Most people would never repeat the tedious college admissions process willingly, but Don “D.W.” Cartier (COL ’09) is not like most people. Two years ago Cartier founded the Ivy Program, a college counseling service for minority high school students in the Washington, D.C., area that offers mentoring for several dozen students on everything from how to write the perfect college application essay to basic homework and learning strategies. He has plenty of advice for the stressed and overworked.
What is the Ivy Program?
It’s a college planning program for minority students within the D.C. community. The idea kind of came from my experiences in high school. The thing about these students is that no major universities contact them; they’re never going to get Harvard or Yale or Georgetown to get to them. So I created a college planning program for them to encourage these students to look past schools that they already looked at.
When I talk to students and ask them where they want to go to school, they say, `Oh you know, a school in North Carolina or Howard,’ and those schools are fine, but even if they don’t go to Ivy League schools, I want them to know that there are more schools out there.
How did you start the program?
I’ve been working on the program for about two years. It launched basically at the beginning of last spring. I put all the pieces of the puzzle together last fall and then in the spring, I was able to launch and have people work with me. I have about five or six people working for me now.
What kinds of activities do you do with the students?
I met the students through [the Center for Multicultural Equity Access] because they ran workshops for college planning. Initially, I just wanted to take over for them, but then [CMEA] realized that my program would work with theirs and we mixed them together.
These students – from the time they’re in eighth grade – give up time to prepare for college. They give up their summers, they give up their weekends. I’m just kind of leading them on. This summer, we’re doing SAT prep sessions. .We’re able to have an SAT workshop for the summer. We’re helping them find research opportunities. They go abroad, too – they went to Chile last summer. So they pretty much do things that will diversify their resumes.
My program does provide homework help, too. We track them; we keep track of the students during the week to see how they’re doing academically and make sure that they’re not messing up.
Where do you get funding for the program?
The program doesn’t have funding through CMEA. We have separate funding. None of Georgetown’s money goes in here. We have outside funds from donors.
What inspired you to start the Ivy Program?
I went to public school and my public school never encouraged me to think about big schools. My counselor told me the best place I could probably get into was Arizona State. I thought I could do better. I applied to about 17 schools and got in 15 and I chose Georgetown in the end.
If I had had a person who had encouraged me, kind of told me what to do and helped me with different stuff like getting my SAT as high as it could, I think I would have had a less stressful college experience. Luckily, I did have a lot of resources and connections who were able to explain things to me so I wasn’t in the dark.
In light of the efforts of universities like Georgetown to consciously try to attract more minority students, why are programs like these so important?
Someone has to take initiative to because otherwise these kids will be left in the dark and left without any resources or options. There has to be an initiative where someone just goes and gives 100 percent. I feel that these opportunities can open doors.
A common misconception is that a low-income [student] – doesn’t have a lot of money, doesn’t have a lot of resources – that if [he or she] was to go to Georgetown, they wouldn’t do well. I have a lot of friends who are minority from low-income backgrounds that have matriculated and graduated magna cum laude. They did amazing stuff.
So I want to give more students opportunities to do this kind of stuff. I just want to make it possible so they can then give back.
Who are your picks for the Final Four?
It doesn’t really matter because it’s going to be Georgetown in the end. I’m not really good at predicting basketball stuff, but I’m guessing Ohio State’s going to be there. All of my friends are on the team, so they’re going to be there. Maybe Florida.
So, you’re friends with the basketball team? Got any good stories?
When I was first at Georgetown as a freshman, I hung out with Jessie [Sapp] a lot. He’s the funniest person you’ll ever meet. We were in a summer program before going to Georgetown as freshmen, and I knew Jessie. I guess because I knew him before I saw him play, so when people are in awe of him, I’m just like, `It’s Jessie.’
There’s this basketball myth that, you know what, being a basketball player doesn’t get you girls. It is the biggest lie they try to perpetuate. I disagree. My girlfriend would leave me for Jonathan Wallace any day. Every time she and her roommates see Jonathan Wallace, they’re like `Oooh, Jonathan Wallace. He’s so fine. He has `fine’ written all over him.’