Editor’s note: The Olin Fleischer Scholars Program for high school students is a free, week-long residential program geared toward underrepresented and first-generation college student populations. The program is designed to expose students to the importance of a college education, leadership, and careers in business and entrepreneurship.
I’ve been to a lot of summer camps in my life, but this week was the first time I have served as a counselor. When I applied to be a Fleischer Scholars Mentor, I had no idea who else was applying, and certainly didn’t know any of the scholars, since none of them came from my suburban hometown near Dallas, Texas. So naturally, I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It was easy to form a positive relationship with each and every scholar and mentor throughout the week, mostly because each person accepted into the program is exceptional not only as a student, but also as a person. Of course, the scholars didn’t just make friends with each other. They were able to befriend more prominent and powerful figures through the program in the business version of friendship: networking. Almost every guest who gave a presentation for the scholars gave their contact information, from deans to millionaires to professors. These speakers were also more than willing to stay behind and talk to a small crowd of scholars after the main presentation if there was extra time.
Each scholar received one-on-one time with an admissions officer who looked over their essay and gave feedback. It is worth noting that those officers are the very same people who will play a key role in deciding whether you will be admitted to WashU when (not if) you apply, so it was invaluable to the scholars to have their personal feedback ahead of time. Scholars also worked on their resumes with a communications professor who stayed until well after dark to help every scholar who needed her.
All this isn’t to say that the connections that scholars formed with each other were not just as much, if not more, valuable: during lunch and in our group chat, I heard scholars give each other information about other programs, scholarships, and their experiences touring other campuses. And, as a mentor, I also benefited from networking during this program. One Olin staff member who works in the Office of Corporate Relations traveled with us to a tour. She noticed that I was taking pictures of the group and complimented my responsibility. Next thing I knew, I had a business card in hand, along with the knowledge that her office would be looking for interns in the spring!
Each scholar’s abilities improved visibly, from public-speaking skills to writing to self-expression. Many told me personally that the week was a life-changing experience for them, and I believe they meant not just professionally, but also personally.
Before attending the program, many thought that top-rank colleges like WashU were not within their reach because of their financial situation. By the end of the program, I believe every scholar had confidence that they could not only be accepted, but also afford WashU right out of high school debt-free thanks to what they learned about federal and financial aid, as well as independent scholarship organizations, during their time as Fleischer Scholars. Many were in tears on the last day, thanking me and the other mentors simply for believing in them. It’s hard not to believe in the kind of dedicated, intelligent, kind students who apply to the Olin Fleischer Scholars Program.
In his song “Lose Yourself,” Eminem said, “you can do anything you set your mind to, man.” As a mentor, I believe wholeheartedly that is true of each and every scholar I had the pleasure of meeting during the program. I also believe that to a great degree, what you get out of life depends on what you put into it. Through our group chat and social media, I see so many scholars putting so much into their lives and am thrilled to help them sow good seeds in any way I can. I can’t wait to see what earth-shaking things these scholars do, and am so honored that I could have even a tiny part in the successes they are already having for their families, their cities, and the world. Big shout out to each of you, and to the scholars and mentors for whom you have paved the way.
A look at Ruth’s week as an Olin Fleischer Scholar Mentor. Click below to expand image.