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RHS Students Shine in Harvard Summer Program

Ralston High School Students Shine in Harvard Summer Program

RHS students who completed the Harvard summer program.

Something special happened this past summer for Ralston High School seniors Nada Fadhil and Elizabeth Gonzalez. Both took part in the Harvard University Secondary School Program, a chance for select high school students to experience being a college student at the prestigious Ivy League school. The seven-week program provides students a taste of college life in an academically rigorous environment while engaging with other high school and college students from around the world.

“Since the seventh grade, it has been my dream to go to Harvard, be near Harvard, or just be involved in something that has to do with Harvard!” said Fadhil. “When I first heard about this program, I thought gosh, this is the perfect opportunity. I talked to Mrs. Athow, and she pushed me into applying. The push and my dream helped me decide to apply.”

Gonzalez enrolled in an Introduction to Psychology course. Fadhil enrolled in a humanities course focused on the Holocaust. Each class lasted seven weeks, meeting twice a week for three hours at a time. They consisted of the main lecture from the professor and also small group discussions. Due to the global pandemic, the RHS students were not able to travel to take classes in-person at Harvard.  They each experienced their course work online.  

“My class had about 120 students enrolled and included a mix of both Harvard undergrads and high school students from around the world,” said Gonzalez. “This was an amazing experience! In the break out discussions, we had a chance to talk about ourselves after we discussed the subject matter. I was able to get a more inside perspective on Harvard from current students. That was neat because I couldn’t experience being there on campus.”

The biggest challenge for both Fadhil and Gonzalez was the amount of reading they had to do in each of their courses. “The majority of the tests were review and analyzing what we read in the textbook,” said Gonzalez. “It was a challenge trying to process and remember all of the information” Fadhil agreed with Gonzalez. “One of our assignments was to read a 400-page book in one day. It was very different from our assignments in high school,” said Fadhil.

Both students enjoyed and gained so much from their Harvard experience. “The best part of my experience was being in a setting where I was surrounded by older students. In high school, everyone is around the same age,” said Fadhil. “Being able to hear from others who are older and have more life experience allowed me to see things from another perspective and gain from their knowledge.” Gonzalez also enjoyed meeting new people. “After the class finished, I was able to join a group chat with my classmates. We find out what everyone is up to and support each other. If someone is taking part in a competition, we can vote for them, or we can read a summary of their project. It is a great way to stay connected!”

The experience overall allowed the girls to gain confidence in themselves and also drove home the point to never miss a chance to go after an opportunity. “One thing I will take away is don't be afraid to contribute or share what you think,” said Fadhil. “I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and wasn’t afraid to share my thoughts with my older classmates. It felt good to know I could survive in a Harvard level course.”

“This experience gave me an inside perspective on what college is going to be like,” said Gonzalez. “Students need to apply for any opportunity that interests them. Take the chance! It never hurts to try because you never know what is going to happen.”

Both Fadhil and Gonzalez completed their coursework from Harvard with excellent grades. They look forward to finishing out their senior year at Ralston High School and are excited about what the future has in store for them. Both students say by participating in the Harvard University Secondary School Program, they increased their interest in potentially attending Harvard or another Ivy League type school next year.