Exploring My Passion: Summer Funding through Harvard

Category Student Voices


College student, Braeden
Braeden Class of '21 Alumni
Authored on October 21, 2019


Before coming to Harvard, I thought I’d never be able to accept an unpaid internship.

Because I need to contribute to my college expenses, I figured I’d have to work each summer for wages and, honestly, I was okay with that. There’s nothing wrong with going home to work for the summer, but I was worried about not being able to explore interesting opportunities because of my financial circumstances. This all changed when I discovered that Harvard funds a variety of different summer experiences.

I have been blown away and so grateful for the incredible generosity of Harvard’s summer funding.

Thanks to different grant opportunities and support from Harvard, I’ve been able to spend the past two summers exploring life in different cities and working in different fields.

Summer 2018, America Needs You

The summer after my first year at Harvard, I worked as an intern at the New York-based education nonprofit America Needs You. Through Harvard, I had free housing in Brooklyn, my summer student contribution was waived, and I had a stipend for summer spending.

Because of Harvard’s support, I was able to explore working at a nonprofit with a mission I really aligned with⁠ — working to empower first-generation college students.

Commuting to Times Square every day, I experienced life in New York City (a big change from Mississippi) and I developed a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on events and running a nonprofit. I learned and interacted with some of the most amazing, selfless people I’ve ever met, each of them committed to uplifting others. As the only intern, I had a great deal of personalized attention and mentorship and a lot of independence in choosing my own tasks and projects. While the summer showed me NYC might not be the place for me (that in itself being a learning experience!), it did introduce me to the world of education non-profits, something I continue to be very interested in and passionate about as a result!

Group of Students in Times Square

Meeting up in Times Square with some of my Harvard friends!

Summer 2019, Meridian Freedom Project

I spent this past summer teaching middle schoolers in Southern Mississippi with the Meridian Freedom Project. Like the previous summer, Harvard helped fund my housing, waived my summer contribution, and helped pay for living expenses. With their support, I was able to experience teaching first-hand, managing several classes per day including Public Speaking / Mock Trial, Civics, to P.E., and a Chess class I started!

Student standing in front of white board

Teaching one of my classes on civics!

From course-planning to serving as the Mock Trial coach to developing friendships with each of my students, my time with the Meridian Freedom Project revealed to me my love for education and reinvigorated my strong desire to return to Mississippi to get involved with education leadership. Though the 10+ hour days in the classroom wore me out, I had the best summer of my life to date, and I would have never been able to experience it without funding through Harvard!

Student in a costume

Here I am wearing the costume made by my students for the teacher costume contest!

Summer 2019 (Continued!), Delta Scholars Program

In addition to my job teaching this summer, I also spent two weeks participating in the Delta Scholars Program, an immersion program where I engaged with issues impacting the Mississippi Delta such as food insecurity, education inequity, and ongoing public health concerns. Through workshops and briefings from various academics as well as a several day journey through the Mississippi Delta where we met with researchers, nonprofit workers, and community leaders, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the issues affecting a region within my state and the current innovations being implemented to address them. In addition to this learning experience, I also received extensive support in working to launch a backpack feeding program of my own in Holmes County, MS, for food insecure middle schoolers.


All this is to say that Harvard has afforded me many opportunities I never would’ve thought possible due to my financial circumstances. Because of generous summer funding, I have never had to make a compromise between what I care about and what I can afford, and it’s just one of the many benefits I never expected when making my college decisions!

Group of students posing together

Here I am with my Delta Scholars Program cohort!



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Braeden Class of '21 Alumni

College student, Braeden