#1: New York Leader Week
2017 brought our largest program expansion to date with the launch of the first annual New York Leader Week in July! This was an event many years in the making, and it never would have been possible without all of you and your generous, unwavering support.
Thanks to you, New York Leader Week allowed AHS to address the need for earlier, proactive intervention in Scholars' educational journeys, completing the program with four effective leader weeks and contributing to more successful outcomes for underserved students. A study by the Brookings Institute shows that only eight percent of high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds apply to colleges whose selectivity is commensurate with their abilities. A proper student-college match fosters retention, graduation, and a student’s capacity to make a positive impact as a leader in and beyond college. Without the support of AHS and you, many Scholars lack access to the resources that allow them to make informed decisions regarding college and their futures.
The previous timeline for the Hamilton Empowerment Program did not facilitate in-person contact between Scholars and AHS staff members until after high school when Scholars had already made their college decisions. New York Leader Week served as a point of early intervention, not only in the college application process, but also Scholars’ understanding of personal finance and the management of the $500 Hamilton Award. “Literally, I knew nothing about financial literacy,” said Dylan Morgan (2017). “NOTHING. This was so incredibly valuable.”
Scholars left New York with a deep understanding of the college and financial aid application process, personal finance, and their unique perspectives and personal histories, prompting and encouraging them to make deliberate and empowered decisions regarding college and their futures. They met with admissions reps from a wide-range of schools, received SAT/ACT test prep, toured Columbia University, and had one-on-one meetings to establish a solid college list.
“The experience I, along with my fellow Hammies, had during NYLW was legitimately life changing,” explains Mohaamed Issa. “There was a great balance between learning and preparing for college and visiting places that have shaped our heritage. I had so many questions and misconceptions about college that the sessions cleared up. This was the most I've learned about college in my entire high school career!” Richard Dao (2017) added, “I felt that the entire 2017 NYLW was an amazing experience that has definitely changed me for the better. I left with a greater understanding of those around me, the environment, the future, and things in regard to the college process.”
Using the great city of New York as a backdrop, heritage was a major focal point of the week, with excursions at Federal Hall, Trinity Church, the African Burial Ground, the 9/11 Memorial, One World Tower, the Grange, and the Apollo Theatre. Scholars saw the Statue of Liberty during a sunset boatride, and even had a private viewing of primary historical documents at the New-York Historical Society. Special thanks to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for making history come alive through the viewing of these materials, and to James Basker for his instrumental advice regarding the planning of the week. Ricardo Castro (2017) reflected on the week, stating, “It was fantastic to see the historical documents that were actually written back when our country was being founded. The only word to describe these experiences is AMAZING!!! The Grange and the Apollo are both sites where history has been made, and where many of the people that we value and learn from today have been. The campus tour of Columbia was remarkable!”
This incredible experience was capped off with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- attending the production of Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway! We cannot thank Dr. Alexandra Woods, a Hamilton descendant, enough for her insight and assistance in making this dream a reality. The musical has a special, unique resonance for Scholars and underscores the connection they all have to the story of Hamilton as a young, scrappy, and hungry youth who changed the world forever. Andria Polo (2017) summed it up best, stating, “I simply have no words to describe this experience; I think my tear-filled face best represented my opinions and emotions. I was not expecting the musical to be so significant in regards to expressing the freedoms I enjoy today in this country. No words can clearly express my gratitude for this opportunity.”
Thank you to each and every one for you for changing the lives of Scholars by making New York Leader Week possible and setting these students on a path to change the world as the next innovative leaders of the nation.