Ivy League schools are known worldwide for their prestige, academic rigor and exclusive admissions. The Ivy League Connection funds trips to Ivy League summer enrichment programs to create that college-going academic culture in Richmond.
Last Thursday, the ILC hosted a private dinner with Elizabeth Hart, the director of minority outreach at Brown University.
“If we’re going to be a democracy we really need to give a voice to all segments of our society,” Hart said. “I really think education is the path for all communities to have a voice.”
The ILC was founded in 2006 by Board of Education members Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg. The idea was to promote a “college-going culture” among students in the district. The innovative approach allows teacher and counselors to recommend students for the highly selective program. Then the student interviews for a spot.
“This program started with six kids, now we have hundreds,” Board of Education President Charles Ramsey said.
Students who are accepted into the ILC have their grades monitored, attend mandatory group meetings and have exclusive access to university admission staff like Hart.
“It’s really beneficial for Richmond High kids to have the opportunity to be in a program like this because of the reputation of our school,” Richmond High sophomore Brittany Ferguson said.
This year, 35 students from the ILC spent the summer studying at Ivy League institutions. Each student is still responsible for applying to the summer course and must be independently accepted by the university. The six that went to Columbia took a course on constitutional law or presidential power but each school offers different courses.
ILC spends an average of $9,000 per student on course fees, flights, food and lodging. The student only needs money for extra spending cash.
“Ninety percent is privately financed from labor unions, contractors, engineering firms, architects and private donations,” ILC administrator Don Gosney said. “The other 10 percent is paid for by the district, but only covers sending district employees as chaperones.”
Attending summer sessions gives students an extra experience to put in their college application. Meeting professors and getting a feel for a campus helps students understand if a school is really right for them.
All of the students in ILC are smart but before joining the ILC many of them had never considered applying to schools outside of the University of California system.
“They [ILC administrators] know how the applications work and have a lot of resources to help students,” said Richmond High sophomore Marco Hernandez.
They also help parents understand Ivy League opportunities.
Before Irene Rojas-Carroll graduated from El Cerrito High and was accepted to Brown, her mother, Leah Carroll, found support in the ILC.
“They hired this private counselor, she usually works with rich kids but they got her to come in and talk to all the Ivy League Connection,” Leah Carroll said. “She had this binder that was laid out in a color coded, rational, chronological order, with a little touch of humor. She just really de-stressed the process.”
Each year the program gains momentum and more students are nominated.
“The idea is not to send 30 kids a year to summer programs,” Board of Education clerk Madeline Kronenberg said. “It’s to create a college-going culture.”