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In the summer of 2000, Miguel Centeno, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, and Dr. John Webb, former Director of the Program in Teacher Preparation at Princeton University, began discussions with university faculty and educators from three Central New Jersey school districts. Their goal was to create an intensive program to prepare high school students who are traditionally underrepresented at selective institutions due to socioeconomic status to apply to and succeed within highly selective colleges and universities. The Princeton University Preparatory Program was formulated as a result of these discussions. In 2001, PUPP welcomed its first class of rising high school sophomores from three local schools: Ewing High School, Princeton High School, and Trenton Central High School, and has since accepted approximately 24 incoming rising sophomores each year. PUPP was up and running in 2001 with Dr. Richard Carter, PUPP’s first Principal, and Torey Wilson, current Associate Director, at the forefront. Together, they set standards for the Summer Institute and developed academic enrichment sessions with graduate students from Princeton University’s English Department.

PUPP graduated its first cohort of scholars in 2004.   Adhering to the vision of the founders, the class of 2004 made their way to some of the finest institutions in the country, including Vassar, Richmond, Bryn Mawr, Rutgers, Stevens, Columbia, and Princeton. 

In 2004, Dr. Jason R. Klugman was named the Director of PUPP, and has since worked to expand and deepen the program.   In 2005, PUPP began a tradition of attending an overnight retreat at the Princeton-Blairstown Center the days prior to opening ceremony. All scholars, teaching assistants, faculty, and staff participate in this annual leadership retreat, which involves trust-building activities and physical challenges, including repelling down a dam, rock climbing, zip lines, and other high ropes activities. After the opening ceremony, PUPP scholars participate in a six-and-a-half week summer institute on Princeton’s campus for three consecutive summers, starting the summer after their sophomore year. In an effort to further enrich the scholars’ experience in high school, there was also an addition of academic and cultural Enrichment during the school year.   Weekly academic enrichment sessions are taught by PUPP Teaching Fellows, most of whom are Princeton graduate students, during the sophomore and junior year of high school. The Fellows use current events, contemporary fiction, and student work to continue working toward the program’s goal of developing critical communication skills (reading, writing, listening, thinking and speaking). For seniors, the academic enrichment program focuses on individualized college admissions counseling and support with the financial aid process.

PUPP also offers a school year cultural enrichment program that affords students the opportunity to attend a number of events including the opera, theater, and dance performances. These events are complemented by pre-show readings and conversations, post-show discussions with actors and artists, and post-show writing assignments. In order to increase awareness and access to colleges and universities, PUPP scholars participate in two overnight college tours, one during their junior year and one during senior year. By the time PUPP scholars graduate from high school, most have visited approximately 30 colleges and universities in the Eastern US.

Under Klugman’s leadership, PUPP has deepened its work with students and schools in the Mercer county area and developed a national profile as a model college preparation program.   In 2006, with the support of The Goldman Sachs Foundation, PUPP convened a national working forum on the challenges of preparing low-income youth for selective college success.   The resulting conference white paper, “Opening Doors and Paving the Way,” has been distributed to university leaders, admissions and college preparation professionals.   A manual for developing programs like PUPP – an outgrowth of the forum and ten years of work at Princeton - is also now available.

  After a strategic planning process in 2008, PUPP explored the possibility of expansion and worked to refine the operations of the program and raise the academic bar for scholars. Beginning with the class of 2012 (in 2009) PUPP added two partner schools: Lawrence High School in Lawrence, NJ and Nottingham High School in Hamilton, NJ.   Also under Klugman’s direction has been the addition of a full-time PUPP counselor to the staff who works with scholars one-on-one throughout their high school career and during the summer institutes. The first PUPP counselor, Michael Hannon, worked from 2007-2010 to provide crucial one-on-one counseling and advising services to PUPP scholars and alumni. Personalized college counseling continues after high school graduation with a “Transition to College” workshop and extensive work with alumni to make sure that PUPP scholars have a basis for guidance and support throughout their college years as well. Mr. Hannon was succeeded by QuinnShauna Felder-Snipes after the 2010 Summer Institute.