Community Leaders Visit Columbia's Flourishing Double Discovery Center College Prep Program for Local Students

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik, alongside elected officials and local leaders in education, made a classroom visit in late July.

Kelly Moffitt-Hawasly
August 16, 2023

Over the course of its nearly 60-year history, the Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center (DDC), operated by Columbia College, has become one of Columbia University's most prominent and successful community-facing programs, empowering more than 25,000 New York City youth from first-generation and low-income backgrounds to succeed in "getting to, through, and beyond college."

In late July, community, education, and elected leaders joined Columbia University President Minouche Shafik to visit a DDC classroom, meet current students, and discuss the future growth of the program.

As part of the visit, leaders observed a sociology class led by Columbia Ph.D. student Jay Brown and learned more about how high school students in Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, Harlem, Washington Heights, and from select partner schools across the city, participate in academic enrichment, socio-emotional learning, and a long-term network of support. Following the classroom visit, leaders participated in a roundtable discussion about the DDC model.

Representatives from Community Board 9, Community School District 5, Manhattan Borough President's Office, NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, as well as New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu (CC'14), himself a graduate of the DDC program, joined the event alongside DDC Executive Director Sasha Wells, Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett, DDC Founder Roger Lehecka, DDC Board of Friends Chair Natalie Edwards, and several other Columbia leaders. 

"The growth and evolution of this program, over the years, has also provided the University and our neighbors with a brilliant example of the kinds of investments and partnerships that produce exceptional results for all involved," said President Shafik. "It is exactly the kind of work my colleagues and I are eager to build upon and deepen in the months and years ahead."

Sociology Instructor Jay Brown addresses a class of Double Discovery Center students, local elected officials, and Columbia President Minouche Shafik.
A student engages in active discussion in the Double Discovery Center classroom.
Sociology Instructor Jay Brown instructs the class in front of a chalkboard with terms on it.
Two students speak to one another in the Double Discovery Classroom.
Community, elected, and Columbia leaders observe a Double Discovery Center classroom session.
Columbia President Minouche Shafik and Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett speak with Double Discovery students.
Double Discovery Center Founder Roger Lehecka speaks to a table of community leaders.
Columbia President Minouche Shafik speaks with Deputy Manhattan Borough President Keisha Sutton-James and a roundtable of community leaders.
A roundtable of Columbia, community, and education leaders discuss the Double Discovery Center program model at a luncheon after the classroom visit. Photo by Diane Bondareff/Columbia University.

Last year, Columbia Neighbors spoke with DDC Executive Director Sasha Wells about the future of the program and how our Uptown community could support it:

"People in the local neighborhood can support DDC by being our advocates and getting the word out," Wells said. "Telling one student is impactful. The program can change not just their life, but the lives of their family and their community as well."

You can learn more about the Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center here, including information on how local high school students can apply for the program. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and local students are encouraged to apply today. There are also opportunities for both community members and Columbia students to volunteer with the program. 

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