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Indianapolis senior creates college tour to show minorities that Ivy League schools are within reach

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

We are so proud of one of our YGP students who has decided to take a stand against the negative mindset her peers have about Ivy League schools! Please read the article below to hear about her initiative!!

One Indianapolis high school senior believes too many minority students assume that elite universities are out of reach. So she's doing something about it. 

Leila Champion, a senior at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School who has applied to Harvard University to study education and African-American studies, studied at Harvard this past summer for seven weeks through their secondary school program. While there, she noticed a lack of African-American and Latino students.

And then it hit her: She should use her senior capstone project to examine the issue. 

Her research suggested that African-American and Latino communities are battling a mindset that too often prematurely assumes that so-called "reach schools' are out of reach. Thus, many were not bothering to even apply. 

But Champion didn't just want to confirm a problem. She wanted to do something about it.

So she put together The Champion Project.

The Ivy League experience

Champion has recruited students from all over Indiana. By emailing guidance counselors, spreading the word on social media, and speaking to students in their classrooms, Champion has 26 students signed up.

Medina Jackson, a junior at Wayne High School, is excited to learn more about college and how to prepare for it.

"I want to learn more about campus life, admissions for my applications, student life, and how to get myself ready for college," Jackson said. "I also want to learn how to prepare for my senior year."

Each tour will be led by a minority student who attends one of the colleges. Champion found student leaders via social media who are either a part of Greek life, sports teams or black student associations. They will be able to give advice and share their experiences at an Ivy League school, giving the tour a more personal and relatable experience. 

"Last summer I went on an HBCU college tour, and one thing I noticed about those tours versus the in-state tours was that it felt more personable because the person giving the tour looked like you," Champion said.

Overcoming Stereotypes

Franck Germain, a freshman at Harvard University who will be giving the tour through Harvard, thinks stereotypes play a huge role in why minorities don't apply to Ivy League schools. Germain wants the tour to eliminate stereotypes the students may have about elite institutions. 

"If you're told your entire life that only rich white kids are allowed admission into schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, this message will become deeply ingrained within you," Germain said. "What makes this reality even more disheartening is the fact that it is often our own communities and our peers that reinforce these ideas."

Gabriella Carter, a freshman at Princeton University, will be speaking to the students once they arrive on her campus. Carter says she wishes she could have been involved with something like this when she was looking for colleges.

"I think actually going to go tour colleges can change your entire perspective on it," Carter said. "It makes college seem less like some far-fetched phenomena."

Tindley School counselor Jackson Dutton says Champion has a very bright future and this experience will not only expose others to the idea of an Ivy League education but has given Champion valuable experience that she will take forward into her own education and career. 

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