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(MS)2: It's tough, it's intense – and kids love it

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As a child, Kristina Halona grew up without running water or electricity on a New Mexico Navajo reservation. But she had big dreams: inspired by the Air Force jets that raced over the desert landscape, she set her sights on the science of space exploration.

Today, Ms. Halona helps develop satellites as an aerospace engineer. It's a leap that was made possible, the young college graduate says, by spending her high school summers hard at work in classrooms thousands of miles from her Southwestern home.

Halona was in ninth grade when she first traveled to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. For a quarter-century now, the school's Math and Science for Minority Students – (MS)2 – program has brought public high school students from inner cities and reservations to this leafy campus just north of Boston. Over three consecutive summers, they pack in whole years' worth of courses like physics, calculus, and English – giving kids a taste of college life while helping them develop the confidence and skills to succeed there.

Virtually all the program's graduates go on to college. And when alumni returned to campus this month to celebrate (MS)2's 25th anniversary, they came back as doctors, engineers, and other professionals.

Ted Sizer, a former Phillips Academy headmaster who helped launch (MS)2, says he couldn't have anticipated its success. Indeed, many alumni called it the best experience in their lives - their first chance to meet so many equally bright kids from similar backgrounds.

"Going to a place like that and learning opens yours eyes," says Halona, who graduated from the program in 1995.

Few though, ever claim it was easy.

At this academic boot camp, students spend five hours in class or labs and just as much time doing homework six days a week. They take more classes than other Phillips Academy summer-session students, and must get a higher minimum grade to pass.

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