PBHA Participants Honored by Michelle Obama

Contact: Mary Cate Curley
Tel: 617-495-5842
Email: marycate@pbha.org

This Thursday, the Phillips Brooks House Association will send two young adults who have been long-time participants in PBHA programming to Washington, DC, where they will be honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit. Henry Santana and Wen Ping Gao, both Boston natives and now senior counselors for PBHA’s Summer Urban Program camps, will take part in this annual summit celebrating under-represented youth who have overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to college.

As part of her Reach Higher initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama will welcome more than 130 college-bound students from across the country to participate in the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit. These students are being sponsored by 70 non-profit organizations, and represent a mix of urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs, and under-represented youth who have overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to college. This event will focus on sharing tools and strategies students can use to successfully transition to college and the resources they will need to persist and complete the next level of their education.

This day-long event will include a panel moderated by E! News host Terrence Jenkins, which will feature First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, musical artist Wale, and Manuel Contreras, a rising senior at Brown University and co-founder of 1vyG. Wale will also perform a concert for the students.

Henry Santana, who has been involved in PBHA’s Mission Hill programs since he was a child, will attend Lasell College this fall as a first-generation college student. Santana attributes his success to his family, his own vision and hardwork, as well as his experiences with PBHA programs as both a camper and counselor. “Being exposed to Harvard students and passionate people is what did it for me. I wanted to one day be like them. I wanted to one day be a ‘college student.’”

Wen Ping Gao has participated in PBHA’s Chinatown-based youth programs as both a camper and counselor. In preparing questions to ask the First Lady at the summit, Gao reflected on the opportunities she had been given during high school to learn about global health issues including HIV/AIDS. This education led her to join a local health organization and organize a youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day along with her peers. “This is truly a life changing experience when you have a moment of epiphany, you follow through, grow your responsibility and leadership to make a difference,” Gao said. “As an incoming college freshman, I’m planning to study applied math and concentrate in global/community health. I want to combine things that I’m good at and things that I like, and make the most out of it.”

The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) is a student-run, community-based nonprofit public service organization based on the Harvard campus. PBHA runs 86 programs engaging 1,400 college students in year-round public service in the areas of youth development, housing and homelessness, adult services, ESL, advocacy, and out-of-school time programming. For more than a century PBHA programs have provided vital experiences for generations of leaders in service and activism while developing real, meaningful community partnerships. PBHA strives to create change on multiple levels in Boston and Cambridge. With professional staff support and advice, PBHA is a unique manifestation of college students’ idealism, energy, and initiative.

Learn More

  • Summer Urban Program (SUP)


    PBHA's Summer Urban Program is a network of 12 community-based summer programs across Boston and Cambridge. Apply to direct SUP 2022 today!