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Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Thomas Ray Garcia ’16

Pharr, Texas • English View Profile

Princeton Hidden Minority Council

I am no stranger to alienation. I grew up as a white Mexican in a Texas border town where classmates and teachers openly labeled me as a “foreigner.” I was a hidden minority in all respects: A Hispanic who few considered to be Hispanic, a barrio boy who some surmised inherited money from a “rich white father/uncle/grandfather/person,” a first-generation college student who most believed went to Princeton because my parents went there.

At Princeton University, my visible persona does not reflect my invisible identity. People wouldn’t guess I’m Hispanic unless they read the surname “Garcia” on my student ID, and even then, how could they ever figure out my status as a first-generation, low-income, almost transnational student? And if they did, would I feel proud or ashamed?

This is why the Princeton Hidden Minority Council (PHMC) exists.

PHMC aims to eradicate the stigma of being a first-generation and/or low-income student. Furthermore, it consolidates academic and financial resources, spurs dialogue on the hidden facets of our identity, and fosters an inclusive campus community. Alienation has no place here.

At the 1st annual First-Generation Freshmen Welcome Dinner, I sat at a table with one of my professors and several fellow Gates Millennium Scholars. We were all brought together by one common thread: We are first-generation students. The conversations were sincere and the atmosphere was optimistic, the way it should be.

When the Princeton University Class Confessions Facebook page was launched, I empathized with the plights my fellow low-income classmates anonymously revealed to the world. It didn’t surprise me to realize how similar my experiences were compared to theirs, but it may have been a shock to other Princetonians who sit next to us in class every day, oblivious to our struggles.

I’m only a small part of a growing movement that will change the prevailing campus narrative for the better. A 21st-century Princeton University must not only support its underrepresented student body, but also embrace it. These students will be the trailblazers of this generation; PHMC epitomizes that.