Kristen Kruger ’14Calabasas, California
Kristen Kruger, who came from a suburban community in California where she sometimes tutored students, says she often had the feeling that helping the students complete their homework assignments was just a quick fix.
Her epiphany on truly effective tutoring came when she decided to volunteer for a Princeton-supported program in Trenton, New Jersey, a city very different from her own.
"I walked into a classroom in inner-city Trenton on my very first day with a tutoring program in January of my freshman year,” she recalls."That experience, and many others like it afterwards, opened my eyes to just how little I knew and understood about the education opportunity gap — and it also began to show me how much those who want to make a difference, especially myself, need to learn from the communities they want to serve. From that day forward, I was driven by the urgency — but also excited by the potential — of education reform."
Since then, Kruger has learned how intractable the problems can be, but remains unbowed. She has spent much of her undergraduate years shepherding a program called imPACT, which stands for Princeton Academic Curriculum Tutoring. It is unique among Princeton’s community service programs in its deep commitment to curriculum-based tutoring that is research focused. That means the tutoring follows a research-proven curriculum, and that learning outcomes are tracked. The University-sponsored program runs three days a week as a free after-school option for about 15 to 20 students in fifth and sixth grade. imPACT is one of the few volunteer programs at Princeton that is selective; only about 50 percent of tutor applicants are selected. About 90 undergraduates work in the project, including classroom tutors, curriculum developers and pen pals.
Kruger’s work has not gone unnoticed. At the end of her junior year, she was selected from a very competitive field to become a SINSI scholar (Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative). The program, supported by the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, is designed to encourage, support and prepare top students to pursue careers in public service.
As a SINSI scholar, Kruger will earn a master’s degree in public affairs (MPA) at the Wilson School. In addition to the two-year degree program, she will participate in a two-year fellowship with the federal government between the first and second year of the MPA program, engage in a summer internship at the end of her junior year and enroll later in a summer of intensive language training. So far, she has completed three six-month rotations with the federal goverment: the first working on education reform for Indian reservation schools at the Bureau of Indian Education, the second working at the White House Office of Management and Budget's Education Branch, and her third working on the First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative, which promotes college access for low-income and first-generation youth. She is in the midst of her fourth and final rotation back at the Education Branch at OMB.
Kruger’s internship as a rising senior was at the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, where she studied the relationship between magnet schools and desegregation. She anticipates that her language immersion will be in Spanish.
“There is no other program like this,” she says. “There are a lot of directions I can see myself going afterward. I could go into the nonprofit world in education advocacy. I could see myself working in the administration of a public charter school. Or I could work in the federal government.”
Kruger says she was drawn to Princeton because of the leadership opportunities it afforded, and she has not been disappointed. “Where else does an 18 year old get the chance to learn so much on the ground in person?” she asks.