High School Senior Aims to Close Race Gap at Selective Universities

Courtesy of The Champion Project

Campus visits can often seem out of reach for low-income or marginalized student populations.

But one high school senior has made it her mission to get students like her to see the campuses of selective universities firsthand.

Leila Champion, a senior at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School (IN), launched The Champion Project this year. The Champion Project, which also served as her senior capstone project, aimed to show her fellow classmates that they too could go to their dream schools.

The idea stemmed from the seven weeks Champion spent at Harvard University (MA) last summer. She rarely saw students that looked like her on campus or in the tour groups. She wants to close that gap.

“Since nobody else is going to do it, I’m going to do it. I’m going to be the one who shows these students this is possible. These reach schools are attainable,” Champion told her local TV news station.

She solicited donations to take about 30 minority students from Indiana on a bus tour. Students visited Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Most importantly, each tour was led by a minority student who attends the school. Champion wanted students to see themselves reflected on campus and to also have the opportunity to ask real questions.

“I found that black and brown students are less likely to apply to Ivy League institutions,” Champion said. “They feel inadequate because they don’t have the test scores, or they don’t know people who look like them who go there.”

She hopes to turn The Champion Project into a nonprofit that will allow students this opportunity every year.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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