Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Thomas Ray Garcia ’16

Pharr, Texas • English View Profile

College Awareness Work

Spirit of Altruism

College awareness is an issue that has interested me since my senior year of high school. I still clearly remember all the difficulties and confusion I endured during the college application process. At the time, my high school didn’t have the resources or knowledge to prepare students to apply to out-of-state universities, much less Princeton. Shifting through copious amounts of often contradictory information on the internet took months of research to accomplish. I had no mentor but myself, unless the internet counts as a mentor.

Somehow I survived, and now I’m on the other side of the college application gap. But I haven’t allowed my status as a college student to make me complacent.

This past summer was the second time I hosted the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Scholarship, Leadership Awareness Program (PSJA CSLAP) for my hometown’s school district. It’s a summer program that offers workshops, information sessions, and test preparation for rising seniors. Three fellow PSJA alumni and I run this program so we can build mentor relationships with the students and help guide them through the application process.

One of our most memorable events was the “PSJA Alumni College Fair” in which 12 alumni from my high school represented their universities and spoke to the students about their college experiences. This event in particular stood out to me because of how amazing the atmosphere felt. I could tell that not only did the students truly enjoy this opportunity, but the alumni did as well.

PSJA Alumni College Fair
Representing Princeton at the PSJA Alumni College Fair

After PSJA CSLAP concluded for the summer, my college awareness work continued well into the fall. In September, I had the opportunity to represent Princeton at McAllen Independent School District’s College and Career Night. Alongside John Millin, a Princeton 1995 graduate and chairman of the Princeton University Alumni Schools Committee for the Rio Grande Valley, I spoke with hundreds of parents and students about Princeton. In early October, I held an hour-long question and answer session as a part of College Greenlight’s Diversity + Digital College Fair. These two events allowed me to branch out of the familiarity of my school district and reach students from different backgrounds around the country.

One of the most rewarding aspects of college awareness work is learning about the amazing stories behind each student. I don't remember being half as ambitious or intelligent as some of the students I've mentored. It gives me peace of mind knowing that I can give them the resources and knowledge I didn't have at their age so they can achieve even greater things. My ultimate goal is for this spirit of altruism to rub off on them so they, too, can mentor the next generation of students.

If young people really have the potential to change the world, then why shouldn't we help the next in line get a step ahead? If more college students would undertake college awareness work, whether through spreading crucial information or offering mentorship, without expecting anything in return, this spirit of altruism would never die.