Accessing the Pipeline: How Summer Enrichment Programs Changed My Life

The following post is from Lawrence Watkins’ blog. It’s very insightful.

Last week, CNN aired a special entitled “Black in America – Part 2” profiling the lives of different African-Americans all around the nation. I watched with anticipation as the CNN crew was profiling an organization in which I am affiliated, Management Leadership for Tomorrow. MLT is a program that helps aspiring minority business school applicants attain their dream of attending a top notch business school. Out of all the underrepresented minorities at Cornell’s business school, well over half went through the rigorous MLT program.

I was on Facebook giving regular status updates about the nostalgia I was feeling from going through the program and bonding with fellow classmates online. Throughout the night, my friends who never heard about the program were like “Wow! You did that! How do I get signed up?” Some of my other friends who have been looking at business school for a while (the same friends who I recommended MLT to for over a year now) said the same thing. “How do I get into that program?” By the end of the night, I had 15 requests from people who wanted to know more information about MLT.

The Unrecognized Pipeline of Talent

Now, the value that MLT provided to its members did not change from before and after the CNN special. It has always been a great program and it will continue to be. It made the process of applying to business school 100 times easier. After thinking about MLT for a while, I started to remember the other educational programs in which I have been involved. Every single one of them have added value to my life at the stage of development that I was in. In fact, I would say that my success to this point has less to do with me and more to do with the pipeline that I have been plugged into and pushed me downstream since the 7th grade. Here is a list of my summer enrichment activities every year since 7th grade:

7th – 8th grade: Lincoln Foundation – Summer math and science program that gave me a base for learning. They have other programs as well and students through this program earn scholarships for college.

9th – 11th grade: Math and Science for Minority Students – To this day I feel that (MS)2 has been the most important program that I’ve ever done. In fact, graduating from this program meant more to me than graduating from high school. The curriculum is very hard. So hard that what I learned in a 5 week summer session took my high school 75% of the school year to teach me. This is also the program that gave me exposure to a wide array of people and colleges of interest.

12th grade: National Youth Science Camp – A program in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. That was the best part about it. You would wake up every morning and learn something new and meet different people who had different passions about science. Furthermore, you were also given the opportunity to teach your fellow classmates about things that you knew about on a regular basis. The best part, NO INTERNET!

College freshman – Engineering summer school and Calculus 3. Not fun

Sophomore – Mandatory engineering internship at Ford Motor Company

Junior Year – Summer Venture in Management Program. – A program at Harvard Business School that gives college students the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in business school. This is where I first heard about investment banking, however, I still don’t know what they do. Here is where I met many great people who will be the future business leaders of America.

Junior Year – LeaderShape – This is where I developed my personal mission statement that I still use today. Very introspective and enjoyable experience.

2nd Junior Year – Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship. This is when I was deciding whether to go the business route or political route for my future. Since then, I have decided to do both. PPIA is a 6-week summer session where you attend class sessions on policy, economics, and statistics. You attend the “junior summer institute” at one of 5 places around the nation. Same situation as before; lifelong friends and an abundance of learning. An added benefit is their generous financial support for individuals who would like to earn a Master’s in Public Policy.

After College – Management Leadership for Tomorrow

Benefits of Summer Enrichment Programs

There are three main benefits that I got out of spending my summers in the enrichment programs mentioned above. First, you meet likeminded individuals who you click with and learn from. This is probably the greatest benefit of all. Many of the people from these programs I have kept in touch with over close to 10 years. I keep in touch with them better than I do my high school classmates. Second, most of these programs take students through rigorous curricula. Going to school in the summer time gave me a leg up in the long run over my peers in retaining knowledge learned. Lastly, enrichment programs broaden the horizons of the students who are involved. Through many of these programs, I was able to experience so many things that a normal kid from Kentucky would not have the opportunity to experience. From extreme outdoor adventures to speaking with princes from other countries, these things cannot be undervalued.

How to Leverage these Programs

There is a snow ball effect that happens over time with these programs. One leads to another that leads to another. Therefore, the earlier that you access the pipeline the better. One thing that holds many potential applicants up is the actual application. Similar to applying to college, you will have to write essays and submit letters of recommendations. This can be tedious at times, but it will be well worth it. Manage your time effectively to make this process less stressful.
To find these programs, Google is a good place to start. Also, look at the links that I have mentioned above and that I will mention below. Most of these programs like to help each other out, therefore they share information. Browse the websites and see if there are any other programs that you like. Here are some other links to help you get started with your search.

LEAD – High school business program.
CLEO – Council for Legal Education Opportunity. It’s like the MLT for law school.
PPIA Program Search: Links to other programs with a government, education, and policy focus


As I mentioned earlier, the sooner you can access the network of enrichment programs the better. They have personally made my life much easier educationally and have snowballed into additional opportunities in a broad array of areas. Most of these programs are actively searching for students, so if you can make their jobs easier by being assessable candidates, you will be much more likely to be accepted.

Good luck and good learning!

From Lawrence Watkins

[Editor’s note]

A few other Educational Programs worth looking into for students in 5th through 9th grades.

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