Honorary Achievement or Deceitful Money Grab: The Truth Behind Nomination Letters

You arrive home from school one day to find a letter addressed to you. It comes from New York, or perhaps Washington D.C., regardless, it is uniquely official. Upon tearing into the envelope, you discover a piece of cardstock adorned with cursive lettering. You, and only you, have received the prestigious honor of attending a camp, conference, banquet, or convention that will provide you with immense knowledge and skills crucial to your success in the future.

This is a scenario nearly every student is acquainted with. But the question remains the same: “can we trust these programs?”

Recently in the mail, I received a certificate of selection from the “National Academy of Future Science and Technology Leaders”. Although at first glance I was awed by the official seal and signature of none other than Buzz Aldrin, further investigation proved my trepidations to be true.

Rather than “leadership potential and determination to serve humanity” serving as factors as of selection, this honorary achievement is promptly delivered to any student with a 3.5 GPA and a mailbox.

These sort of arbitrary programs exist across a wide spectrum of subjects. Shortly after my encounter with the previous letter, I received yet another nomination, this time to attend the “National Youth Leadership Forum: Digital Medial, Film & Journalism” in New York City, a program put on by Envision EMI. Despite my distrust of the letter upon first encounter, I decided to perform a bit of an investigation, and I was taken aback by my discovery. In 2009, Envision EMI was sued after charging students incredibly steep prices for the opportunity to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama. What students instead received, however, was hours stuck on transportation or in hotel rooms while the event took place.

Although these programs often occur at noteworthy locations, and in some cases have the potential to provide students with a valuable learning experience, their astoundingly high attendance costs negate any sort of benefit they may provide. Both of the previously mentioned camps came at high prices; thousands of dollars were asked of attendees simply for a three to four night experience.

These arbitrary, morally-disengaged programs are defined wholly by their capacity to disregard their victims. By utilizing their ability to make students feel special, their sponsors are able to reel in large sums of money at the expense of desperate scholars.

So next time you tear into an envelope and uncover a grand display of cursive fonts, shiny seals, and official signatures, I encourage you to do your research. You may be their next victim.