For this two-part series, Street spoke to five first-generation college students about their experiences at the University. In addition to being first-generation, some of the students are also first-generation Americans; others are not. One is not American at all. They hail from places as close as Brooklyn, N.Y., and as far as Espartinas, Spain. Their majors range from psychology to operations research and financial engineering; their dream careers involve everything from education reform to going to space.
Shawon Jackson ’15 and Ana Maldonado ’16 have three more years of college left between them, but they, too, will be the first in their families to graduate from a four-year university. Both Jackson and Maldonado are active contributors to the Princeton community and campus discourse. Jackson is currently serving his second term as USG President, and Maldonado is the community service and outreach chair of the University’s Quest Scholars Network chapter, a resource for students affiliated with QuestBridge finalists around the country. Jackson and Maldonado are both QuestBridge scholars.
QuestBridge is a program that helps students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges succeed in the college application process. According to its website, “QuestBridge connects the world’s brightest low-income students to America’s best universities and opportunities.” Since its founding, the organization has matched over 5,000 students with 35 of the nation’s top universities.
Part of QuestBridge’s mission is to “revolutionize the way leading colleges and universities recruit talented low-income students, and the way these students approach their educations and futures.” Jackson and Maldonado’s perspectiveson their timeat Princeton thus far offer insight into how their uniqueexperiences and backgrounds influence their approach to participating in the Princeton community — and their plans for the future.
Both Jackson and Maldonado were invited to participate in the Freshman Scholars Institute before their freshman years, a voluntary program targeted at helping certain groups, including first-generation college students, successfully transition to the college sphere. Although Jackson ultimately did not attend, the program does foster a sense of community within the group of participants and allows them to refine their academic goals, according toDianeMcKay, FSI’s director and Associate Dean of the College.