Our Students

We are extremely proud of all of our students. We'd like to share just a few of their inspirational stories with you. 

All names and photos of our students have been changed. 

David's eagerness and determination to learn were apparent from the day we met him; he wanted to participate in every academic program he could. Though he was significantly below grade level in most core academic competencies, his intelligence and ability to learn quickly shone through. Over his first summer with Project Rousseau, David was a mainstay at all of our academic programming, often putting in 12-hour days with our instructors, and becoming deeply involved in all of our programming. David stood out for his profound insights into the world around him. We will always remember the first time he told us about the five times he had contracted cholera and his bouts with malaria in his homeland, Ghana. First, he noted that in his village, where water is plentiful, cholera is also plentiful. However, in a relative’s village, water was extremely scarce, but so was cholera. From these two observations, David deduced that people must be warier of polluting resources when they are scarce. Second, as he had always overcome cholera and malaria with only natural remedies, David challenged the Western concepts of Research and Development, arguing that a return to nature rather than a pure focus in the laboratory was necessary for finding meaningful solutions to health problems. David’s SAT scores more than doubled in one year, and his grade point average increased by 20% during his time with Project Rousseau. He was the recipient of numerous accolades during his high school career, including being Project Rousseau’s first Gates Millennium Scholar and being his High School Valedictorian. David is now a pre-medical student at his university.

David's eagerness and determination to learn were apparent from the day we met him; he wanted to participate in every academic program he could. Though he was significantly below grade level in most core academic competencies, his intelligence and ability to learn quickly shone through. Over his first summer with Project Rousseau, David was a mainstay at all of our academic programming, often putting in 12-hour days with our instructors, and becoming deeply involved in all of our programming.

David stood out for his profound insights into the world around him. We will always remember the first time he told us about the five times he had contracted cholera and his bouts with malaria in his homeland, Ghana. First, he noted that in his village, where water is plentiful, cholera is also plentiful. However, in a relative’s village, water was extremely scarce, but so was cholera. From these two observations, David deduced that people must be warier of polluting resources when they are scarce. Second, as he had always overcome cholera and malaria with only natural remedies, David challenged the Western concepts of Research and Development, arguing that a return to nature rather than a pure focus in the laboratory was necessary for finding meaningful solutions to health problems.

David’s SAT scores more than doubled in one year, and his grade point average increased by 20% during his time with Project Rousseau. He was the recipient of numerous accolades during his high school career, including being Project Rousseau’s first Gates Millennium Scholar and being his High School Valedictorian. David is now a pre-medical student at his university.

Zahra grew up seeing the worst of gang violence on the South Side of Chicago. She made incredibly good decisions throughout her life and avoided participating. Unfortunately, Zahra learned in her teenage years that avoiding was not enough. She was non-fatally shot as an innocent bystander on one of the most violent streets in America with a horrifically ironic name: Martin Luther King Boulevard. Homelessness and frequently losing friends to gang violence were other challenges that Zahra regularly faced. Zahra quickly immersed herself in Project Rousseau and has made incredible strides in her life since. She has been blessed, as she says, with the best mentor ever. She is a tireless advocate for addressing the urgent matters of gun violence and gang activity in her community. She takes advantage of every opportunity given to her and, thanks to her incredible determination, is college bound.

Zahra grew up seeing the worst of gang violence on the South Side of Chicago. She made incredibly good decisions throughout her life and avoided participating. Unfortunately, Zahra learned in her teenage years that avoiding was not enough. She was non-fatally shot as an innocent bystander on one of the most violent streets in America with a horrifically ironic name: Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Homelessness and frequently losing friends to gang violence were other challenges that Zahra regularly faced. Zahra quickly immersed herself in Project Rousseau and has made incredible strides in her life since. She has been blessed, as she says, with the best mentor ever. She is a tireless advocate for addressing the urgent matters of gun violence and gang activity in her community. She takes advantage of every opportunity given to her and, thanks to her incredible determination, is college bound.

Homelessness, English Language Learner, Deportation, Rape, Violence, Living in public toilets, Bullying. All of these experiences defined much of Emily’s childhood. She is extremely talented, but understandably anger and uncertainty often got in Emily’s way as she planned her path towards success. Emily took full advantage of every opportunity she was offered. She worked with five tutors, each for two two-hour sessions per week, was an incredible dedicated community service participant, and took part in every single program we had. She even drove the creation of additional programs that satisfied her many curiosities. Emily persevered through numerous additional challenges throughout high school and is now a student at a Top-10 University.

