The Quest Continues

Nearly 10 years after their graduation, some members of Williams’ first class of QuestBridge scholars talk about how far they have come and how they got there. To read about Williams’ connection to the QuestBridge program—and all of the college’s work to expand access to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds—see Begins the Quest.

Kenny Yim ’09

Where He Is Now: Working as a page at the Brookline Public Library, Brookline, Mass.
How He Got There: Yim grew up outside of Portland, Ore., the son of Chinese immigrants.
His father died when Yim was in high school. His mother, who has a mental illness, was often hospitalized. Yim was mentored by a librarian who challenged him with increasingly difficult books. He attended an affluent high school half an hour from home, and he took a college scouting trip to New England with friends. At Williams, he initially struggled to t in. Then, during his sophomore year, he enrolled in the course American Genders, American Sexualities, which challenged him academically and prompted him to come out to classmates on the last day of the class. He went on to major in psychology and English and began exploring his roots as a mem- ber of the Chinese-American Student Organization. After graduation, he taught English in China and Hong Kong for two years and then moved to Boston, where he spent three years teaching English to restaurant workers in Chinatown through the Asian American Civic Association.
On Teaching Immigrants: “It was coming full circle for me. These people were experiencing the kind of lives my parents had, and with my enthusiasm I was able to help them with a difficult task.”

Anna Hernandez-French ’09

Where She Is Now: Associate publisher of science and medical journals, Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y.
How She Got There: After her parents divorced, her mother left with the children in the middle
of the night. With no money, they settled among the redwoods in the northern California city of Eureka. While her mother went back to school, Hernandez-French handled all of the cooking for her brother and two sisters. She threw herself
into her studies, rising to the top of her class. She dreamed of leaving her small town, and Williams was a good t. An English and Spanish major, she volunteered with the Berkshire Food Project and joined the Hurricane Relief Coalition. Graduating without any student loan debt allowed her to move to New York City right away. She worked in restaurants until she found her current job, over- seeing publication of science and medical journals. She serves on the press’s diversity committee and works with Active DIY, a community service organization that helps undocumented immigrant youth get jobs and apply to college.
On Working With Undocumented Youth: “These kids are amazing. It frustrates me how many barriers there are to entry for them, when their skill sets are second to none.”

Naya-Joi Martin ’09

Where She Is Now: Assistant director of MBA admissions, Goizueta Business School, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.
How She Got There: Martin grew up in the Bronx with her mother and godmother. Though her mother was frequently on tour as a backup singer, the money she earned paid for Martin’s private school education and ceramics, photography and swimming lessons. Martin says she was relieved to match with Williams through QuestBridge, because it meant her mother wouldn’t have to pay for college. Before starting classes, she spent five weeks on campus with the Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program, which provides under- represented minority and first-generation college students with a preview of the Williams experience. Martin, who is of Puerto Rican and Jamaican descent, felt at home on campus. A psychology major, she joined the basketball team, Kusika and Ritmo Latino dance groups, and the Black Student Union. She also worked in the admission office. After graduation, she got a business degree at Emory and spent three years as player programs manager with the Atlanta Hawks.
On Her Job: “I feel like it’s my calling. I’m passion- ate about helping people do their best and find opportunities that will make them happy.”

Jared Currier ’09

Where He Is Now: Associate marketing manager, General Mills, Minneapolis, Minn.
How He Got There: Currier grew up in a small logging town in Maine where his family’s roots stretch back 200 years. During high school, he worked at a local restaurant where his mother worked. He joined the math team and mock trial program and served as yearbook editor. He didn’t see Williams in person until First Days. He participated in Cap & Bells, WCFM radio station and the first-year student council. He also volunteered with the Hurricane Relief Coalition, served as a student member of the Educational Policy and Dining Services committees and worked as a tour guide for the admission office, student manager of the Paresky Center and a Reunion Ranger. The history and psychology major graduated cum laude and began working in New York City at House Party, a viral marketing from where he did copy-editing, editing and social media. He left to pursue an MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, which he completed in May. On Opportunity: “Before Williams, I can count the number of times I had been out of Maine on two hands. QuestBridge and Williams expanded my world in so many ways, and I have certainly tried to make the most of what’s been afforded to me.”

Kristin Emhoff ’09

Where She Is Now: Senior forecasting analyst, Opower, Arlington, Va.

How She Got There: Emho lived in a steel town in eastern Ohio. She was the first in her family to attend college—many of her relatives hadn’t graduated from high school. She applied for QuestBridge at the recommendation of a local college admission coach and chose Williams sight unseen. “The fact that it took my parents’ finances out of the equation was the biggest gift I could have,” she says. “I could be completely financially independent.” At Williams, she majored in mathematics and geosciences, joined the track and cross-country teams, sang with the Accidentals and worked as a teaching assistant. During her senior year, she spent spring break building houses in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity. After graduation, she joined AmeriCorps and taught music in a small town in eastern Oregon. Her interests in environmentalism and renewable energy, also cultivated at Williams, led to her current job with a company helping to create a more efficient energy grid.
On QuestBridge: “My path after Williams was largely influenced by the fact that I had no loans. I wasn’t scrambling for money, so I could do what I wanted without fear.”

John Vu ’09

Where He Is Now: Radiology resident, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.
How He Got There: Vu was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and lived in a small house with no running water or electricity. His father was eligible for the Refugee Act and found work assembling computers in a manufacturing plant in Southern California, where the family relocated when Vu was 6. He struggled in public school until he learned English, and he says he spent most of his time studying. He came to Williams as a pre-med student and majored in biology and chemistry. After the 2008 financial crash, he started an investing club for students. He also worked as part of the Hurricane Relief Coalition, joined the Vietnamese Student Association and was an academic peer advisor. He earned a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Irvine, and then enrolled in medical school. He is pursuing a radiology residency while researching ways to use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to explore brain function.
On The Future: “My ideal goal would be to work in a place like the Mayo Clinic, where I could do clinical work but also do research and administrative work at the same time.”

Illustrations: Phil Prinzo