With the start of the new fall semester looming less than a month away, excited prefrosh all over the country are getting ready for their move to Yale. In the midst of all the fervor, one student’s personal story of struggle and success has highlighted the unique challenges that some students face as they adjust from one community to another.
“Reflections on the Road to Yale,” written by Travis Reginal ’16 and published this week in The New York Times, speaks of Reginal’s personal experience as a high-achieving student from a low-income and minority background. In the essay, Reginal wrote about the self-motivation that brought him to a top college in the first place, as well as the heavy obstacles that he has already faced in his first year at Yale.
Reginal first attributed his acceptance to Yale to his mother’s encouragement of education and his experience in a speech and debate club at his high school, where he found an intellectual challenge in another classmate and close friend. But, having been raised in a single-parent home and attending a high school that was 97 percent African-American and 67 percent low-income, Reginal said he believes many other high school students from such backgrounds are not applying to top institutions because they lack the necessary information and the belief that they have a genuine chance at being accepted.
“For low-income African-American youth, the issue is rooted in low expectations. There appear to be two extremes: just getting by, or being the rare gifted student. Most don’t know what success looks like,” Reginal wrote in the article.
Reginal also described his difficulty navigating Yale at the start. Although administrators had spoken about resources for first-generation college students at Bulldog Days, he said, he was “lost” during the year and still stubbornly felt that he had something to prove as a black student.
Yale was also the first time he saw true wealth inequality face-to-face, he said, adding that many students said they were “amazed” that he had gotten to Yale, given his circumstances.
“The anxiety has not gone away. I do not feel like the accomplished person everyone thinks I am,” he concluded. “But I hope to inspire African-American youth to pave a path to success … I know from my personal story that many young people living in at-risk neighborhoods have large imaginations, passionate hearts and deep desires to transcend their community.”