Derrick Raphael, a Sociology major, is from Fayetteville, North Carolina (the home of the Army's Fort Bragg). When he was a junior in the local high school there, an organization named Educational Talent School Program (ETS) at Fayetteville State University gave him strong support and encouragement in applying to Princeton, even paying for his application fee. Now Derrick proposes to "give back" to ETS by using his ReachOut '56 Fellowship to work for the organization upon his graduation this June – in his words, "to encourage all students to keep 'reaching for the stars!' embodying the ETS motto."
The mission of ETS, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is to identify and assist individuals from low income and disadvantage backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The three counties served by ETS (Cumberland, Robeson and Hoke) are relatively poor, the students have low SAT scores below the state average, and the individuals would be the first generation in their family to attend college. In Derrick's mind, "The work of the Educational Talent Search program is both necessary and timely. As the educational standards of the State seek to rise, the students served by ETS are most at risk of falling behind. The projects ETS carries out each day, and those I seek to initiate as a ReachOut '56 Fellow, will help to ensure a brighter future for the students supported by ETS."
Derrick's project contemplated adding three new programs to the ETSrepertoire. One was to develop leadership chapters at schools in the area, with regular meetings of students to support each other, reinforce positive habits and engender pride inwhat they're achieving, with older students mentoring younger ones. One of Derrick's goals was to develop leadership chapters in elementary schools, which are not currently served by ETS, thus expanding their mission into a younger age group. As Derrick said at the time, "The transition from elementary to middle schools is huge, and the ability to reach students as early as the fourth grade is crucial, because children may already be on the path to dropout status by this point."
A second program would help students to find, apply for, and obtain placement in summer internship positions. "One of the major ways for young people to get ahead and develop their minds during summer is to stay active intellectually and physically during those months out of school." The third consisted of a series of after-school discussions at a number of schools, with the purpose of offering a broad array of information about the college placement process.
The institution where Derrick housed and completed his project was the Cumberland School System. According to Derrick,
“During my time with Cumberland County Schools we were able to get a Duke Business School Professor and Princeton alum, Otis Jennings, to come speak to the students during our Winter Ceremony. We were also able to get several students who were a part of my program called F-YEP (Fayetteville-Youth Education Program) to enroll in the MSEN (Math and Science Education Network) Pre-College Program at Fayetteville State University so students were able to continue their college preparation endeavors after the conclusion of the F-YEP Program. Partnerships were also created with Kaplan who provided SAT and college prep services to students in the program for free. The Cumberland County School School's Superintendent, Dr. Harrision, provided me an office, an official ID badge, and access to four schools directly and all of the schools as I needed to provide information regarding college prep advice.”
What particularly impressed us about Derrick is his passion for his cause and a strong sense of determination in taking on this challenge. In the words of a Princeton professor, Derrick is "one of the most exceptional students I have met in my time at Princeton. He is obviously smart, but what are really distinctive about Derrick are his motivation, drive and dedication. This is a student that will not take 'no' for an answer and who will do the work required to turn it into a 'yes' . . . I have never had such an enthusiastic student." The professor went on to say that Derrick is "a perfect candidate for taking on a leadership position in North Carolina. As you well know, there are few pedagogical missions as important as increasing minority representation in all levels of higher education. The ETS program sounds like a perfect vehicle for Derrick's talents and I am certain that he would do great work there. This is exactly the kind of project we as University and the Class of 1956 wish to promote."
Another professor ranked Derrick "among the top three percent of all students I have taught in the last decade," adding this: "Seldom have I met a more congenial and charming individual. He is caring, self-confident, helpful and simply delightful to know. He is the ideal Princeton student."
Derrick's counselor from high school, who has known him for over a decade, says, "Derrick is a visionary. He sees with clear eyes and projects with confidence his view of what makes life and living better for the young people of the day . . . . He leads by example and articulates his position with authority and conciseness . . . . Derrick has high moral character and integrity."
While pursuing his project, Derrick was named by the Fayetteville Observer newspaper as one of the top 20 most influential persons under 40 (Derrick being the youngest one selected) involved in positive endeavors in Fayetteville. Contacted recently, Derrick added the following: Right now I am a second year law student at Duke University School of Law. I have recently been elected the President of the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association (BGPSA). I have also been an active member of my local Kiwanis Club of Fayetteville, NC. I am honored by my recent selection as a trustee for ReachOut 56-81-06 as well as my election to be the Executive Vice-President. It is a way for me to give back to ReachOut which has given so much to me. I really love seeing the expansion of ReachOut and that the quality of the applicants keeps rising every year.”