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On April 29, the CBS series “60 Minutes” released a segment called “Why Bill and Melinda Gates put 20,000 Students Through College,” which featured the University’s making significant efforts to recruit students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Seven University students — Jaylin Lugardo ’20, Mason Cox ’20, Chris Umanzor ’19, Kelton Chastulik ’21, Jackson Forbes ’18, Oluwatoyin Edogun ’20, and Tylor-Maria Johnson ’19 — spoke about the experiences and challenges faced by first-generation, low-income (FLI) students on university campuses.

The interview was intense, according to Lugardo, but it was an interesting and enjoyable experience. Cox echoed her remarks.

“It was a very eye-opening experience, not only for myself but also for the other people there, and even for the people who watched the show,” Cox said.

Cox is a columnist for The Daily Princetonian.

The University has a number of programs designed to help FLI students adapt to college and seek out academic opportunities, such as the Scholars Institute Fellows Program, the Princeton Hidden Minority Council, and the Freshman Scholars Institute. Lugardo explained that these programs were invaluable in making her feel comfortable in the University setting, inspiring her to organize the “FLI is Fly campaign,” which acknowledges what it's like to come from extremely diverse backgrounds.

Umanzor also said that, to him, these programs help encourage FLI students who may wrongly think that the University isn’t for them.

However, students thought that the “60 Minutes” episode missed or misrepresented some important aspects of the FLI student experience.

Lugardo, Cox, and Umanzor mentioned the importance of appreciating intersectionality in student identities, which the episode sometimes neglected.

“It made it seem as though you can only have one identity or the other; it didn’t really accept that intersectionality,” Lugardo added.

Umanzor also emphasized that students from first-generation, low-income backgrounds often have completely different experiences from each other.

Another problem was the identification of the Princeton FLI students as exceptions. The CBS article identified the interviewees as “Princeton’s Chosen Ones,” which the the students saw as a strange choice of language.

“We were viewed as an oddity, and it’s problematic,” Cox said. “We were fetishized in a way.”

Nevertheless, the students were proud to represent their FLI identity.

“By me voicing loudly my lack of shame in the FLI identity, I can make sure that there are changes that are made for the people who shouldn’t have to be as loud about that identity,” Lugardo said.

Umanzor also noted that, though the episode made strides for FLI students on campus, the University can still do better when it comes to supporting FLI students.

“The University should always be held to a higher standard and should continue to explore ways that other Universities have sought to integrate students from FLI backgrounds,” Umanzor said.

Lugardo expressed similar sentiments.

“Changes cannot be made as quickly as I want them to be, and the changes that I want, I might not be able to see in my time here,” Lugardo said. But, she notes, changes are occurring.

Already, the University tries to be receptive to the reforms encouraged by students and has taken massive strides towards creating a more diverse and welcoming institution and community for FLI students.

"Community is where it’s at, and community is where it should be," said Cox.

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