In Depth: QuestBridge and First-Class

Quest Group Photo

WELCOME to the FIRST re-installment of Wesleying’s NEWLY REINVIGORATED SERIES: IN DEPTH! This series will go ~*~in depth~*~ (see what I did there) to bring some of those well known and some of those not so well known clubs to light. We want to help the student body learn more about all the unique things Wes has to offer in order to help them discover their ~interests~.

We’re starting off the series with an interview from one of QuestBridge/First-Class’s own Brenda Quintana ‘18. (For those who don’t know what QuestBridge is and want to find out more about it you can do so here. And if you feel so compelled, spread the word! Recommend Quest to someone you might think qualifies/could benefit from knowing about the program and the ~amazing~ things that it does.) Let’s kick it off! Oh- and P.S. I am also in QuestBridge.

Wesleying: How would you describe QuestBridge/First Class?

Brenda: Essentially, QuestBridge and First Class work as communities for first generation and low income students to come to and get resources from students as well as connect to faculty and administration in ways that will be useful to them. I think, more than anything it’s a place where first generation and low income students can go to meet other students like them that come from similar situations and backgrounds.

It’s a place to connect with resources on campus which can be really difficult for a lot of first generation students coming in when they have no idea what to expect which is why upperclassmen and incoming student relationships and dynamic is super important as well.

W: What kind of events have been done this year?

B: A lot of our events range from like, fun “getting to know everyone” stuff to speaking specifically towards issues that we have as students coming in here. In the past, a lot of events have been used to meet faculty that have identified as being first generation and low income as well, and that’s been really useful.

I think that right now what we are centered on is community building and having everyone know who belongs to that group, and having them know that these problems are shared and that we aren’t alone when we are struggling with school or struggling to pay for things, struggling with jobs…I think we have been able to utilize our events in order to know that we’re not alone in all of this.

W: So, what do you think QuestBridge and First Class will move towards in the coming semesters?

B: What I want to work on for next semester is addressing the transitional phase for a lot of first-gen students going on to the next semester like changes with FAFSA and taxes, a lot of information that is really confusing especially if it’s your first time dealing with it and working on that… Yeah, having a lot of info sessions working on FAFSA together or looking at connections into the career center – working on resumes, stuff like that that’s more practical.

W: I think that’s really really great. I know that, personally, I’ve never had any experience with FAFSA, I kinda had to fill it out on my own, no family helped. I still don’t have a resume because I don’t know how to write one, which is difficult because a lot of what our financial aid package is is work study, so getting a job on campus is a little bit difficult when you don’t have one especially if you’re trying to get an office position or something.

B: For sure! And I think- at least for me- growing up and going through high school and all that and applying to college it was a lot of me looking for things and hoping I’d find them and in a lot of instances it was easy cause you knew where to look for it and you knew where to do the whole college search and how to apply for all that but I think there comes a point where all this information is all over the place, and so being one person looking for all this is really difficult, and being able to help and center all this information and having the right people to go to and ask because they’ve gone through it all is really useful.

It just makes it less confusing which is why I think it’s important to have a lot of these mentor and mentee programs set up because some of us have gone through it and some of us haven’t and those of us who are totally confused have other people we can go to and ask and I think it’s about learning how to ask questions and where to go to to answer these questions – it’s something that I think we have to learn as first generation students because it’s not something that we are used to I think. At least in my experience. It’s kinda hard. You’re doing everything by yourself so learning to do things and ask questions is super important.

W: Yeah. That’s why I think that my overall hope for seeing where the QuestBridge chapter and First Class goes is about having more of the upperclassmen involvement. Seeing sophomores like you and others get really involved with us is so inspiring, but seeing the other chapters at other partner schools be so big and involved makes me feel like we lack something here and I think that we can totally build that community.

B: I think what is difficult about having groups like this sometimes as being a primary place for finding information is that it’s a lot of pressure on the students too. Especially because of the type of students we are- we are already going through so much and there’s so many other things we need to worry about and it’s difficult to pretend like I know all the answers and can help anyone.

I think to some extent, it’s difficult for students to rely on other students for this kind of information. That shouldn’t be the case. It shouldn’t have to be our responsibility. It should be the responsibility of the institution and the administration. For some reason or another it kinda fell off to our hands. We can place pressure on the institution to provide that for us, but for the meantime we have to help each other. For the meantime, that’s the only option that we have. So yeah, upperclassmen involvement is super important, and I can totally understand that they are super busy and working on their own things, but we have to help each other out or else this is all gonna be way harder than it needs to be.

W: Is there anything else you wanna add?

B:I don’t know… What do you think?

W: I think you killed it.

So, with that introduction, if you identify as First-Generation and/or Low-Income, or if you are a Quest Scholar who has gone off the radar, please come be a part of QuestBridge and First Class and build our community! Like Brenda said, you shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you feel so inclined, come be a part of this group and help us continue to create a wider student support group. The best support and encouragement comes from those who understand what you’re going through, and if you identify as either of the aforementioned, than we are a group that can understand some of your hardships.

I realize that somewhere the interview ended up shifting the focus from the group itself to some of the overall issues in regards to first-generation and low-income student treatment on compass, but since it was opened up, LET US MAKE DISCOURSE!!!! :D

After the recording part of this interview ended, Brenda and I sat for a while and continued to talk about what it’s like to be part of this marginalized group on campus. It really does cause some strange feelings. I’m having experiences I never thought I would have, in terms of my own  newly found privilege at this school, but sometimes those experiences just make me realize how much people take their privilege for granted. For people in the Quest program, or who identify as first-gen or low-income, very different paths are taken in order to come to such an elite institution as Wesleyan. This difference causes many of us to view the happenings here quite differently than others. I often can’t identify with some people that I’ve met because they have such a higher level of privilege than myself.

As we sat and spoke, Brenda and I began to speculate on what could be done in order to help first-gen and low-income acclimation on campus. We came to a general agreement that the Quest and First Class group helps for the general emotional support that we need, but as Brenda mentioned, our peers can only help so much. Oftentimes, they still feel as though they don’t have all the answers or the resources.

For this reason we think that the administration should get more involved when it comes to the transitional phase of first-gen/low-income students. Much like the separate orientation for International Students coming into this unknown place, we came up with the idea for an orientation designed for our group which would help to ease the movement into college living. This would also be a great opportunity to introduce different programs offered at the Career Center, and also hold more focused sessions on how to write a resume, fill out job applications, and work on getting internships, all things that people from a low-income/first-gen background would have little to no experience doing, and who would have no personal connections to go to and ask for advice on how to do those things.

I don’t really want to take the focus of this article off of QuestBridge and First Class and their functions in the Wesleyan community, but I hope that aside from introducing you to this ~fantastic~ group, this article has also gotten you thinking about the treatment of this minority on campus. I know for myself, I often don’t speak about such personal matters like the fact that I am very much low-income, and also very much lost because I am one of the first in my family to have the chance to pursue higher education, because I think that people will just think less of me, or pity me.

Pity is not what I need. I didn’t get here off of other’s pity; I got here because I worked for it. Unfortunately, now that I’m here, as much as I don’t like to admit, I’m very lost when it comes to the nitty-gritty about financials and other practical things.

Setting up more explicit programs that deal with teaching people in similar situation as myself these skills will help us to continue to succeed just as much as those around us. We should not have to continue to struggle behind because we have no information to pull from. Programs like QuestBridge help this particular disadvantaged group have the chance to come out on top. Implementing ideas like the ones suggested will continue to help those who do not have, and often have not had, reach success.