ESI and Gents in Philly

On April 24-26, 2014, forty-seven New Design High School students from the ESI and Gents programs traveled to the City of Brotherly Love, chaperoned by three alumni mentors and four NDHS staff. This marked the second annual out-of-state experiential learning opportunity with the goal to expose our Black and Latino males to college culture and options, fellowship with peers, and to broaden their horizons beyond their neighborhoods and city.

Despite the fact that we were in town the same three days as the heavily attended Penn Relays, we were lucky to experience very few traffic jams. However, it was incredibly difficult to get visits on campuses during this time of year, which actually ended up working in our favor- we were able to use resources and connections to gain entry to three universities that all tailored visits for our group. We started off at the nation’s first established HBCU, Lincoln University. There we learned about the Amish connection to the Underground Railroad and Lincoln U, and the curious aroma signifying the flourishing mushroom business. We got to conduct a Q&A with three Lincoln students as well as admissions staff, which included our quick-moving, but oh-so-thorough tour guide and historian of all things Lincoln. The amount of information he gave us was fascinating, and it’s safe to say that our students truly enjoyed it.

Following that we went to the beautiful campus of Franklin & Marshall, established in 1787. Students led us on a tour of the grounds, took us into a dorm room, and rewarded the students who asked the best questions with keepsakes from the university. A student’s life seems to be extremely well-balanced and filled with perks at this historic university.

We rounded off our trip at the University of Pennsylvania where we had an extremely meaningful chat over cheesesteaks with staff and grad students who spoke to us about being minorities in an Ivy League, their personal stories about education and family, and the biggest challenges and greatest successes thus far. Our Gentlemen were incredibly inspired by the words of these men and left with a much clearer understanding of what it takes to compete academically and professionally while fully representing yourself.

In between college visits the young men played several rounds of paintball in the woods, almost cleared Dave & Busters of tickets, were mesmerized by the knife skills at Benihana, and enjoyed down time with each other at the hotel and on the bus. Following the trip I sent out a survey to find out the boys perceptions and takeaways.

98% of the students said the trip met or exceeded their expectations

98% of the students said they are eagerly awaiting another trip like this to a different location 

94% of the students said that following the trip they feel significantly more informed about their college options

97% of the students said that following the trip they are better able to envision themselves in college

The top three take-aways that students left the trip with were 1. to give more thought to high school and college requirements, 2. to experience people and places outside of NYC more often, and 3. to continue to become more knowledgeable about college options. So all in all, the trip was a tremendous success!