There were many “firsts” for me as a Group Leader at the 2015 QuestBridge National College Admission Conference at Stanford.
For the first time, I met fellow Quest Scholars (and Group Leaders) from Amherst, Wesleyan, Emory, UChicago, Haverford, Swarthmore, Northwestern, Vassar, Penn, and Dartmouth. It was intriguing to hear their stories about their respected schools and experiences, which helped me paint a better picture of each partner college. Despite belonging to different QSN Chapters, I saw many similar qualities in all of us: we were leaders, we loved our schools, and we were driven. The night before the conference, we enjoyed an Italian dinner served to us family style. We truly felt like a huge family.
One of my fellow Group Leaders was my Quest Mentor during my freshman year at Columbia. It was the first time that we spent an entire weekend together, where we were free from our piles of homework and stressing over final exams. I enjoyed catching up with her and sharing similar experiences about our journey through Columbia. It gave me sense of ease and reminded me that I am not alone on this excursion.
Like many of the 2015 College Prep Scholars, I walked through Stanford’s sunny, spacious campus for the first time in my life with big eyes and big dreams. For the day, I traded my familiar green roofed, bustling New York City campus on 116th Street and Broadway for a red roofed, palm tree shaded campus at the end of Palm Drive. I was in awe.
I have a strong passion for mentoring and giving advice, especially to those who were raised in a low income household. As a first time Group Leader, I was thrilled by the opportunity to offer some valuable advice to College Prep Scholars. It was honor that to have the opportunity to be a guiding light for the (potentially) next class of Quest Scholars, and ultimately, the next world leaders.
I volunteered to serve as the admissions representative for Columbia at the college fair. For the first time, I was on the other side of the table. I watched the crowds of College Prep Scholars go table to table with eyes full of joy and anxiety. Whenever a student stopped at my table, I gave them an honest answer and left them with a sense of hope.
“Describe Columbia,” one student requested. I went on talking about the plethora of resources and opportunities, our unique urban location, and my experiences as a rising junior at Columbia. I put behind all of the long, hard nights of studying and challenges I have faced while at college and for the first time realized how much I loved my school and why I belonged there. They gave me hope.
I am thankful for this rewarding experience as it offered me the opportunity to give back to QuestBridge and help future student leaders, and helped me remember why I decided to attend Columbia University. That joy I saw in the students’ eyes that stood across my table reminded me of how far I have come and how blessed I am to wear Columbia blue and call myself a Quest Scholar. I enjoyed the moments of laughter with the families that followed behind me throughout the day. This experience allowed me to start paving the path for the future scholars to follow and continue a legacy of high achieving, underserved scholars.
This experience had many “firsts,” but hopefully there will be many “seconds,” “thirds,” and so on.
By: Joi Anderson (Columbia University, SEAS ’17)