Princeton, Here I come
Sitting across the table from Arleth Rodriguez, it’s hard to believe she’s still a teenager. Articulate and thoughtful, Arleth talks about the opportunity of a lifetime in her near future.
In June, Arleth will jet off to Princeton University for a seven-week internship provided by Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) that focuses on preparing students from “under-resourced” backgrounds for college and successful careers.
However, this opportunity wasn’t just handed to this Campbell County High School junior.
Arleth received a text from her GEAR UP advisor Kristin Young at the beginning of school year with several possible scholarship opportunities.
GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federally-funded, grant program that serves around 2,000 income-eligible students each year in Wyoming.
Given the rigorous application process, Arleth almost didn’t even apply for the LEDA program. However, Young and Arleth’s high school guidance counselor continued to encourage her, and she got excited about the process, which she began in earnest in November by writing two essays.
After sending in her transcripts and income verification information, it was another long wait to find out she was awarded a finalist interview.
“My mom started crying,” Arleth said. “She was really excited. And my dad was dumbfounded too.”
The oldest of four children, Arleth has always played an important role in the family, taking care of her siblings in the summer, while also volunteering at the library and the hospital. This was to be the first summer she would have a job.
After her interview, Arleth waited three long weeks for the final results and remained pretty tight lipped as she had been for the entire process.
“I didn’t tell anyone, only Kristin really and my parents,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell people, ‘Hey, I’m a finalist,’ and then not win.”
The email she received April 20 didn’t just impact her summer plans, but will have a lasting impact on the rest of her life.
Arleth said not only did she have to turn down her summer job, but also another week-long scholarship program that would have interfered, time-wise, with the LEDA program.
She won’t be sure what the seven-week program looks like until she arrives at Princeton, June 15, but she knows it will be a lot of work, prepping for SAT and ACT testing and also a lot more essay writing.
Seven weeks is a long time to be away from home for anyone. But, when asked if she’s scared at the prospect, Arleth is undaunted.
“Not really,” she said with a grin. “I think it’s exciting.”
Arleth is looking forward to touring a lot of the Ivy League schools she’s only dreamed of attending, but her final decision for college will most likely still depend on tuition.
“I don’t want to be in debt,” said the 17-year-old wisely. “I’ll be a first generation college student. I don’t want to overwhelm my parents and don’t want to put that on myself either. I have other siblings and I want to be able to help them, too.”
Along with rigorous college prep, LEDA offers continued guidance throughout the college application process, during college, and also with career internships.
Right now, Arleth plans on studying speech pathology.
“I really have a passion for giving people a voice,” she said. “It’s not static; I can definitely grow more and get my doctorate if I wanted to. So, I think it’s perfect for me because it has everything I always wanted in a career. But, you never know. I may end up finding something different.”