Lea T.'s Story

“The power of education is universal. When you get a higher education, there is nothing that anyone can do to take that away from you.”

For Lea Trusty, family is the strongest support. Her father, who emigrated from Jamaica, and her mother, from Ethiopia, settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, to raise Lea and her older sister. Even when it became difficult to make ends meet, Lea’s parents did everything they could to provide for their two children and make sure they received the best education possible. Lea remembers coming home from public school just outside the city to a mother who would quiz her on what she learned that day and make sure she stayed focused while completing her homework. When her older sister was admitted to Johns Hopkins with a full scholarship, Lea knew that the hard work could pay off and there were greater opportunities available outside of her Louisiana neighborhood.

“I love going places and seeing new things,” Lea said. When a high school friend told her about the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program, Lea was hesitant at first. She thought it was just another scholarship to apply to, but decided that the opportunity to travel to one of the National College Admissions Conferences was too good to pass up. Lea became a College Prep Scholar and applied for the National College Match in her senior year.

On the day that Match decisions were released, Lea was in the middle of choir practice when she received a call from her older sister, asking if she had seen her decision. Lea ran to the classroom computer and quickly opened her email to read that she had received a full scholarship to attend Princeton University in the fall. She remembers crying in the choir room for twenty minutes, unable to contain her relief and excitement.

Stepping foot on Princeton’s campus as a freshman, Lea was surprised by the difficulty of her new classes and initially felt out of place. There were so many people around her who had accomplished great things, and she was coming from a public school in New Orleans. “Family has really helped to keep me grounded,” she explained of her transition to one of our nation’s best universities. 

On her QuestBridge application, Lea talked about her father as a hero, and how, in Jamaica, he woke up at 5:00 a.m. every day to milk the cows and walk several miles to school. Her parents came to the United States in search of better opportunities, and she came to Princeton to achieve the same goal. She remembered what her parents taught her: “The power of education is universal. When you get a higher education, there is nothing that anyone can do to take that away from you.” 

Over her time in college, she studied abroad in Barcelona and interned with an international nonprofit that protects the human rights of migrant workers. After leading the QuestBridge Scholars Network chapter at Princeton, she advocated for low-income students as Outreach Chair of the Princeton Hidden Minority Council.