Why We Started Sunrise Scholars

When I applied to college, I was lost. I cared more about pictures in a viewbook than content in the classroom. Not because that was my priority, but because as a first-generation college student I really didn’t know any better. When I arrived at school, I felt even more lost. Terms like “syllabus, registrar, and bursar,” were like a foreign language. When I struggled in the classroom, I hid from my professors, ultimately making the problem worse. I left school and became a statistic, like so many other first-generation students. I was fortunate to have mentors in my life who helped me get back on track; I transferred, finished at a school better suited for my needs, and graduated summa cum laude.

For most first-generation college students, this is a familiar story, but all too often, it does not have a happy ending.

Ken and I started Sunrise Scholars to shift the paradigm concerning student success from underrepresented populations. We both have dedicated our careers to teaching, guiding, and mentoring young people. Sunrise Scholars is the intersection of our skillsets, expertise, and interests. We created this foundation to affect positive change and reverse the negative trends of college access and success. In the end, it is about removing all the obstacles and barriers so that any motivated student will be able to succeed.

– Jacob Harding, Co-Founder and COO of the Sunrise Scholars Foundation



Ken Sommers

Chief Executive Officer

Ken served as a history teacher and football coach at The Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, FL for 11 years prior to joining Sunrise Scholars. He earned a B.A.from Hamilton College and his M.B.A. from Georgetown University. His previous work experience includes service in the Peace Corps in Ukraine, work as the Governor of Massachusetts’ Education Budget Analyst and time spent as an analyst at Standard & Poor’s in New York. Ken is currently taking college counseling classes at UCLA.

Ken serves on the board of Haiti GOALS which does sport-for-development work in rural Haiti and loves running, traveling and cheering for New England sports teams.

Jacob Harding

Chief Operating Officer

Jacob began his career by following his passions: a love for the arts and a desire to help students. He served on the staff of the residence life teams at both the American Boychoir School and Interlochen Arts Academy. He then transitioned to the world of college access as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Flagler College. In 2011, he returned to the classroom where he earned a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration at Harvard University. After graduation, Mr. Harding was the Associate Director of College Counseling at Choate Rosemary Hall (CT) and, most recently, served as the Co-Director of College Counseling and assistant football coach at The-Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, FL. Jacob is also a member of the Flagler College Alumni board.

When he is not working, Jacob enjoys strumming a guitar, cooking elaborate meals, or taking his stubborn French bulldog on the world’s shortest walks.


Learn more about college access issues that make the Sunrise Scholars Foundation’s mission so vital.