Homelessness, English Language Learner, Deportation, Rape, Violence, Living in public toilets, Bullying. All of these experiences defined much of Emily’s childhood. She is extremely talented, but understandably anger and uncertainty often got in Emily’s way as she planned her path towards success. Emily took full advantage of every opportunity she was offered. She worked with five tutors, each for two two-hour sessions per week, was an incredible dedicated community service participant, and took part in every single program we had. She even drove the creation of additional programs that satisfied her many curiosities. Emily persevered through numerous additional challenges throughout high school and is now a student at a Top-10 University.

When it gets quiet enough, I can still hear Mom begging for her life.
— Mateo
"When it gets quiet enough, I can still hear Mom begging for her life.” The first line of Mateo’s college application personal statement is forever etched into our memory. At the age of seven, Mateo, standing petrified, watched his father bludgeon his mother to death. When we first met Mateo eight years later, we were initially told by his school that Mateo was “severely autistic” and “had relationship issues with his mother.” It is obvious that the public school system had failed to meet Mateo’s most basic needs or understand the problems that created them. Mateo used to have a number of which he would keep track. It started at 18 when we met him, and continued to grow steadily; Mateo was initially hesitant to open up. We later learned, through his mentor, that Mateo was counting the number of friends in his building whom he had watched die by gunshot.  When his mentor asked why he didn’t count friends who died without him witnessing the tragedy, the answer was: “that number would be way too big.” When Mateo started with us, it was immediately evident that our goals were fundamental literacy and computational fluency. Mateo worked incredibly hard to earn his high school diploma, requiring some of the most rigorous work we have ever seen a student commit to in order to succeed. Mateo sees his mentoring relationship as the key to his success, even more than the support from the academic pillar. Mateo says that “I needed a guy who cared about me and believed in me more than I needed tutoring.” The day Mateo earned a place in a local community college was one of the most joyful days we have ever experienced. Mateo now works at a retail store.

"When it gets quiet enough, I can still hear Mom begging for her life.” The first line of Mateo’s college application personal statement is forever etched into our memory. At the age of seven, Mateo, standing petrified, watched his father bludgeon his mother to death. When we first met Mateo eight years later, we were initially told by his school that Mateo was “severely autistic” and “had relationship issues with his mother.” It is obvious that the public school system had failed to meet Mateo’s most basic needs or understand the problems that created them.

Mateo used to have a number of which he would keep track. It started at 18 when we met him, and continued to grow steadily; Mateo was initially hesitant to open up. We later learned, through his mentor, that Mateo was counting the number of friends in his building whom he had watched die by gunshot.  When his mentor asked why he didn’t count friends who died without him witnessing the tragedy, the answer was: “that number would be way too big.”

When Mateo started with us, it was immediately evident that our goals were fundamental literacy and computational fluency. Mateo worked incredibly hard to earn his high school diploma, requiring some of the most rigorous work we have ever seen a student commit to in order to succeed.

Mateo sees his mentoring relationship as the key to his success, even more than the support from the academic pillar. Mateo says that “I needed a guy who cared about me and believed in me more than I needed tutoring.” The day Mateo earned a place in a local community college was one of the most joyful days we have ever experienced. Mateo now works at a retail store.

Pedro speaks very eloquently about the experience of homelessness. He often says that one of the best things that ever happened to him was getting a public library card. Though he did not have a physical home, he explains, he found metaphorical homes in the library books that he read. Though his level of literacy was not great, his desire to learn and his willingness to fully immerse himself in all of our programming was incredible. He quickly became a mainstay in all programs across the four pillars and took on a leadership role in many activities. Pedro admired his mentor, whose life experiences were somewhat similar to his own. He set his sights high: to attend his mentor's university. Thanks to his incredibly hard work, Pedro is now a student at his mentor's university, an Ivy League School.

Pedro speaks very eloquently about the experience of homelessness. He often says that one of the best things that ever happened to him was getting a public library card. Though he did not have a physical home, he explains, he found metaphorical homes in the library books that he read. Though his level of literacy was not great, his desire to learn and his willingness to fully immerse himself in all of our programming was incredible. He quickly became a mainstay in all programs across the four pillars and took on a leadership role in many activities.

Pedro admired his mentor, whose life experiences were somewhat similar to his own. He set his sights high: to attend his mentor's university. Thanks to his incredibly hard work, Pedro is now a student at his mentor's university, an Ivy League School.

