“I got in! I am a LEDA scholar!” Though I didn’t know what these words truly meant at the time, I can surely say that after the LEDA Summer Institute, I am eternally grateful to be a Cohort 14 Scholar.
Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) is a nonprofit organization aimed to provide disadvantaged low-income, first-generation students with the proper guidance throughout the college process. With the grace of private donors and Princeton University, one hundred scholars from across the nation are chosen for an all expense paid seven-week summer at Princeton University. At the LEDA Summer Institute, scholars engage in Standardized Testing Preparatory, writing instructions, Aspects of Leadership, and College Guidance classes throughout the week. Additionally, each week, scholars meet with their college guidance counselor and writing instructor to talk about the assignment and college fit.
Now, with the list of what the basic schedule at Princeton University was like, it’s not all about writing and college. It is a mixture of classes and building friendships with ninety-nine other scholars.
Personally, the first three weeks of being away from home were extremely rough. I missed my mom, little brother, home-cooked meals, and even my pet fish, Kevin. However, soon enough, I became attached to my fellow scholars. For the first time in my life, everywhere I looked, I found comfort and support from people who were highly dedicated and motivated to pursue higher education. I admit that I was immensely intimidated by the prestigious college names thrown, “Harvard! Yale! Princeton!” Attending a selective, prestigious college seemed like a dream that I, a low-income first-generation student, never dared to imagine. Slowly, I found myself believing in the scary unrealistic dream, believing in myself. I learned what it truly meant to rise above my adversities.
During my Aspects of Leadership class, a discussion based class, I opened my eyes to the reality that many low-income, minority, first-generation students face, the growing wealth disparity at top universities, and the current immigration situation. In a normal classroom, I would’ve never learned about the ongoing issues in society today, no less than having respectful conversations about controversial topics.
Returning to my loving home of Oklahoma City, I carry new perspectives that continue to shape who I am today. The love and support I receive by my professors, counselor, and writing instructor means the world to me. I, a low-income first-generation student, no longer fear my unrealistic dream; instead, I grasp onto the value of education to motivate other peers to do the same.
When I asked my writing instructor Crystal Kim, Director of Writing Instruction for LEDA, about the importance of education, she replied, “Education allows people to understand and empathize with others. Education also empowers people, particularly those who are marginalized.”
Currently, the application for the 2019 LEDA Summer Institute is available at http://ledascholars.org/.