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March 2019

A Voice for the Unheard

Joselyn is a student advocate at Dartmouth College. Here she is pictured at the annual 1vyG student-run conference for first-generation college students to share best practices, held at Princeton University this year.

It isn't easy holding centuries-old institutions mired in tradition accountable, but that is precisely what Joselyn, a first-year student interested in Biomedical Engineering and Studio Art at Dartmouth College, is doing. 

A student's first semester of college is often dominated by navigating newness: a new space, new social dynamics, and new academic expectations. As a first-generation-to-college (or "first-gen") student, Joselyn was doing all of these things while simultaneously raising awareness about Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the special challenges that students on TPS face. This is an issue close to her heart and family, and she was shocked to first learn in high school just how little about it her peers knew. In response, Joselyn wrote about this pressing issue for her senior capstone project.

Upon arriving at Dartmouth, she could have taken a break from her advocacy to focus on her own adjustment. Instead, she did it all, adding the Big Green to her identity without losing sight of what else defines her, and pushing her peers to look further beyond themselves by co-organizing an event analyzing TPS and immigration policy. Joselyn’s boldness is all the more impactful in how unassuming it is; she often presents as a quiet observer in the room, and listening she is, but that’s not all.

This semester, Joselyn’s dedication to advocacy continues, and she jumped at the chance to apply for an opportunity to travel to Princeton University for 1vyG, a student-run conference created to educate other students — and administrators — about campus challenges and best practices for supporting first-generation students. In an unexpected turn of events, what she learned most about at this conference was Dartmouth itself. The conference created time and space for critical discussions, and in learning about other schools' best practices, Joselyn also learned more about her own. Upperclass students shared information about Dartmouth's history and track record, and this armed Joselyn and her classmates for the report they would be asked to present to the school.

Many of the speakers struck a chord with Joselyn, including Scholarship Plus board member Dr. Anthony Jack, who spoke about the guilt often experienced by first-generation, low-income students. An anecdote by the closing speaker, founder and president of Muslim Wellness Foundation Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, particularly hit home. On the morning of her graduation from college, Ms. Rashad’s mother called to say she would not be able to attend. It wasn’t until many years later that Ms. Rashad learned her mother stayed home because she did not know what to wear and felt uncomfortable in the university’s space.

Playing the role of liaison between family and a new world of privilege is all too familiar for Joselyn and most of our scholars. Many have served as translators in an adult world since childhood, and as they access new social and cultural capital, they play an integral role of translating more than language when back at home. This is not easy, especially as they are still learning to navigate these new waters themselves, but they do it, and impressively. Where we can help, Scholarship Plus is there to build bridges, expand networks, and support our students in these new ventures.

Joselyn is on a mission to educate herself and others about underserved community members. In creating an awareness-raising event on campus about TPS, and representing Dartmouth at the 1vyG conference, she is modeling a kind of selfless and empathic advocacy: Joselyn uses her platform as a U.S. citizen to give voice to a vulnerable group. In her own quiet strength and immoveable focus, she is actually shouting from the rooftops: “Pay Attention.” She won't stop until we do.

Joselyn pictured with Dr. Anthony Jack, Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who is also on the board of Scholarship Plus, and spoke at the 1vyG conference that Joselyn attended.

Next: Making College an Option for Others