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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Gaffney Benedict

Carla & Cherry

“The news is that I’ll be going to Pitzer Class of 2021! I got into my top choice. I wouldn’t have even considered this school without Gaffney…I’m glad to know I have a future. I’ll be the first in my family to go to college…” Carla wrote in an email.

Carla and Cherry both attend the School for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut. Last summer, a representative from Pitzer College visited The Matthew Gaffney Foundation and encouraged students to apply for an all expense-paid weekend. Cherry and Carla were given the opportunity to fly to California and visit the school. Pitzer is one of the five private undergraduate colleges in the Claremont University Consortium. The other four are: Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna. At the Claremont colleges, students may take courses at any of the five schools.

Cherry was accepted under the early admission program. She has worked in her parent’s restaurant since she learned to peel shrimp at age five. In her college essay, Cherry mentioned that working every weekend prevented her from being part of the American teenage culture. Before she met us, Cherry was a strong student and was involved in a recycling program that she started at Brien McMahon.

Cherry lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut but was accepted to the School of Global Studies in Norwalk. She studied Mandarin at school because her parents speak a dialect, and she wanted to be able to understand her native language. When she came for SAT Prep at Gaffney, Cherry had to travel two hours by train and bus to get to us. She never complained about the weather; her hard work and determination was always impressive. In July 2016, Cherry returned to China to be with her mother’s family. During that time, Cherry saw China through her cousin’s eyes. She was immersed in Chinese culture. It was this experience that prompted her discovery that she was proud to be an American.

Carla and Cherry are good friends; they met in Mandarin class. Carla’s family is from Guatemala. Since she has been at Global Studies, she has traveled to China, India, El Salvador and Dominican Republic. Carla loves to travel, and she is absolutely fearless. She wanted to share her culture with her school friends, so she organized a trip for a Global Studies group to go to Guatemala and help orphans learn English. She will return to Guatemala next week with another group of students from Global studies; they are bringing clothing and school supplies. When I asked Carla how she became courageous, she said, “My mother always pushed me to go outside my comfort zone. This went from going to a school outside my own district …to sitting in the front seat of a roller coaster.”

When I took Cherry on college trips to Harvard and Yale, she said she didn’t want to go to a school that looked like Harry Potter. Cherry could have applied to any school, but at Pitzer she fell in love with the campus, the curriculum and the people. At Pitzer, Cherry plans to double major in media/film studies and economics. Carla has not decided what she wants to major in. She writes, “I have a passion for travel …and a fascination with people…from socioeconomic issues, gender, religion, education, even how different cultures interact with each other…going to Pitzer in California, I think, will give me a new learning experience and a chance to continue to love my life.”

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