Greetings from Princeton – and welcome to the new PUPP Website! I am writing with my annual winter update on the Princeton University Preparatory Program – PUPP. As we head into our second decade of supporting talented, low-income students from local high schools, it is important to pause and reflect on our success, consider areas for development, and rededicate ourselves to our mission.
For the 2011-12 school year, PUPP has once again created a broad and engaging program of events and activities for our scholars. Our weekly after school program continues at our 6 partner high school campuses where graduate Teaching Fellows engage our sophomores and juniors in activities to develop their critical communication skills. The sessions are a great tool for PUPP to remain actively engaged with our scholars in their home schools. In addition to our regular focus on critical communication skills and preparation/reflection on our cultural enrichment, we have planned two “shared experiences” across schools to help unify the experience each scholar has with PUPP. Over the past few weeks, our sophomores and juniors have been reading/decoding/interpreting a fantastic new graphic novel, The Arrival, by award-winning illustrator and author Shaun Tau. The scholars have been working together to interpret the story – which follows an emigrant coming to the United States and his encounters, struggles and successes along the way. The weekly reports from the Teaching Fellows are full of wonderful moments of discover and connections by the scholars:
We wrapped up our session discussing the Pokemon pet and how it came to symbolize assimilation, before Rafael posed a great question: is Shaun Tan an illustrator or an author? I let them figure it out, only poking a little at their definitions; they finally decided he’s an “ill-author”. I liked that very much; their reasoning, pun and all. Tuwua closed us out with a story she wrote based on the first chapter, taking us image through image; she did great! (Lawrence High School Teaching Fellow report, November 30, 2011).
Our cultural enrichment calendar has included trips to two productions this fall. In September, we traveled to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia for an annual trip to the opera. This year, we saw the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of Bizet’s Carmen. While it didn’t seem to have the same impact as Verdi’s Otelo last year, it amazes me how much the students really enjoy the performances, and how much the engage with the story, orchestrations, set design, costumes, etc. – not to mention their complete awe at the grandeur of Academy which was built in 1857 and is the oldest continually-used opera house in the country.
A few weeks after the opera, we returned to New York City on a very snowy day in October to see the TONY award-winning Broadway musical Memphis. By the end of the first act, the scholars were declaring Memphis as one the best shows they have seen! Their raucous ovation and full engagement in a talkback with the actors after the show confirmed their endorsement of the production.
This spring, we will return to Philadelphia for three productions – Kandor and Ebb’s controversial musical The Scottsboro Boys, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, and another PUPP first – a trip to the ballet to see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of Trey McIntyre’s full-length ballet, Peter Pan.
In November, we took our juniors and seniors on our annual fall college tour. As part of PUPP’s work to expose our scholars to a broad range of college opportunities, we took the scholars on an ambitious 4-day tour of colleges in the region. Once again, with generous support from the Citi Foundation, PUPP took 38 of our scholars to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including Cornell, Ithaca, Syracuse, Hamilton, Colgate, Vassar, Brown, Trinity, Wesleyan, and just for the girls, Mt. Holyoke and Smith. Along the way, PUPP was able to connect with program alumni who are current undergraduates at Syracuse, Wesleyan, Mt. Holyoke and Smith.
This fall, all 22 members of the PUPP Class of 2011 entered college. They have begun their undergraduate careers at an outstanding range of schools including Bryn Mawr, the University of Richmond, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, The College of New Jersey, Occidental College, Dickinson College, Wellesley College and Princeton. You can see a full list of acceptances from the Class of 2011 on the “Results” page of our new website.
The eleventh PUPP summer institute was held from June 23 – August 5, 2011. We began with our annual 2-day leadership retreat at the Princeton Blairstown Center. Once again, the PBC retreat helped set the tone for the summer and challenged students to reach outside their comfort zone on the climbing wall, the zip line and in the general “wilderness” environment of the camp. Our annual Opening Ceremony, in the University Chapel was full of regalia with a stirring organ prelude and remarks from Princeton’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Logan Powell. Mr. Powell gave an impassioned speech, clearly connecting with the PUPP community as he described his own challenging journey as a first-generation college student, and into the admissions profession.
For the 2011 summer institute, we focused on Haiti – with an author study of Edwidge Danticat, a focus on Haitian artist traditions (masks and prayer flags), and special event day with speakers from the Foundation for Peace and local organizations who have participated in relief efforts in Haiti. PUPP co-founder and Princeton Sociology Professor Miguel Centeno joined our faculty for the summer, co-teaching the Sociology course for our rising juniors with one of his graduate students. At the end of the summer, he was impressed with the quality of work, engagement and commitment on display by our Class of 2013. He reflected,
Teaching in PUPP this summer (2011) may have been the best pedagogical experience of my professional life. It forced me to really think about what was most important for young students to know about social science. Allison Schnabel, a grad student in Sociology, and I prepared a very demanding six weeks and the students responded with amazing curiosity and discipline. Many of the papers they wrote were on a college level and I have no doubt every single student will flourish in higher education. The summer also showed me why PUPP is important and that there is a large population of great students out there who don’t have the resources many think of as basic needs. We assume a stable place to live, computers, and online access. We assume a certain amount of familiarity with the world and the academy. We assume that these children are already taken care of. They are not and I only wish we could bring PUPP to a hundred more communities.
PUPP’s Counselor, QuinnShauna Felder-Snipes and I are busy putting the finishing touches on letters of recommendation that will accompany each scholar’s college applications. We have already received a handful of early admissions to Rutgers University and are pleased to note that two scholars from our Class of 2012 were accepted “Early Decision” to the University of Pennsylvania.
We will soon begin to turn our attention to financial aid planning for our seniors, college admissions test preparation for our juniors and the recruitment of the next class – the twelfth class – of PUPP scholars. We look forward to another successful admissions cycle and will celebrate the graduation of our Class of 2012 on June 6, 2012.
If you have questions or comments about PUPP, are want to learn more about what we are doing, please take a look at the PowerPoint presentation highlighted on the website homepage – and, as always, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason R. Klugman, Ph.D.