Hartford Youth Scholars Holds Summer Academy on Trinity College Campus

High School Preparatory Program Can ‘Absolutely Change Your Life,’ Student Says

​Hartford, Connecticut, July 6, 2017 – When Francisco Chang ’19 first got in contact with Hartford Youth Scholars (HYS) when he was in middle school, it was a matter of curiosity. Years later, he has become one of the organization’s strongest advocates.

“If you get in, then it’s going to absolutely change your life,” said Chang, a political science and film studies major at Trinity College.

Hartford Youth Scholars students Anaeve Marte and Taylor Walker work on a math assignment during the summer academy at Trinity College. ​Photos by Andrew J. Concatelli.
Hartford Youth Scholars began as a scholarship program in 2005 and evolved into a selective “college access and success” program soon after. The purpose of HYS is to give an opportunity for rigorous study to Hartford students entering 7th grade who may not have access to a similar academic support program, free to their families.

Roxanna Booth-Miller, co-executive director of HYS along with Anthony Byers, said that even though students may start the program at varying levels of ability, HYS has high expectations for all. “There are no limitations for these students if they are willing to work hard and strive for a goal that they set for themselves,” she said.

In a six-week summer academy held on the campus of Trinity College, students take classes in subjects including science, Spanish, and math. During the school year, students continue to spend time with HYS after school and on Saturdays.

Chang said that as a middle school student it was difficult to balance both regular school work and HYS work, especially because of the challenging nature of HYS. Although at the time Chang wished he could spend more time being outside or playing video games, he is now glad that he was able to get used to such a substantial workload. “It's rewarding being pushed and it makes you a better person, in my opinion,” he said.

​Instructor Louis Joseph and Hartford Youth Scholars student Daizhon Robinson read a Spanish lesson in front of the class.
 Academics aren’t the only way in which Chang feels that Hartford Youth Scholars has made him a better person. Chang said that one of the first things he learned was how to properly give a handshake. “I was walking into class, and the professor was shaking hands with students, and then I looked at him and he scolded me and told me, ‘That’s not how you’re supposed to shake hands.’ So I think [HYS] taught me a lot of valuable life lessons,” he said. 

In addition, HYS will sometimes organize fun activities, from attending Hartford Yard Goats baseball games, to going out for sushi. Booth-Miller said, “Grades are important, and they do open up a lot of doorways for you, but far more important is [a student’s] character and leadership.”

Booth-Miller said that this summer, the 9th-grade students are showing leadership by taking on discussions about current events, which typically have been led by HYS staff. This idea came from an employee who went through the program as a middle schooler. To Booth-Miller, activities like these are about “opening the door and saying, ‘You go walk through it.’ ”

Trinity is one of several organizations that help HYS open the door for students. Among other things, Trinity offers HYS the use of its buildings for summer classes. Booth-Miller, who used to work in the Trinity Advancement Division, said that having Trinity Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Angel Pérez on the HYS Board of Directors has helped to grow the relationship between the two entities and led to discussions of ways to expand the program.

​Hartford Youth Scholars students relax during a lunch break on the Life Sciences Center quad at Trinity College.
Chang also appreciates that HYS is supported by Trinity. He likes being able to walk over to the HYS office, which is on Allen Place, adjacent to Trinity’s campus, to check in with the staff. He has completed an internship with HYS and has taken photos at HYS events. Chang observes that the students currently going through the HYS program also care about it the way that he does.

Rising 8th grader Daizhon Robinson is one of those students. In his second year with the program, Robinson had advice for students who may be nervous about applying for the program. “There’s going to be a lot of work. There’s going to be a lot of things that you have to do. Just do it. Like the Nike brand: Just do it. If you just do it, it’s going to blow past you and it’s going to be good for you in the future,” he said.

Even though not every student will continue to stay involved with the program past the 9th grade the way Chang has, HYS assists its older students with college readiness, including application essays and SAT preparation.

When the HYS alumni graduate college, Booth-Miller says she often gets invited to their graduations, and attends when she can. Because HYS is involved in a student’s life on their way to adulthood, Booth-Miller said it's almost like being a part of the family. This was especially true when one former HYS student recently graduated from Trinity. “Having staffed commencement for many years as an employee of Trinity, I never felt as connected to the ceremony as I did waiting for her to walk up there ’neath the elms and receive her diploma,” she said.

Booth-Miller said that what she does as a part of HYS is rewarding in its own right. “I don’t ever have that feeling that I don’t want to go to work,” she said.

Written by Matt Grahn