Before Chance Fletcher embarked on what he calls “The Great American College Road Trip” with his grandmother, he didn’t see himself straying far from his hometown, Oologah, Oklahoma.
The high school football team is the common denominator in his 1,000-person community, in which 30 percent of high school graduates pursue higher education. “In regard to academics, my school did the best with what they had, and I really appreciated them,” he says.
Fletcher considers himself lucky. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, he had a lot of support from the elder members. “My tribal councilor is the reason why I am at Princeton,” he says.
The summer before his junior year, he pursued the LEADership, Education and Development (LEAD) summer program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. It was his formal introduction to academia beyond what he already knew about his own state institution, and it whet his appetite. Fletcher was admitted to Princeton as a QuestBridge scholar in the fall of 2013. QuestBridge is a nonprofit organization that guides low-income students through the college admission process.
At Princeton, he is taking full advantage of the extracurricular offerings, some familiar to him, others less so. “I was in student government in high school, but it wasn’t something I was certain I’d pursue in college.” He eased back into student governance as a representative on the Mathey College Council and was elected sophomore class president.
He credits the residential colleges with driving the close-knit community at Princeton. “Each class has its own identity. That’s very unique to Princeton.” Fletcher believes students identify with their class long after they graduate—one reason why more than 20,000 students return to the University each year for reunions.
He has been enriching his own experience since his first year at Princeton. He served as the sole freshman representative on the Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a committee charged with developing recommendations for improving University policies, practices and programming. In addition, he is social chair of the Pre-Law Society, a fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and a founding member of the Native Americans at Princeton student organization.
Although he has not yet determined his career goals, Fletcher believes he will return to Oklahoma after he completes his post graduate education. For now, he enjoys debating his peers who dismiss the idea of the “American Dream,” which was a topic he explored fully in his “Introduction to American Studies” course.
“I love America,” he says. “I’m a poor kid with limited opportunities who went to Princeton and became class president. I am living the American Dream.”