A year from now, Quinnipiac University’s Priscilla Maldonado will be the first New Haven Promise scholar to graduate from a four-year institution. Shortly thereafter she aims to become the first graduate student in NHP history.
A trail blazer no doubt, but she knows that she didn’t blaze alone.
A 2011 graduate of Hill Regional Career High, she took advantage of those high school days to knock a year of college credit down before enrolling at Quinnipiac. Now — with an eye on a graduate degree in social work — Priscilla is weighing her graduate options between UConn and her soon-to-be alma mater.
But while she did the work to put herself in this enviable position, her inspiration and motivation began at home.
“The question was not if, but when, we were going to college,” she recounted. Her parents — Iluminado and Marisol — were insistent on an academic focus, including within her extra-curricular activities. Even her karate instructor — a City firefighter — was in on it. His charges couldn’t compete without good grades and earned a uniform patch for exceptional classwork.
Her father, who grew up in rural Puerto Rico, stayed involved in the process with frequent ‘check-ins’ at both school and home. He made sure that homework was the top priority after school and felt that academic summer camps and campus visits were important. His academic hopes for Priscilla are far from over. “I want her to get her master’s degree,” said Iluminado. “I want her to be the best she can be.”
Her mother — who set out to ensure her daughter would be confident and unafraid of exploration — always checked homework and scouted out the right schools as her daughter grew, looking closely at class sizes and school culture.
Priscilla participated in the Johns Hopkins three-week summer program three times and participated in an academic program in California as well. By the time she was ready for college, she had her sights set on the University of Tampa. But a late-minute call from an admissions officer at Quinnipiac helped seal the deal. When they asked what they could do to woo her, she told them she’d need a better financial package.
To Priscilla’s surprise, they offered her what she wanted. That decision also left her eligible to receive her Promise scholarship. That inaugural class received just 25 percent of the benefits, but Priscilla calls it, “A great help. Even to bridge the gap (of her tuition bill).”
Her parents are quick to praise New Haven and Promise for its focus not just on their daughter, but on all the young scholars. “We’re very proud of the City,” said her dad.
Priscilla’s experiences at Quinnipiac have been wonderful. She’s a fixture on the Dean’s List and has presented on the effects of race on the criminal justice system at a conference in Rhode Island. She’s worked in several campus departments and will serve as resident assistant in the fall.
“Whatever she dreams, I want her to have,” said her mother. “I am proud of being her mom and her friend.”
The feeling is clearly mutual and she will never forget her parents’ sacrifice to lay the groundwork for her rapid success. “I love them,” Priscilla says. “I just thank them for supporting me all these years.”