Karsches send students to Summer College for fifth year

Ten students from the Harlem Village Academies who attended Cornell Summer Session this year, thanks to Michael and Erica Karsch, pose with the couple in New York City.

Remember the name Sharice Jones. Someday you might see her byline on these news stories.

Thanks to the support of Erica Karsch ’94 and her husband, Michael Karsch, Jones and 10 other high school students from the Harlem Village Academy (HVA) attended the Cornell Summer College Program for High School Students this July.

Jones, a rising junior at HVA, took the “Freedom and Justice” course this summer, taught by government professor Isaac Kramnick. “I want to go into journalism, and I’m hoping that this course will give me insight and perspective into what I’d like to do as a journalist,” she said.

Jones was part of the third cohort of HVA students from her high school in New York City to join teens from all over the world at Cornell for three weeks of intensive summer study. She and other students say the experience opened their eyes to a wider world of academic discovery and the thrill of meeting new people at every turn.

“I’m really grateful to the Karsch family for providing this experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve gotten to meet a whole group of people I would never have gotten to where I’m from,” she said.

Michael Karsch is familiar with this life-changing experience. He attended the Cornell summer program as a high school student in 1984. In part, it was this experience plus his wife’s  undergraduate years at Cornell and their generosity that has led them to support more than 60 Cornell Summer College students over five years.

“We first underwrote summer study for students seven years ago with the Boys and Girls Harbor, a charter school in Harlem. Someone sponsoring kids to go to summer school had passed away after promising eight kids financial support, so we stepped in,” said Michael Karsch. Then, four years ago they began working with Dean Glenn Altschuler on a partnership between Cornell Summer College and HVA, where Michael Karsch is a board member.

“I believe it’s important to utilize the summer and gain experience,” said Erica Karsch, who has a background as an educator. “This program is an opportunity for us to show these kids what college is like. It gives them a good mindset as to how to apply for college, and what they may want to do afterwards.”

Several of this year’s HVA students took Professor Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s “Body, Mind and Health” course this summer. Academically, “we put enormous emphasis on learning to write a research paper using primary and secondary sources,” said Brumberg. “Most of the students’ skill levels should have improved given the support they got from excellent teaching assistants and careful construction of assignments.”

The Cornell Summer College program also receives significant aid from 16 community organizations and schools that partially subsidize youth with whom they work. The program also has a smaller amount of funds that support independent applicants, as summer students are not eligible for the financial aid packages students matriculating for degree receive.

Over the years, the Karsches have increasingly helped to support HVA to teach students study skills, offer readings and tutoring connections, and help to provide transportation, books and spending money.

“Our gratification comes from seeing what the students and their families are getting out of it. It’s incredibly rewarding,” said Erica Karsch.

Rebecca Harrison ’14 is writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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Joe Schwartz