States, the U.K, Denmark and Switzerland, some of whom were meeting each other for the first time. Because of this diversity of backgrounds and experiences, our students learned a lot from each other and built lasting friendships.

The Boot Camp also included several excursions to some of the major global institutions and attractions based in Geneva and Copenhagen.

At the Palais des Nations, our students learned about the history and the function of the United Nations through a guided tour. Some students even got to spectate at an international moot court competition taking place in Geneva, which was particularly exciting for those interested in the legal profession. Our students also had the opportunity to tour the Red Cross and visit CERN, which was a favorite among them. They learned about the history of CERN and the storied accomplishments and discoveries made at the organization’s facilities over the past several decades. The students were taken aback by the sheer size of the Large Hadron Collider, buried underground with a 27-kilometer circumference. For one student, who reported that she had long forgotten her interest in physics, this experience was certainly a welcome reminder.

Meanwhile in Copenhagen, when not in class, the group had the opportunity to experience the city by taking a canal tour, exploring the David Collection, walking around famous Nyhavn, visiting the modern art museum Louisiana, and riding the Demon at the amusement park Tívoli. The students also enjoyed several great conversations about the differences between Denmark and the US. Discussions included taxes, welfare, immigration, voice levels, the Law of Jante, and hygge. 

By the end of the Boot Camp, our students walked away with not only significant increases in their SAT scores, but cherished memories and experiences that they will surely value for years to come. And for that we owe our thanks to the host families who welcomed our students into their homes, as well as the staff at the Institut Florimont and Rysensteen, who could not have been more gracious and accommodating.

Meet Project Rousseau’s Summer 2017 Intern Team!

At Project Rousseau, we rely upon the efforts of bright and energetic young volunteers who believe in our mission. Here are the fresh faces around the office this summer:

Stella

Stella has just finished her second year studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University. Outside of her academic work, she has been involved with college sport and music, and represented the undergraduate student body to the college as JCR President. She hopes that by working at Project Rousseau this summer she will be able to help provide high school students in New York and elsewhere similar opportunities.

Stella has just finished her second year studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University. Outside of her academic work, she has been involved with college sport and music, and represented the undergraduate student body to the college as JCR President. She hopes that by working at Project Rousseau this summer she will be able to help provide high school students in New York and elsewhere similar opportunities.

 

Kirsty

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Kirsty is an undergraduate studying French and Italian at the University of Oxford. She comes from a working-class community in London, and having experienced both obstacles and opportunity, is very interested in social mobility and equality of opportunity in education. She loves to get involved with outreach work at university and has previously worked with disadvantaged young people, doing everything from taking children with challenging home lives on holiday, to tutoring young people with little confidence in their academic abilities. Her personal interests include reading, going to museums, and salsa dancing.

She hopes to contribute to Project Rousseau’s work transforming outcomes for young people, and is keen to apply her skills in a new context.

 

Zach

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Zach grew up the youngest of six in Kansas City, Missouri, attending a local Jesuit high school. His first experience with education work was volunteering with a local charity tutoring students over the summer. In Zach’s senior year, he had the opportunity to spend three weeks teaching ESL to recently arrived refugees. In college, he has worked with Jacari, which offers weekly tutoring sessions to the children of refugees.

Zach studies History at Oxford University and he is writing his thesis on the response of the Kansas City black community to the forty-year attempt to desegregate the local school district. Project Rousseau’s mission is an opportunity for Zach to continue with some of the things he has done in the past as well as introduce a more practical angle to his academic interests in the study of education.

 

Aihem

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Aihem is a third-year student majoring in Medicine at Oxford University. He is a Moritz-Heyman scholar.

Aihem’s interest in promoting access to education has led him to work in a variety of pedagogical settings. Previously, he was a group leader for the charity Free to Be Kids, providing a support network and second family for children from underprivileged parts of London. He also launched an Oxford-based society to assist in the charity’s recruitment and event coordination. Aihem also has tutoring experience; as a tutor for Schools Plus, he helped the young and underprivileged with academics and university applications. He looks forward to a productive summer helping change lives at Project Rousseau.

 

Jailyne

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Jailyne is a student at Baruch College planning to major in Business. She is a Project Rousseau alumna (welcome back!) and, having reaped the benefits herself, is now keen to give back in an administrative capacity. Previously, she has worked with Project Rousseau coordinating broadening horizons opportunities and planning college visits to McGill University in Montreal. This summer, her role will be focused on social media and marketing.

 

Ben

Ben is currently in his final year studying history at Oxford University. He comes to Project Rousseau with an interest in improving access to education as demonstrated in his work as an access ambassador at Oxford. He has also established scholarships for refugees and internally displaced people as a member of the outreach committee of the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign. Outside of college, Benedict has volunteered with IntoUniversity since 2015, providing disadvantaged young people with academic support. He has even taught English in Hebron, Palestine. Benedict looks forward to continuing to help those in need reach the education they deserve.

