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Seven Princeton High School Seniors Graduate From University Prep Program

Candace Braun

Many of the 308 seniors who graduated from Princeton High School last Friday will go on to schools of higher education, but at least seven of those students may have not have had the opportunity to do so without the help of a recently developed program at Princeton University.

This year P.U.P.P., or the Princeton University Preparatory Program, graduated its first group of high school students since the program was founded three years ago by Miguel Centeno, a sociology professor at the University.

The program, which recruits high school sophomores from public schools in Princeton, Ewing, and Trenton, was created to help academically gifted students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds get into prestigious colleges.

All 20 area students graduating from the program will be attending 16 different universities next fall, including Columbia University, George Washington University, Bryn Mawr College, and Rutgers University. Two students will also attend Princeton.

"We've accomplished our goal, which was to help students get into highly selective universities," said Torey Wilson, acting principal of P.U.P.P. "Most students got into their first choice [school]."

Each year, a group of approximately 20 students are selected for the program based on their academic standing in school. The University contacts each district's guidance department, inviting students who show academic promise to an informational session. Students are selected based on if they are honor roll students and had high eighth-grade standardized test scores.

After the information session, students who are interested in the program are asked to submit a writing sample, along with information on their family's financial background. Only those students who qualify as low income households are allowed to participate in the program.

The program introduces the students to various academic and cultural experiences, as each student spends six weeks on campus for three summers taking courses in literature, writing, mathematics, college preparation, and music and art appreciation. The students are also taken on field trips to various cultural venues, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the United Nations, and the Museum of National History.

"It takes more than good grades to get into [college]," said Mr. Wilson. "You also have to have experiences and exposure to things that cost money."

In addition to the summer program, students meet with Mr. Wilson on a monthly basis during the school year, to check on their progress in school. Students also meet weekly with English graduate students from the University, who help students with their writing.

As students approach their senior year, P.U.P.P. begins assisting them in the college search and application process. Along with taking students on trips to colleges such as Swarthmore University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Georgetown University, the program also helps students fill out financial aid and college applications, paying for any fees that the applications require.

"Once students are accepted into the program, we pay all their fees," said Mr. Wilson, adding that the program is funded by the University, as well as private donations and University alumni.

University President Shirley Tilghman has also taken this program on as her pet project, he added.

And as students head off to college this fall, the University will still keep a watchful eye on the students' progress.

"Our relationship with these students won't stop," said Mr. Wilson. "We want to support them in becoming successful."

Along with communicating with students through email or telephone, the University's class of 1984 has also offered to provide a mentor service to students at their various universities. Each student will be put in touch with a former graduate of Princeton who lives near the college he or she is attending.

The program will begin its fourth year on July 3, with a group of 58 sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Mercer County.

The seven PHS students graduating from the program this year are: Toni Applegate, Amber Cifelli, Yinan Li, and Charlene St. Clair, who will all be attending Rutgers University, as well as Karl Micka-Foos, who will be attending Princeton University, Tim Tsoi, who will be attending the University of Richmond, and Sanda Win, who be attending Bryn Mawr College.

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