Serenity once said that her life had “Four Bad H’s”: Heroin, Homeless, Hungry, and Hooker. Serenity came to Project Rousseau on her own volition: she wanted to improve her situation, but was not sure where to begin. We quickly mobilized a variety of resources in our network to solve the housing and food shortages, find substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation options, and provide the personal and academic support she needed to reach her full potential. Serenity always demonstrated a strong memory, particularly in light of her frequent abuse of various narcotics. Her academic path has been very challenging, but she always knew she had us to turn to for unconditional support. Our volunteers and instructors played a number of roles in her life, be it helping her find food on very short notice to providing tutoring to helping her complete college applications. After Serenity transferred to an alternative high school, she began to excel. She did extraordinary work and graduated with her high school diploma. She is now a student at a community college.

Serenity once said that her life had “Four Bad H’s”: Heroin, Homeless, Hungry, and Hooker. Serenity came to Project Rousseau on her own volition: she wanted to improve her situation, but was not sure where to begin. We quickly mobilized a variety of resources in our network to solve the housing and food shortages, find substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation options, and provide the personal and academic support she needed to reach her full potential.

Serenity always demonstrated a strong memory, particularly in light of her frequent abuse of various narcotics. Her academic path has been very challenging, but she always knew she had us to turn to for unconditional support. Our volunteers and instructors played a number of roles in her life, be it helping her find food on very short notice to providing tutoring to helping her complete college applications. After Serenity transferred to an alternative high school, she began to excel. She did extraordinary work and graduated with her high school diploma. She is now a student at a community college.

Martina’s violent experiences and her sister’s illness created a clear mission for her: to become a medical doctor and return to her native country to build a clinic.
— Martina
Though Jameson did not care much for school, he loved two things about it: safety and guaranteed lunch. Though the latter perception has never been challenged, being stabbed through the back at school by a peer most certainly destroyed the former. Jameson says that his extraordinary relationship with his mentor, his friends, and his friends’ mentors were as central to his recovery as was the heroic work of the EMTs who picked him up and the Emergency Room healthcare professionals who cared for him. The road to physical recovery was long, but the road to academic and emotional recovery has been much longer. Jameson and his mentor became inseparable, and his mentor encouraged him to take advantage of every tutoring session he could possibly get. He attended every SAT Prep session he could and got extra tutoring in multiple subjects. Through his sheer determination, Jameson is now in his second year of college. He still receives regular tutoring across his subjects from Project Rousseau. He aspires to be an EMT or a nurse to one day return the favor that EMTs and nurses paid him on his fateful day.

Though Jameson did not care much for school, he loved two things about it: safety and guaranteed lunch. Though the latter perception has never been challenged, being stabbed through the back at school by a peer most certainly destroyed the former. Jameson says that his extraordinary relationship with his mentor, his friends, and his friends’ mentors were as central to his recovery as was the heroic work of the EMTs who picked him up and the Emergency Room healthcare professionals who cared for him. The road to physical recovery was long, but the road to academic and emotional recovery has been much longer. Jameson and his mentor became inseparable, and his mentor encouraged him to take advantage of every tutoring session he could possibly get. He attended every SAT Prep session he could and got extra tutoring in multiple subjects.

Through his sheer determination, Jameson is now in his second year of college. He still receives regular tutoring across his subjects from Project Rousseau. He aspires to be an EMT or a nurse to one day return the favor that EMTs and nurses paid him on his fateful day.

Martina joined Project Rousseau late into her high school career; she has been the victim of numerous very tragic circumstances. We helped Martina access a variety of resources to improve her situation including social services and immigration support. She came to America in search of a life-saving treatment for her younger sister, who was suffering from a severe illness. Martina’s violent experiences and her sister’s illness created a clear mission for her: to become a medical doctor and return to her native country to build a clinic. She also was acutely aware of the cultural component of health care, and wanted to educate herself on this element of delivering health care as well. Martina quickly became one of our strongest leaders. She led by example in every single program and had an unwavering intellectual curiosity. She used every single resource at her disposal through Project Rousseau. Martina is now a student at a Top-25 college.  

Martina joined Project Rousseau late into her high school career; she has been the victim of numerous very tragic circumstances. We helped Martina access a variety of resources to improve her situation including social services and immigration support. She came to America in search of a life-saving treatment for her younger sister, who was suffering from a severe illness. Martina’s violent experiences and her sister’s illness created a clear mission for her: to become a medical doctor and return to her native country to build a clinic. She also was acutely aware of the cultural component of health care, and wanted to educate herself on this element of delivering health care as well.

Martina quickly became one of our strongest leaders. She led by example in every single program and had an unwavering intellectual curiosity. She used every single resource at her disposal through Project Rousseau. Martina is now a student at a Top-25 college.