By Jeannie Regidor
Programs like the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) — a college preparatory program for low-income high school students in the Princeton and Trenton areas — are few and far between. But when low-income students find them, they are like diamonds in the rough. Over 80 percent of top-performing low-income students don’t apply to highly selective universities, according to Questbridge.
“Some people are breezing by and unconcerned about paying for college, and others have lost hope of going to college,” said Renata Stankowska, a 16-year-old rising junior at Ewing High School and a student at PUPP this summer.
The lack of low-income students enrolling in college after high school graduation results in a lack of degrees in an increasingly competitive marketplace. According to data gathered by College Board in 2008, “55 percent of high school graduates from the lowest-income families enrolled immediately in college, compared to 80 percent of those from the highest-income families.” What is haunting about the situation low-income students face in the U.S. is the fact that without a college degree they often stay in poverty.
As a college prep program, PUPP seeks to address these issues. Students in PUPP get to take college workshop courses, as well as literature, math, science, and history courses throughout the summer in order to prepare them for the college experience. This may sound like any other summer high school program, however, PUPP’s results make the program striking: 90% of students who have completed the PUPP program actually go on to enroll in college after graduation.
Youtee Wheagar, a PUPP alumna who is going to attend Mount Holyoke College this fall believes that PUPP “exposes us to different resources that we wouldn’t have thought about if we weren’t in PUPP. By the end of the sophomore summer I found out about colleges I didn’t even know of.”
Stankowska and Janina Calle, both rising high school juniors currently in PUPP, have siblings who completed the program and attended Princeton University. With this in mind, Stankowska and Calle are looking into Ivy League schools. “Seeing that someone in my family actually got in there gives me a little bit of hope,” Calle said. Because of PUPP, Calle now wants to be an orthodontist and Stankowska wants to study sociology.
PUPP not only contributes to student success, but also to the success of programs in other cities. One example of this is the Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools. Cassandra Greiger, this sister program’s director, reached out to PUPP’s director for guidance. “In the beginning stage of planning, we researched several university affiliated college access programs, and found the PUPP approach better aligned with the culture and goals we had in mind,” she said. This program, established in 2013, is now working to help students from low-income backgrounds in Chicago, in much the same way that PUPP has. “As we continue to develop, we rely on the better practices exemplified by strong and long-standing programs like PUPP,” Greiger said.