 

Honor

Honor has just finished her penultimate year at Oxford University reading Theology and Religion. Her own experience working with disadvantaged children (teaching English to mixed age and ability groups of over 30 children at a time) emphasised for her the importance of both personal connection and holistic approaches in creating effective long-term help. This resonates with Project Rousseau’s mentoring and broadening horizons model and struck Honor as indicative of the innovative mentality of the project. Drawn also by Project Rousseau’s vision of empowerment and emphasis on making its students the key agents of change Honor is looking forward to making a worthwhile contribution to education and society whilst also assisting in the deep research and analysis that being on the forefront of educational reform requires.

 

James

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James has just finished his first year at Oxford University, studying History. His experience both as a student and as a tutor gave him unique insight into the inequalities and inadequacies of both the British and U.S. educational system, and motivated him to join Project Rousseau. This summer, he looks forward to tackling the institutional causes behind academic problems, and helping disadvantaged young people succeed.

 

Renee

Renee is a Moritz-Heyman scholar at Oxford University, studying History.

Last summer, she interned at the office of the RT. Hon David Lammy, MP of Tottenham. In addition to researching and drafting policy recommendations, she also had the opportunity to confer with youth workers in the Ministry of Justice. Within Oxford, Renee is an ambassador of Oxford Women in Business, and also works to increase educational access in the African/Caribbean community through the Annual Access Conference. These experiences have fueled a passion for social impact work, which she hopes to continue this summer at Project Rousseau.

 

Simon

Simon is a rising sophomore at Columbia University, planning to study Economics and Political Science.

Previously, he interned for the New York Legal Assistance Group, a nonprofit providing civil legal services to low-income people in the city. His exposure to the stories of immigrant families, LGBT teens, and other vulnerable populations gave him an appreciation for the importance of educational access. At Columbia, Simon is involved in the Lion Credit Union, an initiative to start a student-run credit union, and the Alexander Hamilton Society, which holds discussions of foreign policy.

 

Gaby

Gaby graduated this year from Wesleyan University with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Education.

A native Filipina, Gaby has had extensive teaching experience in a wide range of settings. From underprivileged elementary and middle schoolers in the Philippines to teaching East Asian studies in Connecticut, teaching has always been one of Gaby’s passions. An avid psychology student, she has also spent the last three years working in the Wesleyan University Cognitive Development Lab, as well as the University of College London Affective Brain Lab.

This summer, Gaby is excited to join Project Rousseau as a teaching intern and hopes to continue affecting positive change in the classroom and community!

Jessica

Jessica is a rising junior at Brown University studying Development Studies and Middle East Studies. Throughout high school, Jessica cultivated her interest in improving education by volunteering for the Go Project, a nonprofit that helps elementary school students at risk of getting left behind. In college, she continued her efforts by coordinating an SAT Prep program at Brown. In her free time, Jessica is a yoga instructor with a keen interest in social justice and journalism.

This summer at Project Rousseau, Jessica hopes to continue connecting with students and help them achieve their goals.

Sylvie

Sylvie is a rising senior at Avenues in Chelsea. She enjoys reading, writing, drawing, painting, taking photos, playing volleyball, and playing guitar. In school, she is the head of Feminism Club, a participant in Social Justice Club, and a Co-captain of the Varsity Volleyball team.

Outside of school, she loves spending time with her brothers and friends, as well as watching documentaries, TED talks, and reading about current events.

Leila

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Leila is going into my final year of university at the London School of Economics, where she studies law. Leila studied in Switzerland before moving to London and is really interested in family and criminal law.

Outside of her academics, Leila loves music and tennis, and is a singer herself!

Zephyr

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Zephyr is in lower 6th form at City of London School (equivalent to a junior at a US high school). He is currently studyingA levels in Maths, Economics, and Geography, and is considering applying to US and Canadian universities. 

Previously, Zephyr volunteered at an Oxfam charity bookshop. He also mentored a younger boy at his school. He comes to Project Rousseau hoping to gain exposure to and help disadvantaged students who haven’t been afforded the same opportunities that he has been fortunate enough to receive.

Sidley Austin Visit in Chicago

After the success of last year's visit to Sidley Austin's Chicago Headquarters, this year's visit was highly anticipated by our students in Chicago.

The morning began with a tour of the building. The students were somewhat surprised to see that the office was equipped with such an array of facilities, including a practice trial room and a fitness suite. For the majority of the students this was their first experience in a corporate environment and they were clearly impressed by what they found inside the tall skyscrapers they sometimes walk past in Downtown Chicago! 

After lunch the students heard from a variety of Sidley Austin employees. First, they heard from a litigator and a transactional lawyer about their roles within the firm. While on the surface the focus of the trip was the legal profession this visit also provided a fantastic overview of working in the city. The next presentation featured a panel of four "non-lawyers" working at the firm: an accountant, a tech supervisor, a marketing director and a paralegal. This not only introduced the students to new professions but also highlighted the fact that such a broad range of skills and specialities is required to make a large corporation function. 

Throughout the day the students asked a host of questions with Sidley Austin employees commenting on the quality and range of questions. One of our favourite questions was:

"I like spending time with my family, how do you balance work time and family time?"

We would like to thank Sidley Austin for once again welcoming our students to their office for such an informative and enjoyable experience!