the Odds, Senior Helps Others Get to College
years ago, as Alesandra Sandin ’07 was finishing up
her last year of high school, she thought of a program that
would improve the chances for high school students from the
country’s poorest areas to go to college.
Busy juggling her own college
applications and final-year coursework, Sandin realized it
would be difficult to launch such a program for even one year.
Many of those with whom she talked about the idea doubted
she could pull it off at all.
They were wrong.
On Nov. 16, during a ceremony at her alma mater, Hanover High
School in New Hampshire, Sandin proudly addressed participants
in the program’s fifth year.
“Continue working hard
and recognize the difference in yourself so you can make a
difference in others,” she told teens from New York
City and Dorchester, Mass.
Dubbed WISH (Winter Infusion
SEAD in Hanover), Sandin’s program is an extension of
a Dartmouth College summer program that brings poor students
who demonstrate academic promise to Hanover for a few weeks.
Sandin worked for the Dartmouth
College program, called Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD),
before her senior year, and loved the experience. But she
recognized that students in the SEAD program needed to return
to Hanover during the academic year to reconnect to a support
system and friends that they had made during the summer.
The mid-year experience of WISH
provides an “infusion” of support for SEAD participants,
says Sandin, who return to communities and schools that don’t
typically provide the same level of support available in the
“I saw this only happening
for a year,” recalls Sandin. “At 17, how could
I apply to colleges, finish high school and set up a program
that would last?”
Getting her idea off the ground
was daunting enough, but when directors of SEAD did not support
her idea, it became much more difficult, said Sandin. Taking
inspiration from Jonathan Kozol’s award-winning book
Savage Inequalities, about disparities in America’s
educational system, Sandin said the experience of being turned
down “made me want to do it even more.”
Sandin estimated the cost of
getting the students to Hanover and back to their communities
would amount to $5,000. To avoid food and housing costs while
they were in town, Sandin planned to recruit families in her
high school to host the students.
Still, the funding was a hurdle
-- until a single phone call changed everything.
From the Hanover High School
Guidance Office, Sandin phoned a local resident, whom she
knew to be wealthy. She described her idea and predicament,
and asked the woman for the funding she needed. When she received
her answer on the phone, everyone in the office heard as Sandin
began screaming. She had received a pledge of $10,000 each
year for five years.
Of the students who attended
her program that first year, two are now at Dartmouth, and
another at Pennsylvania State University. Dartmouth College
now requires the SEAD students to attend WISH. And students
at Hanover High School have organized the program each year
since Sandin graduated.
Standing on stage at her alma
mater on Nov. 16, Sandin faced the students who completed
the program in its fifth year.
“You have brought me back,”
she told them. “Everyone here knows how important you