Jewett fears that observers will conclude that minority students with disadvantaged backgrounds cannot succeed at college. In fact at Harvard, "Hundreds of minority students have come here over the years and done well," Jewett said. "Many of them have had transition problems and have gone on to become successful doctors, lawyers and teachers.
"In making admissions decisions, we try to pick people that have the strength, resiliency and growth potential and we try hard with our counseling and support resources to get through the transition period and complete their studies."
Harvard takes no risk in admitting students with credentials at the edge of acceptability, he said. "The only person taking the risk is the student," Jewett said. "The institution is not particularly shaken if an individual doesn't succeed. . . . We have to be careful that \o7 they're\f7 not taking too great a risk."
Those who have succeeded without elaborate institutional support say they managed to balance the values of academia, the mainstream society, with those of their community and their own families.
"It takes character," said Rhodes Scholar Kissee-Sandoval. "Sometimes when I listen to my uncle who works at Sinclair Paints, I realize there are so many types of wisdom other than academic wisdom."
"Your life has to represent a bridge," Sanchez said. "Part of me is always remaining connected to my parents. The other part to the larger society. In a small way, my presence can change that world."