The Hopkins Pathfinder program provides gifted middle school students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to take advanced coursework on campus at Hopkins School, one of the country’s premier independent schools.

In giving access to the same courses and having access to the same resources that Hopkins’ full time middle school students have, Pathfinder students are equally prepared for high school admittance to both parochial and private schools; and after high school to top colleges and universities.

The Hopkins Pathfinder program is, by far, the largest program of its type (academically rigorous supplemental programming) in the state of Connecticut. According to Michael Van Leesten, Pathfinder founder, “In addition to removing an economically imposed artificial ceiling on an academically deserving student’s potential, Pathfinder also serves as a substantive and productive connection between Hopkins, and the surrounding New Haven community. This and programs like it help reverse the sometimes centuries-old town-gown animosities and alienation while concretely promoting the value of community to Hopkins students through their participation as tutors and Teaching Fellows.”

In speaking about AJA Foundation’s 13 year partnership with Pathfinder, Mr. Van Leesten said, “without the Foundation’s significant and consistent funding, we would not have been able to initiate the long-planned expansion of the program, which enabled Pathfinder to (1) double the number of students enrolled to a record 120; (2) prepare students for admission into 7th grade at Hopkins; AND (3) increase the number of grades served from 2 (rising-8th and 9th) to 4 (rising-6th through 9th).”

Student Spotlight

In excess of 380 students have come through Pathfinder, most going on to top parochial and private high schools, frequently with substantial scholarship assistance. The list of colleges and universities attended by Pathfinder students is as impressive as the students themselves. So is the list of graduate degrees.

One such student is Darrel Draughn Jr. who is currently a sophomore majoring in Computer Science at the University of Connecticut. He’s been offered his “#1 choice” summer internship with Cigna IT Development in Bloomfield, CT where he’ll be working directly with engineers developing web and mobile programming applications. He recently wrote to Mr. Van Leesten

“I can’t thank you enough for helping me, and encouraging me throughout the years. Although I didn’t attend Hopkins after Pathfinder, I always felt I could call on you for advice. I’m indebted to you, and if there’s a way that I can give back, please keep me in mind. As I continue to learn advanced coding strategies and improve my presentation skills, perhaps I can help the Pathfinder program in the future.”

Leave a Reply