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! 

Community Service Super Sunday

Many of our students are regular volunteers at Amsterdam Nursing Home every Sunday, however, this does not generate quite as much excitement as our favourite day of the year, Pie Day. Thus with Pie Day still seven months away we decided it was time for another large-scale community service project. Our Community Service Super Sunday featured not one, but three community service opportunities for our students with many students participating in multiple events throughout the day.

The day kicked off preparing brunch at Grand Central Neighborhood Shelter. Preparing brunch has long been a favorite event in the Project Rousseau calendar and many students were delighted to return to the kitchen. Over the course of the morning everyone worked together to make a delicious brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey sausages and waffles. 

While volunteering the students also take the time to talk to the clients of the shelter and through these conversations they learn about the many problems facing the homeless in NYC. Many were particularly interested to learn that those they were serving also shared their academic interests and aspirations, including one resident who was returning to her degree at Columbia University! 

While some students prepared brunch others carried out our regular community service offering at Amsterdam Nursing Home. Eager not to let the residents, many of whom have become good friends, down they provided our usual Sunday morning entertainment of board games and conversation. 

Our two groups then converged at Project Rousseau's office to participate in a partnership with the "Little French Books" project, with one twist, our books would be written in English! The aim of this project is for the students to write their own picture books to send to children in need in developing countries, in this case to our good friends at AMAF School just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Throughout the afternoon our students worked in small groups to develop culturally appropriate storylines for their books, ideas ranged from alternative uses for yams to the animals of the savannah working together to solve a problem! 

Community Service Super Sunday certainly reinforced to our students that there are many ways in which they can work together to improve the lives of others both in their local communities and further afield! In total, 164 hours of Community Service was completed in one day alone and we look forward to expanding our range of community service offerings in the future to continue to enrich the lives of others whilst developing key skills and learning about ourselves. 

Copenhagen 2017

“Copenhagen feels like a second home and everyone is so welcoming”

Indeed, this is a sentiment shared by many Project Rousseau students who have been fortunate enough to be treated to the warm welcome of our longest standing partner school, Rysensteen Gymnasium in Copenhagen. This year, our fourth visit, was no different and the group had a wonderful stay in Copenhagen learning a great deal about Danish society and history whilst making a number of new friends in the process.

Arriving over the weekend meant the students had the opportunity to explore the city and to get to know their hosts. Jet lag soon went out of the window and, despite this being the first trip outside of the U.S.A. for the majority of the group, the Project Rousseau students soon acclimatized to their new surroundings.

Monday soon rolled around and both Rysensteen and Project Rousseau students were back in class. For the Project Rousseau students the concept of calling teachers by their first name, using laptops in class and being allowed to work freely in groups was extremely novel and exciting. That said, all still worked extremely hard in class and contributed to the lively classroom discussions. Thanks to Rysensteen’s special Global Citizenship Program the topics covered in class were also particularly relevant to the visit of the U.S. students, ranging from the Harlem Renaissance to using social media in a global context. The Rysensteen students also complemented their U.S. History studies by asking Project Rousseau students which historical events they felt were the most influential in shaping the country; the answers offered were very different to those of the Danish students textbooks!

Outside of class the students continued to learn a great deal. This included visiting the Cathedral and Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde to appreciate the history of Denmark. We also spent a day at Louisiana including a fantastic tour of William Kentridge’s new exhibition their focusing on humanity and perceptions of time. Throughout the tour the students offered insightful comments on what they were seeing which was heavily based on apartheid in South Africa.

In Copenhagen we focused on the local history in the Middle Ages and this was a somewhat stark contrast to what the students experienced during our short trip to Berlin whilst in Europe. Here, our students gained a rapid but in-depth glimpse into life both during World War II and in the years that followed as Berlin became a divided city. In just three days the students visited over eight museums and monuments piecing together the recent history of the city with great maturity.

Upon our return to Copenhagen we managed to gain a theoretical understanding of our insights into Danish culture by attending Morten Warmind’s class “Aspects and Contexts of Danish Society” at the University of Copenhagen. Undeterred by being the youngest in the class Project Rousseau students contributed greatly to the class sharing their experiences from their host families. Of particular note in the class was the importance of evening meals to Danish families and our students all commented how they too had experienced this. Indeed, many of our students noted how much they enjoyed these meals and how much they had learned from their host parents over dinner.


When asked on the last day for feedback on the trip a common theme was “Can we spend more time with each other without scheduled activities please?!”. From family meals together to many evenings spent playing board games at the Absalon community center our students, clearly, all of the students had a wonderful time with their hosts and their families. And, once again we are extremely grateful to the Rysensteen students, their families and their teachers for welcoming us with such warmth and hospitality.

Montreal in March

We took our third trip this academic year to Montreal in late March. For many students this was their first time visiting a college campus and thanks to the generosity, once again, of McGill University they certainly gained an in-depth insight in to student life. We believe that experiences such as eating in a campus dining hall and sitting in on a freshmen class not only inspire students to work harder to get to college but allow them to feel more confident when they do get to college. Through visiting McGill University our students are also exposed to new programs that they may not have previously considered, particularly after visiting the beautiful Macdonald Campus outside of town. 

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Our latest trip to Montreal also allowed us to expand our Broadening Horizons programming. We , firstly, visited the Pointe-à-Callière museum to learn more about the history of Montreal. This certainly meant that afterwards, as we explored Old Montreal (despite the bitterly cold weather), our students had a much greater understanding of the French and British influences they saw around the city. Another clear highlight of the trip was our visit to the Marc Chagall exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Through this visit we not only acquired a greater appreciation of his art but also about how the changing world around him influenced him, and importantly, how his creativity expanded to music, poetry and costume design not just fine art. 

Once again, Project Rousseau students left Montreal with a strong desire to return. The warm welcome we receive each time certainly shows them that this is an internationally-minded and cosmopolitan city that they would thrive in whilst at college. 

Houston visits Chicago!

“The driven minds of the people that I met in Chicago or in Houston, and who are a part of Project Rousseau, have encouraged me to work harder, to be the best I can be, academically, and as a person.”

On the 4th-7th of March 2017 Project Rousseau sent three students from our Houston Chapter to Chicago for four interesting days, packed with activities. The trip was a part of our Broadening Horizons pillar, aiming to open their eyes further by exposing them to environments and opportunities outside of their everyday life.

Throughout their days in Chicago, the students got to visit academic, cultural and entertaining sights and places. Our students got explore the life of a UChicago student, both through a tour of the campus and participation in classes on campus. With an inside experience of the school, our students became not only more informed about their opportunities and ways to achieve these, but also broadened the range of universities our students considered and help them to feel more secure about taking possibilities - also outside their home state, Texas:

“I was considering universities close to home because I was nervous, and didn't really think big or outside of the box. Now, I can say that there is a possibility of me choosing the University of Chicago.”

A big part of the program is also the cultural and personal development outside of the classroom. Luckily, Chicago has many cultural experiences we could take advantage of. The Smart Museum of Art at University of Chicago was a great opportunity for our students to also see other sides of education than the classic academical ways. Other cultural experiences to add to the students experience in Chicago is the Mandel Hall symphony and amusement such as the Art Institute, a visit to the Navy Pier, and a visit to the Skydeck in Willis Tower.

With a trip like this, the students got to not only experience and explore a city different from their hometown, but also open their eyes to a world that in generally bigger than what they’d imagined before this trip.

One of the students described the trip as:

“opening my eyes and made me realize the world is a big place, and if I ever get the chance I'd like to travel to more places. Being in PR has made a huge impact on my life I would've never traveled outside of Texas if I hadn't been in this project.”