Cinderella Project briefly turns teens into LSU coeds
They slept in dorms, sat through lectures and met with LSU academic counselors.
But they weren’t college students — at least not yet.
Nearly 30 high schools girls from across Louisiana are scheduled to graduate Saturday morning from the Cinderella Project’s Leadership Academy, an initiative in its second year that allows teenage girls to temporarily experience “the college life” a little early.
“It’s just a great way for them to know that college is attainable,” said Shelton Jones, one of the Leadership Academy’s organizers and co-founder of the Cinderella Project. That project, co-founded by Sarah Dupree, provides underprivileged teens the opportunity to pick out donated dresses during prom season.
More than 150 girls applied for the coveted three-day, four-night program, which sent teenagers to discussions about financial literacy and ACT preparation on Thursday and Western Civilization or psychology class on Friday, among many other activities.
The program is slated to culminate with a graduation ceremony Saturday at State Police Headquarters on Independence Boulevard, where the students will receive a $500 college scholarship and a stipend to take the ACT, a standardized test many colleges and universities use to measure academic aptitude.
The 28 girls selected by a committee have stayed in dormitories at the State Police training academy since Wednesday, a conveniently safe location for parents worried about the approach of Tropical Storm Karen.
“They’re in the safest place they could be right now,” said State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson on Thursday night as concerned parents called academy organizers about the whereabouts of their children. At the time, the girls were seated inside the cafeteria at the State Police’s training academy learning how to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
The instant-ice cream activity was part of “The Science of Beauty,” an event put on by women employees from ExxonMobil’s Women Interest Network to demonstrate how science serves a purpose in the girls’ daily lives.
After the ice cream tasting, students experimented with “perfumology.”
“Perfume itself is also a science,” Amanda Root, an ExxonMobil chemical engineer and part-time “perfumologist,” told the girls.
Each girl was allowed to make two perfumes: One single-scent and one double-scent fragrance. The single scents counted as the safe choice, while the mixed scents served as scientific exploration involving a familiar product.
The experiment was meant to teach the girls valuable scientific lessons, such as persistence, determination and the ability to accept failure as an alternate road to success.
Angela Zeringue, a plant manager at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge polyolefins plant, said she hopes the students are inspired by seeing young women close to their age talk about the relevance of science in their everyday lives.
“I’m quite confident we have some future employees in this room,” Zeringue said.
Some girls crinkled their faces and waved their hands in front of their noses at their more-often-than-not malodorous creations. But the foul-smelling fragrances didn’t keep the loud crowd from having a good time.
“This whole experience has been amazing,” said Hailey Gros, a sophomore at St. Michael the Archangel High School in Baton Rouge.
Gros said she loves to learn, adding that she can’t wait for college, especially after this week’s sampling.
Jerica Cole, a senior from East Ascension High School in Gonzales who found out she was accepted to LSU earlier this week, said the part she enjoyed most was making new friends at the leadership academy.
“I kind of already get the feel of what college is going to be like,” Cole said, adding that she was more nervous about the non-academic aspects of college life.
Cole said she wished more girls could have the opportunity to experience the Leadership Academy in the future.
“I hope it gets to reach more girls every year,” Cole said.