When Success Academy 10th graders Ebrahim Jaiteh and Kiera Toussaint first arrived at the Loomis Chaffee boarding school campus, they were slightly shocked by the sound of silence — and the number of trees. The setting, so unlike the noisy bustling streets of where they grew up, would be the first of many differences that the two would learn to adapt to over the course of their five-week summer enrichment experience.
SA HSLA scholars have the chance to apply to collegiate, artistic, and outdoor leadership opportunities through the SA Summer Experience program. Robust summer experiences are critical to college admissions and persistence, and make the summer months a time of accelerated learning and personal development for our scholars. SA high schoolers undertake a rigorous application process for their summer opportunities; the process has been designed to mimic the college application experience.
Robust summer experiences are critical to college admissions and persistence
At the Loomis Chaffee summer program, academically motivated students from around the world have the chance to live in the boarding school’s dorms, attend classes and electives, take trips to nearby cities, and even learn a thing or two about agriculture. But what exactly do participants take away from five weeks spent in rural Connecticut? According to Ebrahim and Kiera, it’s the memories made — and a new mindset when it comes to schoolwork and unfamiliar experiences — that they’ve brought back with them. We asked them to reflect on the summer, and the following is an excerpt from their discussion:
Ebrahim: I remember that you and I joked about planning our escape when we first arrived! I just didn’t think that I would be able to enjoy myself in a place like Loomis — there didn’t seem to be anything that would interest someone from the city. But then I started to make friends, and I realized this was going to be fun.
Kiera: It took me a little longer to adjust — I mean, we had to feed live chickens! — but I liked the classes and started to enjoy the experience. It helped that we were able to choose what we were studying; it was great to be able to learn something that you really wanted to learn. We both took forensic science, a self-expression writing class, electives (I took STEP), and pottery.
Ebrahim: I didn’t like pottery at first because it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. The teacher was so passionate about it that he actually became upset with me, not because I was his student, but because he couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t like pottery! I decided to keep learning, and now I actually have pieces at home that I made myself — and I think they’re pretty cool.
Kiera: That’s like what happened in our morning meetings. A lot of people were bored with them because it was all about self-reflection. But I found that the more I paid attention, the more interesting they became. We talked about how we could improve as a person, and wrote about how we were getting better throughout the summer.
Ebrahim: We talked a lot about becoming our best selves, and now everyone here says that I act differently. I tell them: “I’m being my best self!” This is especially true when it comes to turning work in on time. Over the summer, I adjusted how I think about work. Instead of asking myself how much time I have left before something is due, I ask myself, how early can I turn it in? We really got in the habit of not procrastinating at Loomis because in daily study hall, everyone wanted to get the work done so we could have our evenings free to have fun. This week, I’ve already completed my homework, and it’s only Wednesday.
Kiera: I’ve always had good work habits, but Loomis helped me keep on top of things this summer, instead of being tempted to sleep my days away. It felt good to start the school year on the right foot.
Ebrahim: I think that’s what made it similar to a college experience. Even though we were having fun hanging out, we also had to stay on top of things ourselves. We had to make sure to wake up early enough to make it to breakfast — it was a delicious — to be in class on time, even to cook with roommates and make sure that we were showering and taking care of ourselves! You don’t realize how much of these things are usually scheduled for you when you’re in high school. We had to learn to manage it on our own.
Kiera: And to make sure we didn’t lose our dorm keys!
Ebrahim: I still have mine, actually — it reminds me of all the good memories.
Kiera: Me too. It was a lot of fun, and it’s good to be back to school feeling like we have a head start. If I could return again, I would, but I’m also excited for new experiences. Maybe next summer I’ll be on a college campus!