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Leadership Academy provides middle schoolers glimpse of college life

When 13-year-old Ferrah Reid arrived on the Stephens College campus last week, it was the farthest from home she had ever been without her parents and the first time she had flown in a plane.

But the soon-to-be eighth grader from New York City was determined to leave her comfort zone behind and experience the possibilities of college life.

“I really wanted to do this because I knew it would benefit me and help me grow as a person,” Reid said. “Plus, it will look really good on a high school resume.”

Reid was among 10 middle-school girls from Girls Prep in the Lower East Side and the Bronx who spent a week at Stephens participating in the Public Prep Leadership Academy, now in its sixth year. Participants attended classes, visited the Equestrian Center, slept in a college dorm, and braved a ropes course at the University of Missouri, all while developing leadership skills and getting a glimpse at higher education.

team celebration girls prep

The students also traveled to St. Louis to visit the zoo and tour Busch Stadium with Stephens alumna Lindsey Weber ’08. They played Overwatch in Stephens’ new gaming room, ate S’mores around a bonfire and attended dinner with Stephens President Dianne Lynch.

“The idea is to put the girls in a new environment that might challenge them in new ways and help them discover who they are,” said Ali Kullman, director of high school admissions and college completion at Girls Prep.

To be selected for the Leadership Academy, students entered a competitive application process that involved putting together a resume and cover letter and writing an essay about what they hoped to learn from the experience. The Girls Prep students were expected to demonstrate how they would live out their core values of scholarship, merit, sisterhood and responsibility—values that closely align with Stephens’ Ten Ideals around which this summer’s academy was developed.

Reid said the experience has made her more empathetic toward others.

“I’ve also grown more responsible,” she said.

Sabrina Colon, 13, said the experience has revealed she is far more open to adventure than she ever imagined.

“I don’t usually leave the house much when I’m at home,” she said. “But I came all the way here, and I’m making friends and trying new things.”