It Takes a Community to Build a Home

Leslie Luqueno, QuestBridge Scholar, Haverford College ’20

A bit over a year ago, I was accepted through Early Decision to my top-choice school, Haverford College. But first-quarter-high-school-senior me would have never imagined myself attending a small liberal arts college across the country. I was set on attending well-known, large research universities, but after attending Haverford’s fly-in in October, I knew that it was the place that felt most like home. Abandoning my original dream institutions was not easy and there were many factors I had to take into account to see if it was worth going across the country, leaving my beloved golden state behind.

Though I have always considered myself independent, the idea of being so far away from home did worry me. I have a family that depends on me. From translating English to Spanish for my parents to helping my brother with his homework, there were family responsibilities that had me questioning whether I should even leave Los Angeles. Additionally, coming from a low-income background, there were many expenses I had to take into account besides tuition like airplane tickets. When I visited Haverford and fell in love with the community, I did not suddenly forget about my family responsibilities and extra expenses. But I did realize that if I did not at least try to go to Haverford, then I would always be left with the doubt. After talking to my mom the day the ED agreement form was due, she told me that if my family was the reason I was so hesitant to attend, then I should put myself first for once and do what I felt was right. As for extra expenses, I committed myself to apply to as many outside scholarships as I could to help ease the financial burden of going across the country. And I am glad to say I ended up making the best decision for me.

Though Haverford instantly felt like home, I still had to build a home away from home for myself once I got to Haverford. Luckily, the friends I have made at Haverford have made this process easy and I have felt supported even through the toughest of times. Additionally, the amazing faculty members have made this transition a lot smoother. One reason I have felt supported at my school is that I attended the Chesick Scholars Summer Institute at Haverford the summer before my freshman year began. I definitely recommend students who have the chance to attend a bridge program before the school year starts to take advantage of it because it does make the transition to college smoother. During Chesick, I was able to take college-level courses that prepared me for the new rigor of coursework. I also became acquainted with multiple offices and staff members at Haverford so I was ahead of the game about knowing what resources were available to me. But I believe one of the most valuable aspects of attending the bridge program is making friends and establishing strong relationships before everyone in the freshman class arrives on campus. Being at a predominantly white institution is intimidating at times as a low-income, Latina student but Chesick allowed me to meet other students from underrepresented backgrounds in academia, students who shared some of my same struggles and knew where I was coming from. Up until this day, some of my best friends are from this bridge program and we continue to be a support system and a family for each other.

Attending top-tier institutions can be intimidating because there are many students who have accomplished all types of great feats. Going into college, I had never done an internship before or had done any research while some of my classmates had. But just because I had minimal experience did not mean I was not going to take advantage of the opportunities offered to me at Haverford. One of the opportunities I participated in was through Haverford’s partnership with Bryn Mawr College. As part of the 360 cluster, I took three different courses in distinct disciplines that all revolve around the topic of Migrations and Borderlands, which sees human migration through a literary and sociological lens. Though I have been acquainted with the issue of undocumented migration basically my entire life, I was worried that my lack of internship experience would prevent me from being accepted into this popular program. However, with the support of my faculty advisers, I was accepted into this cluster. I now have an amazing support system from my other 360 classmates and they are all extremely passionate about migration, just like I am. After our trip to Mexico and Arizona to learn about the border, I have found another family in my classmates and I have been truly blessed to be a part of this program. There are all types of support systems that come in different forms, but it takes perseverance to find the ones that work best for you.

Haverford is not perfect but there is no other institution I would rather be at, mostly because I have found quality support systems to help me with the transition from high school to college. These amazing people have helped me build a family and a home on the East Coast, and that has helped me with being away from my family in California. There is no doubt that the journey is hard but I believe that home is where the heart is, and my heart is not only in California, but now it is also in this amazing institution.

– Leslie Luqueno, Haverford ’20