Davidson's first class of QuestBridge scholars has successfully completed its first year of college. QuestBridge is an organization that connects exceptionally talented low-income high school students to the nation's best colleges and scholarship opportunities. Davidson is now one of 35 QuestBridge partners, in company including Yale University, Williams College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"The partnership is based on a mutual admiration," said Kortni Campbell, senior assistant dean of admission. "Their mission fits perfectly with what we've been doing, in terms of the Davidson Trust and President Quillen's vision of providing opportunity and access for students who may not have even heard of us."
The class of 2017 includes 19 QuestBridge scholars – 10 from the match process and nine who initially connected to Davidson through QuestBridge but applied independently. In the match process students rank their top eight schools, and then, based on where they are accepted and those schools' rankings, an algorithm determines where the students will attend.
At this time, 15 QuestBridge scholars have been matched to Davidson for the class of 2018, and almost as many likely will join the class after submitting their applications independently.
"The class of 2018 has a fantastic resource in the class of 2017," added Campbell. "We currently have informal programming, but our office and the students are working to increase structure and connectivity."
Yeeva Cheng '15 served as a student mentor for the first class of scholars. She was a QuestBridge applicant before Davidson became a partner school and chose Davidson when she received the Belk Scholarship. The Quest Scholars Network contacted her and requested that she start Davidson's QuestBridge mentorship program.
"Last semester we focused on drafting a constitution so that we could become an official campus organization and receive institutional funding," Cheng said. "While the organization is primarily a safe space and emotional support system for the scholars, we also need funding in order to educate the community about Davidson's changing socioeconomic landscape."
This past year, the scholars volunteered with external organizations and at events. Community Service Chair John Chavez '17 hopes to use funding for QuestBridge-specific service programs. The scholars would like to start a program called SEEDS that will show local high school students that it's possible to attend a top college regardless of socioeconomic status and will include a six-week writing program.
"We are eternally grateful that everyone has given so much to us and we feel compelled to give back to the community," he said.
In addition to SEEDS, the scholars plan to invite guest speakers to campus and organize poster campaigns that raise socioeconomic awareness both at Davidson and in Charlotte. The student-led QuestBridge organization is open to anyone interested in its mission.
"I didn't know what role QuestBridge would play in my Davidson experience, but it has become my second largest focus after academics," said Co-President of QuestBridge Marlene Arellano '17. She had intended to apply to Davidson before applying to QuestBridge; when she heard that Davidson had become a partner school, she made the decision to apply without question.
Arellano's alternative college plan was to attend a school in her hometown of Chicago and live at home, which would have eliminated one of her favorite aspects of the Davidson college experience – the residential campus. She said, "I feel like I'm on my own for the first time, and I've been able to grow independently and learn more about myself as well as a new part of the country."
Arellano will explore destinations beyond the United States for the next few months. As a Charles Scholar, she will conduct research in Mexico this summer, and she plans to study abroad through the Davidson in Peru program during the fall semester. She also hopes to study abroad a second time in her junior year.
"I had always heard tour guides mention studying abroad, which led me to worry about how it works financially," she explained. "Fortunately, Davidson tries its hardest to remove financial barriers from every aspect of your education, which has been really rewarding for me."
When Arellano returns from Peru, she looks forward to meeting students from the class of 2018 and showing them that opportunities such as study abroad are well within their reach.