Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs


Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs


Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs


Staff Profile
Jackson Hilpp
Jackson Hilpp
Staff Reporter

From RB to Yale, alumna Carmona returns to share her story

Emma Lopez
Paulina Carmona presents a slideshow to students about her experience at Yale.

On March 11, alumna Paulina Carmona once again walked the halls of Riverside Brookfield High School. As a Yale Ambassador, she discussed financial aid, student life, extracurriculars, and housing in the College and Career Center to an audience of juniors.

Since graduating in May 2023, Carmona has been a first-year student at Yale University studying electrical engineering.

“I joined the program because I wanted to show people in my region that it is possible to end up at places like Yale. There are a lot of misconceptions about places like Yale and what going there looks like, and I thought my story could be used to give students a clearer picture of what attending could be like,” Carmona said. “I want to start a shift to encourage more RB students to apply to selective schools like Yale.”

Initially, Carmona reached out to Principal Dr. Héctor Freytas to potentially host a session as a Yale Ambassador for juniors who are interested in applying to Yale. Then, she contacted RB Counselor Melissa Carey and Assistant Principal of Student Services Beth Augustine. Ultimately, a space was booked for Carmona, a sign-up form was created, and then the event was promoted by Kiley Fletcher on social media and online.

“I hope they [students] will learn a little bit more about what the process is like to go through the application at Yale, how the decision gets made, to even apply to a school like that, and then ultimately what made Paulina decide that was a good fit for her, personally,” Carey said.

During the session, Carmona highlighted her experiences as a Yale student by personalizing the event to recognize her encounters with being a first-year college student.

“The program gives us a sample presentation, but I wanted mine to be a bit more personal to me since I knew I’d be talking to an audience I was somewhat familiar with. I made sure my presentation included all the key points the program wants us to talk about, but I included some of my own favorite things about Yale,” Carmona said. “I talk about my first experiences at Yale and how the transition was one of the most difficult moments of my life. A big reason why I wanted to do this program in the first place was because I wanted to show other students that you deserve to take up the same amount of space as any other student at an elite institution like Yale. Just because I’m a first-generation college student, a Latina at a predominantly white institution, and in a male-dominated field, that doesn’t mean anyone else deserves to be there any more than me.”

From her perspective as a Yale student, Carmona has experienced a big transition from high school to college. Between the Midwest and the East Coast, Carmona has encountered a distinct lifestyle, new friends, extracurricular and job opportunities, and a different city.

“My transition from RB to Yale was anything but easy. This is not meant to discourage anyone, because the reality is that transitioning to college is hard regardless of what university you go to. Socially, academically, and emotionally everything was changing for me during my first semester,” Carmona said.

For students, Carmona’s point of view offers a peek into the realm of college admissions and the life that proceeds it. Junior Andrea Hernández attended the presentation to learn more about the college application process.

“I have older siblings that went to college for a bit, but my parents aren’t that well-informed regarding it, so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to learn from a student who went to RB and hear what they’d recommend,” Hernández said.

At RB, there is a diverse student body, and while the college admissions process may seem universally pressuring, everyone has a story to tell in their CommonApp.

“It just put more into perspective about not being too pressured by others…what others are doing, and making it more about you, even though it’s obviously about your future. At certain points, I feel it just becomes pressuring of what’s expected of you, but just keeping in mind…making it your voice,” Hernández said. “I have always been pushed to continue school, that’s one thing, so I am going to do that, but one thing I am going to do is go abroad and see different places, so with what [Carmona] presented to us…I plan to use her encouragement in just ‘go for it.’ Then, look for colleges that offer that, and not being afraid to apply. Just apply to see if you get in regardless because you never know.”

Coming from someone who just recently graduated from RB in 2023, Carmona’s perspective provides insight into the college admissions process from a fresh point of view in light of recent changes.

“I think it’s always a very different experience to hear from someone that went through it very recently,” Carey said. “I think that just makes it a lot more real. I think it helps students just think differently about the application process versus hearing it from me, somebody who hasn’t actually gone through the application process for myself in so long; who just knows about it, as a counselor. I think it’s super important just on that level to be able to connect with students who have been through it so recently.”

While Yale, among the list of Ivy-League schools or universities with low acceptance rates, are extremely selective, anything can happen. Even though top and Ivy-League schools can appear difficult to gain admission to, it is possible.

“For all students applying to college: don’t compare yourself to students who have access to more opportunities than you. Know that you belong just as much as any other student at your university,” Carmona said. “If I had never taken my chances, if I had doubted myself and not submitted my application at the last minute, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I am now. College applications may seem daunting but don’t be afraid to take a risk. Apply to a school even if you have low chances of getting in. You never know until you try.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Lopez
Emma Lopez, Story Editor

Emma Lopez is a junior at Riverside Brookfield High School with big dreams in the intersection of technology and ethics. Being one of the few girls and Latinas in her computer science class, Emma is passionate about closing the gender gap in STEM and empowering underrepresented youth through STEM education.

In her free time, she codes, watches rom-coms, listens to Stevie Nicks or Troye Sivan, drinks matcha lattes with oat milk (especially with cinnamon!), and munches on paletas de crema con fresa. She plans to study computer science, and her dream is to work in the cybersecurity field–hopefully in Chicago, or wherever life takes her!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact her at [email protected]!

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