Who We Are
The Yleana Leadership Academy is a residential summer academy which annually serves 80 rising high school seniors in urban areas (Baltimore, Boston, Lynn/Salem/Peabody, NYC, and Philadelphia) and seeks to close the achievement gap through a three-week transformative summer SAT intervention.
Our program is free to all participants; room, board, and all program-related fees (including transportation to and from students' schools/partner organizations) is covered by our endowment.
Our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most of our population is first-generation and we are about 95% of color historically.
Students live full time at Colgate University and Endicott College, sleeping in dormitories, eating with their peers, participating in athletic and social events, and going on cultural excursions. We seek not only to give students the scores and tools to make college a tangible reality, but also to create a thriving community. Resident advisors who double as teachers will live with the students, helping them manage a new environment and inspiring them with the advisors' own tales of college success. We have at least one staff member for every six students. Staff members will consist of experienced instructors, assistant teachers, adjunct teachers, and counselors-in-training (recent Yleana alumni, now transitioning out of the college admissions process and into attending college, who counsel our students and run non-academic programming).
The program consists of five core components:
- a comprehensive SAT program to maximize students' scores - our average 2015 score improvement was 250 points (on the 2400 SAT)! - using the Socratic method in a small-group environment, grounded in asking the questions that help to cultivate higher order thinking skills
- a commitment to college access, through extended support (individualized for each student's specific needs) including choosing colleges which meet both academic and financial needs, financial aid help, essay help, scholarship blasts, connecting our students to colleges to which we are connected, and a growing Yleana alumni mentorship program. The fact that Yleana takes place on a college campus helps many students (who have never been away from home before or imagined that a traditional college experience could be for them) understand what college will be like and begin to see it as an eventuality rather than a possibility
- a cutting-edge leadership program with two prongs:
- Entrepreneurship, focused on building critical thinking and problem-solving skills, helps our students acquire and hone the soft skills they need through a lens that answers the question "What do I do after college?" It culminates in a one-day startup fair with real live entrepreneurs from everywhere from London to Istanbul to Philadelphia to NYC; they advise the students all day until they face off in a Shark Tank competition
- Issues, an open-forum discussion setting where we question issues like race, class, power, income inequality and privilege, prison - those issues which our students will begin to contemplate as young adults - through readings by people like James Baldwin, Junot Diaz, bell hooks, Michelle Alexander, WEB DuBois, and Sherman Alexie
- a traditional summer experience going on nature hikes, going to see movies, playing volleyball and dodgeball and Ultimate Frisbee on the lawn, making jewelry and crafts, and coming together as a community on Friday nights for campfires under the stars (complete with S'mores!)
- a loving, safe and introspective community. One of the greatest compliments we received in 2014 came from a student who had been in foster care and had had a really tough road leading up to that time telling us that Yleana was the first place she felt safe, like people really cared about her. We strive to create and promote that atmosphere - a caring, welcoming and stable place for kids who haven't always had safety and stability
- Session I: July 2-23, 2016 at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY
- Session II: July 26-August 15, 2016 at Endicott College in Beverly, MA
Yleana Follow-Up Program
When the program ends, students will return to their respective homes and schools armed with a clear schedule for both SAT study and college application building. Through the Yleana Follow-Up Program, they will continue to meet (on Saturdays from the last week of August through September) on local college campuses to study the SAT and keep themselves in the groove of Yleana strategies, positioning them for the October 2016 SAT.
Every year, our kids continue to reach out socially to Yleana staff (and each other!) and for help on college essays and applications. Yleana also is committed to matching students with one-on-one financial aid/college access counseling (where access is not already provided) to help students identify colleges which are good fits BOTH academically and financially and guide them through the college application process. Our posterity programs are designed to ensure that the work we do over the summer has a measurable and lasting impact on our students' futures.