A meeting to remember

James Turner reports on a discussion between students on the Sutton Trust US Programme and Mrs Heinz Kerry, wife of the US Secretary of State

There are some meetings which will live with you for a lifetime, some which give you a renewed conviction for your work and for life in general.  Last week we were fortunate enough to host a round-table with Theresa Heinz Kelly – IMG_5295_resizedbusinesswoman, philanthropist and wife of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry – for participants on our US university programme.  For many of us, this was one such meeting.

Mrs Heinz Kerry found time in her hectic London schedule (she’d flown in the day before from Istanbul and was heading home the day after) to spend over an hour talking to our students – asking them about their own university choices and offering them advice on education and career paths. The conversation ranged widely; Mrs Heinz Kerry also gave us tantalising glimpses into a whole range of areas of her academic, philanthropic and professional life, from her efforts to combat apartheid in South Africa to her concerns for the environment.  Wisdom and common sense peppered her remarks, and the consensus was she was an impressive and inspiring lady.

As the discussion closed, and Mrs Heinz Kerry was saying goodbye to the students, I reflected that this has been an extraordinary journey for the Trust, our partners the Fulbright Commission and, of course, for the young people who have been on the Sutton Trust US programme.IMG_5306_resized

Eighteen months ago we were sitting in Millbank Tower planning the initiative – tea for us Brits, Diet Coke for our American colleagues – asking just what could be achieved by a non-profit in such a competitive space, and wondering whether more than a handful of our students would be successful in gaining admission. Yet here we were, in Millbank Tower again, almost 20 of our students bound for US universities this autumn, accessing millions of dollars of aid, with one of the most influential women in the world taking a genuine interest in what we’ve achieved.

For the young people themselves, many had never seriously thought about studying in the US until they saw our programme – and even then, it seemed a very distant prospect indeed.  But, thanks to the exceptional efforts of those involved in running the scheme and their own sheer hard work, we now have ordinary (in the best sense of the word) state school students heading to some of the highest ranked US universities in the world.  The don’t live in million pound houses or attend elite schools; they simply have talent and motivation and that has shone through.

IMG_5313_resizedIt is a high bar we have set ourselves for this year’s group of 150, who we’ll be taking to MIT and Yale in the summer.  But having met many of those young people over Easter at our selection residential, I am confident we have a great starting point for this year’s programme. There were some exceptional young people with some incredible stories, a voracious appetite for learning and for expanding their horizons.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, amongst them, we have some future leaders of the likes of Mrs Heinz Kerry.

My Welcome to Yale

Lucinda Denney18 year-old Lucinda Denney, an A-level student from Blackpool, is one of 12 students already offered places at leading US universities, thanks to the Sutton Trust summer school. As our guest blogger today, she reflects on going to Yale:

When I was accepted to the Sutton Trust’s US Summer School Programme, I could never have even imagined the opportunities that would come as a result of being part of such an unprecedented and truly outstanding scheme.

The experience of travelling to America for the first time, staying at and visiting some of America’s most prestigious universities, having tea at the British Consulate, watching a show on Broadway and then, after I returned to the UK, having to undertake the extensive American application system and prepare for standardised testing was simply a whirlwind of excitement, joy, stress and pure satisfaction.

Despite the ups and downs of the process, the trials and tribulations, one thing did remain a constant: there is no way I would ever have been able to apply to university in the US, and get into Yale no less, without the help of the Sutton Trust and the US-UK Fulbright Commission.

The advice, dedication and sheer commitment of every single member of the team provided me with the support I needed to get through such a demanding process and come out the other side having fulfilled every dream I ever had when I set out on this programme back in the summer of 2012.

I made the decision to apply to university in America because their universities don’t just look at your academic results. They place a far greater value upon what makes a person who they are, the activities they enjoy, the things that inspire them, what drives them, and their past achievements and accomplishments. It cannot be said that universities in the US aren’t known for their superior academic excellence, as they regularly top world university rankings, but it is also the diversity and sheer talent that composes their student bodies that made me want to be a part of such a prestigious university system.

I feel that, before I have even started my time at Yale, that due to being a part of this process and by simply applying to American universities I have gained a sense of independence, the realisation that nothing is ever impossible if you give it your all, a greater feeling of self-worth in my own capabilities and achievements, and most importantly memories and friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

I found out on December 16th 2012 at 10pm that I had been accepted to Yale as part of their Class of 2017. Although that night is now quite I blur, I do remember the moment the Yale bulldog sung its song of congratulations to me and when I went on to read the Dean’s letter of acceptance.

I was overcome by emotion but I can honestly say that it really was one of the best moments of my life as it made me realise that all of my hard work and commitment to my studies and my extra-curricular activities had finally paid off and I would be hopefully heading off to the university of my dreams in the fall of 2013.