A Letter from a Quest Scholar

kelsey_gaetjens

Next year I’ll be working at Exeter Group. And for the first time in my life I’ll have enough money to support myself and my family. I’ll have more than enough money. And it brings me unbelievable relief that the anxiety and stress that come with a life in poverty will finally be gone. I should be elated.

Yet when I find myself telling people that I’m excited about my job, that I’m excited about the year ahead, I realize I’m anything but happy.

It seems strange to me that after years of enduring what I needed to in order to get to this point, I’m afraid of taking even one step further. To me it seems that I’m at the cusp of the rest of my life.

This step is different than the one I took when entering college. I entered college, and I was still me. Despite the clothes I wore, or the classes I took, I was still poor.

Yet soon I won’t be.

I’m afraid that ten years from now I’ll look back and won’t remember what this was like. And that if I do, it will be only a memory, not the hard, visceral truth that I know it is now, but a shadow of a life that no longer resembles the one I’ve found myself living.

I’m afraid of all the changes that not being poor will bring to my life, of all the changes it will bring to me. And most of all, I’m afraid that I will be stripped of the identity that has been my foundation and my motivation for such a long time.

But deep down, despite my doubts and insecurities, I know I won’t be. I know that despite what changes around me, and what changes about me, the core of who I am will remain the same. Being poor is, and always will be, my identity. And this comforts me.

So, as my senior year comes to a close, I find myself once again pushing forward, enduring what I need to, and remembering who I am, a Quest Scholar.


I can’t help but think about the role Quest played in giving me this life. I think about Quest all the time, but lately I’ve felt the need to express how much the organization means to me. I’m graduating, both from Williams, and from being a Quest Scholar, and somehow the second means more than the first.

It would take far too long to completely explain my gratitude to Quest (maybe after finals), so for now I’ve decided to list a few of the many things I’m grateful for:

For telling me that I could go to a good school;

For showing me how;

For helping me get there;

For giving me the best job I’ve had;

For opening the door to every other job I’ve had;

For introducing me to my second family;

For helping me to give back;

For allowing me to share my story;

For endless support and encouragement;

For showing me that my identity was something I’m proud of;

For being able to introduce myself as a Quest Scholar and learn that people know what that means;

And for providing half of the shirts I currently own.

I could go on for pages like this, but I think I’ll just add this – although I know working at Exeter Group next year is the right decision for me, I can’t help regretting that I won’t be able to work in an office as welcoming, genuine, and inspirational as the Quest Office (I know that no office I find will be). No matter what I do in the years ahead, I will always be thankful for what Quest has done for me.

— by Kelsey Gaetjens, Quest Scholar alum, Williams ’13

This post was originally published on 3/15/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.