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By building a tight-knit community of FGLI undergraduates, UpLift’s founders say they hope to combat some of the difficulties associated with being a low-income student on campus.

UpLift, the recently-approved first-generation low-income special interest community, will be open for Columbia College and Engineering undergraduates starting next fall.

The SIC, which will be housed on the second floor of Wallach, holds spots open to four students from FGLI backgrounds, and will serve as a place where FGLI students can congregate, build community, host events, and provide each other with support. UpLift was approved over winter break, and applications will go live shortly, though no official timeline has been announced yet.

The SIC was spearheaded by a group of six first-years, all of whom had met during the Academic Success Program, an initiative that offers FGLI students the opportunity stay on campus during the summer before their first year of classes, during which they have access to tutoring, educational and personal advising, and mentoring programs. The founders include Wesley White, CC ’22, Deja Foxx, CC ’22, Zachary Beebe, SEAS ’22, Veronica Montanez, SEAS ’22, Juan Amaya, CC ’22, Kwolanne Felix, CC ’22, and Karla De Jesus, CC ’22.

According to White and Montanez, the house exists to provide support especially for FGLI students who are not part of a program like ASP, Questbridge, or First in Family, all organizations whose aim is to support FGLI students with financial and academic support throughout their first year. White added that FGLI students who aren’t in Questbridge or ASP can have a harder time finding a community comprised of students from similar backgrounds.

“There are a limited amount of resources [for FGLI students], so we wanted to use our privilege in order to extend the resources that we have to other FGLI kids. We noticed the fragmented FGLI community on campus, and we wanted to find a common ground to come together,” White said.

By building a tight-knit community of FGLI undergraduates, UpLift’s founders say they hope to combat some of the difficulties associated with being a low-income student on campus.

“Classism is a deeply rooted issue that nobody really wants to talk about,” White said. “During NSOP it’s hard if you’re not in ASP; you’re hanging out with people who don’t understand your background and your identity. Then the invitation to go somewhere nice comes up, and if you pay to go inside you know you won’t be able to buy lunch tomorrow.”

Among the initiatives the founders said they hope to put in place are increased funding for fly-in programs, which give high-achieving, low-income students students the opportunity to take free trips to visit college campuses. Many colleges in the country offer such programs, including Barnard College, which offers the Barnard Bound program to pay for students to come visit the campus for three days. However, Columbia does not currently have a fly-in program.

The founders have also reached out to Office of Financial Aid and Educational Financing

to request that they hire an FGLI-specific advisor to advocate for them in the process of being awarded sufficient financial aid by the University. According to Montanez, the office has responded positively, and they are working together to make more concrete plans.

In addition to being a support system for current FGLI students on Columbia’s campus, UpLift hopes to do justice to its namesake by uplifting and empowering future FGLI students, and helping them navigate the campus environment.

“I’m excited to have a space where we know we’re welcome,” Montanez said. “A lot of people on this campus don’t reflect us or our experiences, or don’t understand where we come from. Now that we have the knowledge, when younger kids come in they can come here and we can show them all of the resources available to them. Things are just not advertised.”

Staff writer Marianna Najman-Franks can be contacted at marianna.najmanfranks@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Special Interest Community First-generation Low-income Wallach Hall
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