Our Views: Big leagues of colleges

In the season of graduations and college admissions, perhaps one of the best feel-good stories came from New York City, about Kawsi Enin.

Enin, 17, was dubbed “the LeBron James of students” by New York magazine, because he was accepted to all eight institutions of the Ivy League. That’s among others, as LeBron — er, Enin — was recruited by many big-name institutions.

But if this year’s LeBron James of students became a media celebrity, there are some awfully strong feel-good stories, complete with big-name academic institutions, coming out of Baton Rouge and an innovative program that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve high school success.

The brainchild of a Teach for America alum, Dan Kahn, the nonprofit bundles together the after-school prepping, mentoring and other support services that give a promising student from a poor family the ability to compete within the academic NBA.

The Baton Rouge Youth Coalition marked its fifth year with the award to a Baton Rouge student, Beatrice Kariuki, of Broadmoor High School, of a Gates Millennium Scholarship. She is the fourth Gates scholar for the Baton Rouge program.

She will go to Emory University in Atlanta, free of charge because of the Gates Foundation scholarship.

It’s a long way from Kenya, where her family applied but waited a decade for a green card to enter the United States to give Beatrice and her siblings access to a quality education. “The only high-quality schools where we lived were very expensive, and my parents knew we could never afford them,” Kariuki said. She came to Louisiana only in 2010 — and is now headed to a prestigious Southern university.

If free, or at least close-to-free, public education is one of America’s great accomplishments, effort is required to make the most of it. That is why BRYC applicants are accepted on the basis of not only grades and academic potential, but work ethic.

If not the Ivy League, Emory and Morehouse and the universities of Alabama and Auburn — where the four BRYC Gates scholars were accepted — is a tribute to those students and BRYC’s efforts to overcome the challenges facing “under-resourced teens.”

Those students are among the 65 alumni, out of 70 fellows supported, to attend four-year colleges, said BRYC Director Lucas Spielfogel.

The colleges make an impressive list: Stanford, Wesleyan, Wisconsin-Madison, NYU and of course LSU in the program’s hometown. One graduate this year will go to Brown University in the Ivy League.

The alums have collectively been awarded more than $4 million in scholarships, Spielfogel said.

It’s certainly the big leagues.

In New York, Enin chose Yale University — and BRYC’s still working on boosting a student there. We are confident they will achieve that goal one day.