Program exposes some of Valley's poorest students to Ivy League schools

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Most children grow up in the bubble we create for them. Our limitations become their limitations. If we don't feel there is enough money for college, they might not even look.

We found the Arizona Ivy League Project, an organization that takes some of the poorest smart kids in the state and not only helps them get into college, they take them to the Ivy League.

The students are clapping and laughing on a city street. The video shows the 2014 group of high school students on the trip of a lifetime. They visited about a dozen college campuses in places like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

“It was a very different culture from the one I've experienced here,” said McClintock High School senior Carolina Garcia.

Garcia visited Harvard University, Yale University, New York University and Columbia University, historic schools she had only dreamed about.

“It was definitely a goal for me to go out of state,” she said. “I did realize it was going to be very costly.”

“Brown and Yale were definitely the ones that stood out to me,” said junior Jasmine Betancourt.

She was on this year's tour. Like Garcia, Betancourt's family immigrated from Mexico. She says Ivy League schools always seemed out of reach.

“Especially coming from my background,” Betancourt said. “I always kind of thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the schools are intense. I can never compete with those kinds of kids. You know, I just don't have the resources they do.' ”

Volunteers from the Arizona Ivy League Project take the students on the trip to show them their potential and possibilities.

“Their eyes light up," said the president of the project, James Montoya. "They're really inspired, and they see themselves actually there."

He said many students would never apply to these schools that cost more than $60,000 a year.

“What they don't know is, a lot of these schools have a generous financial aid packages, which they will basically go to school for free,” Montoya said. “Obviously, they have a work study, but they're going to school for free.”

The trip is the highlight, but there are also Saturday workshops that focus on leadership, networking and community service, then the college application process that follows.

“They teach you so many different skills,”Garcia said. “Communication skills, interviewing skills, and how to represent yourself.”

Garcia has a full scholarship to Columbia University and will study engineering.

“You got to see their culture and the environment that it is,” reflected Betancourt. “You can't really read about that. It's something that you have to experience. It's where you get the feeling about the kind of school that is best for you.”

She was very impressed by Brown and came back inspired to work harder to make sure she is accepted.

“I think going on the trip and actually seeing them made me realize, wow, this is happening,” she said. “This is possible. I can do it.”

Not all the students end up at Ivy League schools. They are encouraged to apply to in-state schools as well.

The Arizona Ivy League Project has an interview process, and strict academic and financial standards. To read more about those, go to their website here: www.azivyleagueproject.org.
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