EAST ORANGE, NJ — The acceptance into an Ivy League institution for one East Orange student has created quite the buzz.
Seventeen-year-old Kimberly Cross, a senior at East Orange Campus High School, was recently accepted to Princeton University and is the recipient of a full scholarship through QuestBridge, a program that targets low-income high school juniors and seniors who will be first-generation college students and mentors them in preparation to attend prestigious universities.
Cross, who emigrated from Jamaica last year with her mother, chose to attend EOCHS over a private school.
“I’m originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and I was born and raised there for the majority of my life,” Cross said on Dec. 4. “I moved to the United States on June 30, 2019, and it was extremely difficult and scary. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to adjust to America. Coming from a Catholic school, which was very strict, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to adapt to the new environment. My mom enrolled me into EOCHS my junior year and it was amazing. I adapted so quickly that I outdid myself. I proved myself wrong by getting straight A’s my entire junior year and did different activities.”
Cross became involved in a multitude of activities, such as track and field and cheerleading, and participated in various competitions, volunteered around school, was crowned Homecoming Queen, runs an Instagram account centered on the empowerment of all-natural hair types, has a love for poetry and is now in the process of publishing her first book.
But when COVID-19 happened, a sudden death in the family shook Cross.
“During the pandemic, my father passed away, and it was difficult to manage college applications, school and having time to grieve,” Cross said. “I’m the kind of person who always wants to work and be productive. I was struggling, because you have to give yourself a break and grieve.”
During this tough time for Cross, she received an email about QuestBridge. After looking it over, Cross did her own research and decided to take a chance and apply, changing her life in the process.
“During the whole pandemic, I decided to apply to QuestBridge College Prep Scholars, which is basically a program where they prepare you for college and mentor you, so you know where you can have the best application and apply to colleges,” she said. “So, I applied and got accepted, which was crazy.
“The next step was to apply for another program they offered, which is the QuestBridge National College Match,” she continued. “They match you to a college and you get a full ride for four years to top Ivy League schools such as Princeton, Yale, Stanford and other schools. I didn’t expect to get matched. Dec. 1, I got the email to check my QuestBridge portal. I was home alone that day, as my mom went to work. I opened the email and I saw the huge ‘Congratulations.’ I was just in awe and I was shocked. I cried; my mom cried. I was speechless.
“I never imagined myself going to one of the top schools in the United States as a little girl coming from Jamaica. The feeling was so crazy. If it wasn’t for QuestBridge, I don’t think I’d be able to get a full ride to Princeton,” she added. “I did it. With the help of the entire EOCHS, my guidance counselor, my teachers, my AP government teacher, Mr. Barone, and my English teacher, Mr. Lansing. They’ve spent hours helping me edit my essays and made sure that everything was cohesive.”
East Orange Superintendent Abdulsaleem Hasan said the district will be celebrating Cross’ achievement with a virtual ceremony and drive-by at her house on Dec. 9, as well as at the Dec. 8 Board of Education meeting.
“I’m acknowledging her and her mom at the board meeting and I plan to have her mother speak with the teachers and guidance counselors who helped her get in,” Hasan said. “I’m planning to reach out to the mayor and contact the ward she lives in and talk to her council people. So, this great news will continue to snowball.”
According to EOCHS Principal Willie Worley, Cross is the only student in the school’s recent history to be accepted into Princeton.
“We feel so proud for Kimberly and her family,” Worley said on Dec. 4. “Kimberly has been resilient, and she has truly demonstrated the will and the tenacity to complete the process.”
Photos Courtesy of Kimberly Cross