Town & Gown at the School Next Door

Cambridge Rindge and Latin

We see them every day.

Like us, they walk through the Yard carrying books and talking with friends. Sometimes they stop to admire the beauty of the campus and the antiquity of its buildings.

They are the students at Cambridge's local public high school, the Rindge and Latin School.

To many of the 2146 students at Rindge and Latin, however, Harvard remains not much more than a next-door neighbor--and an unfriendly one at that. Harvard may be just across the street from Rindge and Latin, but as one official there says, "To some students it is a million miles away."

But some Harvard undergraduates are trying to change that.

Through a host of connections--both formal and informal--students at Harvard and those at Rindge and Latin come in contact every day, beyond the perfunctory glances of a walk through the Yard.

First of all, there are the approximately 30 Harvard undergraduates who went to Rindge and Latin. They are the most obvious connection between the two schools, the visible link between the town and the gown.

In fact, Harvard says it makes a special effort to consider applications from Cambridge high school students, with 40 percent of last year's applicants from Rindge gaining admission. Harvard's overall acceptance rate was just 20 percent, says Dwight D. Miller, a senior admissions officer who oversees Cambridge-area applications.

"Obviously Harvard's relationship as an institution with the city of Cambridge and Boston is a sensitive one," Miller says. "We try to be sensitive to the kids applying from those [area] schools."

And Albert H. Giroux, director of public relations for the Cambridge School Department, says Rindge and Latin reciprocates Harvard's interest. "[The high school] takes special interest in preparing students to attend Harvard. We appreciate Harvard's concern for our undergraduates' applications," he says.

But getting Rindge and Latin students into Harvard doesn't go too far in solving the problems of interactions between the two schools.

Harvard-bound students are a very small proportion of the Rindge and Latin student body, and they tend to be more motivated--if not more privileged--than their peers.

With an enrollment consisting of 50 percent minority students, Rindge and Latin is one of the country's most diverse public high schools. Students representing 64 different nations and speaking 46 different primary languages make up the student body, Giroux says.

In addition to its ethnic and national diversity, Rindge's student body also includes students from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds. Giroux says that 48 percent of Rindge and Latin students qualify for federal free and reduced-price lunches.

And those demographics have made Rindge and Latin the focus of many Harvard community service efforts.