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College Entrance for Baltimore’s MERIT Students is Earned, Not Bought


Graduating high-school seniors in the Baltimore-based MERIT Health Leadership Academy have earned over $9 million in scholarships and gained acceptance to some of the most prestigious universities across the country. By devoting significant time and energy to Saturday classes, summer internships, and independent studying, MERIT scholars—who come from underrepresented backgrounds within the health care professions—develop skills to help them succeed in college and their future careers.

This year’s graduating class received acceptances to the University of Southern California, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Duke University, University of Chicago, Northeastern University, Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Bowdoin College, and others, gaining a total of 289 acceptances.

“This indicates what young people from Baltimore can achieve when they are given the support and opportunities typically afforded to their more affluent peers,” says Jake Weinfeld, Ed. M, Executive Director of MERIT. “Scholars in this program are willing to dedicate every Saturday and summer in high school to study advanced science, prepare for the SAT, shadow in hospitals, work in research labs, and more because they want to become tomorrow’s nurses, physicians, and public health professionals.”

MERIT supports Baltimore high school students who aspire to careers in health care. Scholars take advanced academic classes, work in hospitals and labs during paid summer internships, and receive long-term college and career mentorship.

Among the 2018-2019 graduating seniors, 100 percent were accepted to a four-year college or university and 61 percent will attend college for free as a result of scholarships. Many of the students were selected for distinguished scholarship programs such as the Gates Millennium, QuestBridge, Coca-Cola Scholars, USC Mork Scholars, and more.

One particularly notable success story features MERIT scholar Zion Smith who will attend the University of Southern California this fall on the highly competitive Mork Scholarship—given to only 10 students in the world. Zion gained acceptance to all 15 schools to which she applied including Duke University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, New York University, University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and others.

Throughout the MERIT program, Zion shadowed over 20 health care professionals, led community garden-building efforts around the city, and spent one year conducting pulmonary hypertension research Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. View a video of Zion’s story, here: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=MERIT%3a+The+Journey+To+Medicine&view=detail&mid=B2824A2A5DA27DF8B2F4B2824A2A5DA27DF8B2F4&FORM=VIRE

“Zion, like many of our scholars, worked tirelessly for three long years to make her college dreams a reality. What inspires me most about Zion’s journey is that her motivation comes from a purpose outside of herself; she sees the needs of the people in her community and knows that she can play a role in making change happen,” says Weinfeld.

This year’s senior class increased their SAT scores by an average of 248 points and went on to earn $365,000 in scholarships, on average. Since its founding in 2010, MERIT scholars have achieved a 98 percent college acceptance rate. The Johns Hopkins Schools of Nursing and Medicine partner with MERIT to help provide educational and training opportunities for the scholars.

Visit www.meritbaltimore.org to learn more of the impact MERIT is having on Baltimore’s youth.

Media Inquiries

Jake Weinfeld
[email protected]