TSCS senior Jayla Hampton (right) at Andover with a fellow student

They attend dances and go whale watching. They explore Boston and visit colleges throughout New England. They address opportunities and challenges involving race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, differing abilities, or any other core issue of identity. They even take yoga classes. But it’s not all fun and games for The Soulsville Charter School students who earn a place at the prestigious Andover School (MS)summer program in Andover, Massachusetts, because they are there primarily to study math and science and they do it for three summers in a row as one of the most enriching Summer Growth Experiences TSCS offers.

Andover’s longest-running educational outreach program, (MS)advances diversity in the STEM fields by developing the competencies and self-confidence of outstanding high school students of color. The three-summer, residential program challenges students intellectually and exposes them to peers and educators with diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and aspirations.

Jayla Hampton is just one TSCS student who was accepted to (MS)in the ninth grade and has returned each summer for the past three years. She got there by applying, taking a math assessment, completing one full year of algebra before attending, interviewing, and doing some plain old hard work in science and math because admission was based, in part, on their academic achievement to date, strong interest in mathematics and science, recommendations, personal desire, and motivation.

Thanks to the Summer Growth Experience presentations that students make each year, Jayla found out about the Andover experience from former TSCS student Zakiyah Walker, who had participated in the program and reported on it in her 2017 presentation.

“When I found out about (MS),” Jayla says, “I was excited because math and science are my favorite subjects and here was this opportunity to spend the summer out of town studying those at a special program that was free. After I went through the application process, the director of the Andover program came to interview me and I was really nervous at first and way overdressed. And I asked a lot of questions back to back to back and she told me I seemed pretty confident I was getting in. When the interview was over I shook her hand and I told her I’d see her that summer at Andover.”

What might seem like culture shock to some was like cultural enrichment for Jayla. (MS)accepts African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Americans, and other minority students from around the country. And when Jayla arrived in Boston at the airport her first summer on her first-ever airplane ride she said she was hearing accents she had never heard before and experiencing really friendly people who were ready to help her out at navigating what she describes as her new “mini college.”

As for her teachers, she says they always accepted students for who they were at any level and did their best to make them better. “They encourage you to do your best throughout the entire program because it’s going to count later on in different aspects of life.”

Days were filled with long classes and problem solving in math and science and English classes to develop sound writing skills. Weekends were filled with sports, museum excursions, the aforementioned whale watching (fun but scary Jayla says, because if the whale hits your boat you’re done!), and other activities as she advanced to the top in the program’s three-level placement scale and became a well-known leader in the Andover summer community, graduating in 2019 with honors among 35 other graduates. Becoming a leader, she says, also led to one of her favorite aspects of the program: Culture Sharing.

In Culture Sharing, she explains, “We got to put on plays about social issues and in my last summer there, because I was a leader, I got to write and direct the play. It was about not forgetting history so you can predict the future and perfect the present.”

Her time at Andover also included a lot of college counseling, college fairs with hundreds of colleges represented, and tours of colleges all over New England including Harvard and the college she has applied to and hopes to attend – Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She intends to study neuroscience and become a neurosurgeon. This is partly for personal reasons, she says, because some members of her family have suffered and died from brain diseases and couldn’t afford adequate medical care. She wants to make sure everyone that needs that gets it, “no matter what.” And Jayla has help not only from TSCS in the process of trying to get accepted to Brown; TSCS 2013 valedictorian Stephani Brownlee – who attended Brown on scholarship after TSCS graduation and is now working for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. and getting her second Master’s degree, this time from Harvard – is helping her out.

“I knew I wanted to go into that field somehow,” she says. “My three summer at Andover in (MS)helped me make that decision and start a plan.”