By Monica Gray, Director of Programs, College Success Foundation – District of Columbia

At the College Success Foundation, we are thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft on our Higher Education Readiness Opportunity (HERO) Summer Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. The program is designed to increase college readiness for 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade underrepresented boys. Microsoft’s recent YouthSpark grant of $150,000 enabled us to extend the school year program into a six-week summer program.  Through this partnership, we are enriching the academic experience and skills of more than 100 young men and encouraging them to pursue higher education.

College Success Foundation Summer HERO Program participants and staff pose for a photo during their STEM education field trip.

The D.C. HERO program operates in six high schools in Wards 7 and 8. This summer, our HERO Leadership Academy is helping to develop the academic knowledge and leadership skills of these young men. Each week is dedicated to increasing their knowledge and interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). We finished each week with an educational field trip and ended the summer with a final week-long tour of the Marine Science and Oceanography Institute and college tour in Boston, MA.

HERO students learn first-hand about STEM education during their field trip to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New York.

Our emphasis on STEM education allows our students to participate in hands-on learning activities, including utilizing technology, building rockets and hover crafts, testing water for cleanliness, and observing open heart surgery in a real hospital environment. Along with sparking their interest in pursuing a college education and/or STEM career, these activities help them build decision-making, leadership and team building skills.

The HERO program is proud to partner with Microsoft as part of its YouthSpark initiative to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship. It also continues the sustained drumbeat Microsoft has established at the national level in support of STEM education initiatives and reform.

Together with Microsoft, we can continue to work with students who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard, but are falling short of their potential. By providing support directly to students, their families and academic communities, we can help ensure that these students have access to the resources and opportunities necessary to strengthen their academic and leadership skills.

Additional information on the College Success Foundation and HERO Initiative can be found here. Information on Microsoft YouthSpark can be found here.