"When you travel to a new country or visit a new museum, you bring a little something back and it sticks with you and you can pass it on to benefit yourself and others," said Ryan. "I'm different now because normally I wouldn't read the newspaper but now I read the newspaper and I'm aware of how the economy is doing, I am aware more of the presidential race and this year I followed the Olympics."
While the program mainly targets the needs of low income families and students of color, it is not restricted and offers the students cultural diversity.
Each student also comes to the program with a unique set of academic and emotional needs. Dr. Harlow said that HLI is a place where some students can escape issues in school and at home and "just be kids" and for others, the program builds their self-confidence and allows them to explore skills they excel in, as opposed to dwell on things they struggle with in school.
Mischka Johnson, 15, has been with HLI since the program began in 2009.
"Mischka underwent bullying and harassment for a while, so a member of the school mediation team introduced me to the program with a hope that it would be therapeutic for her," said her mother, Susan Burke.
Michael Arthur, 14, came to the program during a time when he was adjusting to a new school.
His family moved from Prince George's County, MD, a mostly African American area, where he was an honor roll student, to Westminster, MD where Michael was one of two or three kids of color at school. At first, Michael struggled with some of his classes and his teachers.
After two years with Dr. Harlow, Michael says he has acquired a strong and broad knowledge about other cultures, world issues and has learned new things that he may not have experienced without HLI. He said that this knowledge has made him well-rounded and has helped him improve his ability to handle upper level classes.
"Michael's participation in HLI has made him more active in group activities and he has also become much more comfortable in communicating with a wider range people in the society around him," said his mother, Sandra Arthur.
Burke spoke of a similar change in her daughter after three years at HLI.
"The program has given back my child her self-worth and a renewed appreciation for herself and others. Higher Learning caused my child to view her community as a safer and positive place, despite of her negative experiences," said Burke. "She is now in a much better frame of mind, for school, church and home thanks to Dr. Harlow."