When asking the question “what’d you do this summer” to one of our scholars, be prepared to be shocked at the countless different answers you get… and probably a little jealous too. From hiking 49 miles to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to watching a $3.2 million fossil sale at Sotheby’s in New York, and even navigating 60 rapids across the Colorado River, so many of our scholars soared to new heights this summer.
While there are summer opportunities for scholars of all ages, some of our most impressive and selective programs prepare high school scholars for success in college through the Summer Experience Fellowship. Each summer we’re able to offer students access to dozens of external free opportunities to enable crucial exploration through the generous support of SA donors, advocates, and our institutional partners.
At Success, we believe that summer should be a transformational period — the time off from studies allows scholars to expand and discover their passions and interests. Hear about a few mind-blowing adventures below!
Overland Summers Program – Kilimanjaro Challenge in Tanzania
Only 30,000 people climb Mount Kilimanjaro a year, and even fewer can say they spent their birthday doing so. One of those thrill seekers happens to be SA’s very own Addison Wood, a rising junior at HSLA-Manhattan.
Growing up in New York City and attending Success Academy since Kindergarten, Addison itched to spend her summers outside of the concrete jungle. The Overland Summers Programs were a perfect solution!
The group tackled Africa’s greatest hiking challenge — a nearly seven day summit bid of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent. On their journey up 19,341 feet, the group hiked for days, resting at base camps, and put the Swahili skills they learned over the past few weeks to good use. Addison found herself using the phrase “polepole” the most — meaning “slowly!” — as she worked to battle the high altitude and rough terrain. On the final day of climbing, the group hiked through the night to reach the spectacular snow-draped volcanic peak just as the sun rose.
“You can only be up at the peak for fifteen minutes, because it’s so cold, but it was the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen and the biggest sense of accomplishment I’ve ever felt,” Addison recounted, “it showed me I can do anything I put my mind to.”
The climb wasn’t all Addison accomplished — she also learned so much about Tanzanian culture and formed bonds with the local children by volunteering at the Living Water Children’s Centre, an orphanage and primary school. For a week, Addison immersed herself in African culture, traveling to the market to cook local grub, taking Swahili lessons with Mama Elda to learn customs and basics, and serving the local community at the orphanage. Addison found this part of her experience rewarding. “We created such strong bonds with the children. Exchanging our cultures and customs was eye-opening and made the world feel just a little bit smaller.”
Sotheby’s Summer Arts Academy
Arriving at Sotheby’s New York is nothing short of inspiring. The headquarters is complete with ten floors of art exhibitions (and ones that don’t bore you… think streetwear and all things historical hip hop), auction halls, diamond dealers, artistic space, and more. The Sotheby’s Summer Arts Academy took place weekly on the third floor in what feels like a gallery — maybe it was the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 Virgil collaboration sneakers on display that got my attention!
For Lyana Moore, a rising sophomore at HSLA-Manhattan and future fashion designer, she found the program particularly formative. “Networking with experienced professionals was a little bit intimidating, but also so eye-opening and interesting. I never realized how many diverse opportunities there are professionally in the arts and I know that these are the types of connections that will help me reach my dreams in the future.”
At Sotheby’s scholars immersed themselves in everything from observing a real auction where a dinosaur skeleton sold for over three million dollars to an intimate Q&A session with Queens-based designer Ray Miah (Designer and Founder of Orée), to designing their very own pair of Nike Air Force 1s with the help of a local artist.
“Free-hand painting these one-of-a-kind Nike’s is definitely the highlight of the program and I can’t wait to wear them on dress down day!” Lyana shared while putting the finishing touches on her sneakers.
Deer Hill Expeditions – Southwest Journey on the Colorado River
When HSLA-Harlem sophomore Leonardo Risaliti hopped off a privately chartered plane — over the canyon wilderness of the Colorado Plateau between Moab, Utah and the launch site for the Desolation-Gray Canyons section of the Green River — he was ready to experience something completely out of his comfort zone.
The Deer Hill Expeditions Southwest Journey is a three week wilderness and cultural exchange program with the motto “find yourself in the middle of nowhere.” Leo found that motto to be true, and said “the experience took me away from society — and helped me recognize my reliance on materialistic things like social media and the internet.”
In just one week the group navigated over 60 rapids and explored 84 miles of sandstone canyons in the Green River. One day, while Leo was bathing in the river, he watched one of the other boys on the trip catch a catfish bare-handed. “The rafting portion was my favorite — I’d never been white water rafting — it was just so fun to be able to put your trust in a boat and your mates. These are the types of memories that made the trip unforgettable.”
Carrying 50 pound backpacks through the San Juan Mountains on the Lizard Head Trail, the group spent the next week exploring Southwest Colorado. Leo enjoyed exploring the campsites each night and reaching hidden freshwater alpine lakes that belong on a postcard. During the day, they trekked through alpine meadows, beautiful aspens, and over mountain passes to hidden waterfalls. At night, Leo remembers exchanging stories, getting closer with the group while they built shelter.
The last week of the trip was spent volunteering on the Hopi Reservation. The Hopi people live and work in the “oldest continually inhabited city” in the United States! Leo painted his host family’s shed, farmed yucca used to weave baskets, learned how to make Piki bread (ceremonial blue-gray bread that is a staple of the Hopi tribe) and visited the local markets.
Perhaps one of the greatest takeaways from Leo’s trip was realizing he didn’t need his cell phone to feel connected. “I’m used to using my social media to keep in touch with my friends, so it was a welcome change to focus on myself, on nature, and living in the moment with the people around me.”
From near to far, our scholars made the most of their summers! We can’t wait to see what next year’s cohort will experience!