Grantee Spotlight: LEDA at the Schools For Tomorrow Conference

The Cooke Foundation is proud to share an exciting update from one of our grant recipients, the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA). Each summer 100 rising high school seniors from around the country are selected as LEDA Scholars, which both enables them to gain admission to our nation’s most selective colleges and prepares them for the social, financial, and academic challenges that they will face when they attend. LEDA supports Scholars through the college admission process and continues to work with them through graduation, and beyond.

Earlier this month, LEDA Scholar and Rice University graduate Sayra Alanis took the stage at The New York TimesSchools for Tomorrow conference. This gathering was hosted by David Leonhardt, managing editor of the Times‘ “The Upshot,” to explore emerging issues in higher education, including the use of data, supporting student health, and creating opportunities for talented low-income and first-generation students like Sayra.

Sayra and NYT Managing Editor of “The Upshot” David LeonhardtSayra Alanis and NYT Managing Editor of “The Upshot” David Leonhardt
Image Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times.

Sayra’s genuine perspective shaped the participants’ discussions of how to improve our current state of higher education, and prompted the consideration of new models that best support students like her, who when empowered and cultivated, serve to diversify the leadership pipeline that emerges from our country’s most selective institutions.

Attendees heard from several LEDA Scholars through a series of poignant video testimonials, which were filmed by The New York Times during LEDA’s Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute at Princeton University. Sayra and her fellow LEDA Scholars epitomize the intelligence, resilience, and fierce determination that many high-achieving, low-income students must demonstrate to successfully navigate the road to a selective college and overcome the challenges they face once they are on campus.

Here are Sayra’s reflections on the Schools for Tomorrow conference:

“Before I even set foot on stage, people were coming up to me, asking me about my experience and about LEDA. As I delivered my speech, I saw smiling faces in the audiences, heads nodding in agreement, and the applause I received afterwards told me that there are people fighting for students like me everywhere, even though we might not realize it.

“… Throughout the day, leaders in the field participated in rigorous debates about key topics relating to education access for low-income students.  By the end of the conference, I left with a greater understanding of the complexities of higher education and how the experience of low-income students fits into these conversations. It was encouraging to know that although institutions of higher education are not exactly where they should be with respect to equity and access, many colleges and universities are inching towards progress and towards providing the space and support needed to sustain an economically and ethnically diverse population.”

The 2015-2016 LEDA Scholars Program application is now open!
Click here to access the application. The submission deadline is December 11, 2015.

NOTE: The LEDA Scholars Program is separate from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s College Scholarship Program. We are actively seeking applications from now through November 3, 2015.