Samad Hakani, Photography Editor and Emily Cai

Beginning this coming summer, the nonprofit Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America will bring its annual cohort of 100 rising high school seniors from under-resourced backgrounds to Yale’s campus for the final week of its college preparatory summer program. 

The partnership follows a September commitment from Yale College administrators in response to the Supreme Court’s summer ruling to overturn affirmative action. One of the initiatives on the list was to host a “high-impact college preparatory summer program” for students from underrepresented backgrounds within two years. Now, Yale’s partnership with LEDA will seek to accomplish that goal.

LEDA’s free five-week intensive program — the Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute — focuses on providing “leadership training, academic writing instruction, standardized test preparation, college guidance, and community building” to high-achieving, lower-income students, according to the nonprofit’s website. The program has historically been hosted on the Princeton University campus; students will still spend their first four weeks in New Jersey before coming to New Haven for their fifth and final week.

Moira Poe, Yale’s senior associate director of admissions for strategic priorities, said that the University was impressed by LEDA’s ability to reach high-achieving high schoolers with “an amazingly diverse set of under-resourced backgrounds.”

“For many years, Yale admissions office staff have connected with LEDA scholars and staff during the program at Princeton,” Poe wrote to the News. “We think spending time residing on a college campus provides LEDA scholars with a tangible sense of what to expect in college, empowering them to feel confident that they have the skills needed to navigate university resources.”

In 2023, 55 percent of LEDA scholars were admitted to at least one Ivy League school, MIT or Stanford University, including 21 who were accepted to Yale.

Almost 100 LEDA scholars have matriculated to Yale since the program’s founding in 2003, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan. He also noted that LEDA Scholars are often “exceptionally strong and compelling college applicants.”

Diego Lopez ’24 said that his college counselor at his high school in a low-income area of Los Angeles recommended that he apply to the summer program, which he was accepted to and attended. He said that LEDA has been very helpful to him during both high school and college, especially in terms of providing mentorship and guidance.

“LEDA has done so much to expand opportunity and help first-generation, low-income students believe in themselves and know that they’re capable of applying to these higher-ed institutions,” Lopez said.

Lopez, who is graduating this year, remains involved with the organization and said he plans to apply for LEDA Legal. The program, which guides students through the law school admissions process, was established last year in partnership with the Yale Law School.

David Garza, executive director at LEDA, said that Yale has consistently been a top destination for LEDA Scholars, and that conversations have long been underway to create a partnership beyond LEDA Legal.

“For several years, we have had conversations about ways that we can partner together to make sure that we are creating this avenue for students from underserved communities to be able to get into a school with the talent and sort of resources of Yale,” Garza said.

Charlize Leon Mata ’26 participated in the Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute when she was in high school. She said she submitted her application after coming across a YouTube video where a college student who offers advice to high schoolers mentioned the program.

Leon Mata said that she thinks most LEDA Scholars share a passion for social justice and helping their lower-income communities, which she said creates a unique community among Scholars.

“The Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute was very instrumental for us to start thinking of our communities from a different perspective,” she said, explaining that part of the program consists of reading social justice literature and “applying those lessons from greater literature to our personal experiences.”

Like Lopez, Leon Mata has remained deeply involved with LEDA since coming to Yale. In addition to staying close with several members of her cohort, she now mentors a Yale first-year student through LEDA’s mentorship program, participates in the Yale LEDA club and is a LEDA Career Fellow with the organization’s career development program.

Leon Mata said that she is excited that the summer program will be coming to Yale, but hopes that the program will expand in future years for students to stay on Yale’s campus for longer.

“I’m not sure if one week is really enough time for students to grapple with what it would be like to be a student here at Yale,” she said. “But I do think that it’s a great starting point for Yale to make this partnership and also for LEDA to expand beyond Princeton.”

Both Garza and Poe told the News that there are ongoing discussions about expanding the partnership in future years. Poe added that in following up on its September commitment, Yale is “continuing conversations with other high-impact summer enrichment programs.”

As of 2022, LEDA has worked with 1,850 students across its enrichment programs.

Josie Reich covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Washington, DC, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in American Studies.