Impact on Social Mobility

young man in science lab

Jefferson Jean Paul ’21
Future Cardiologist

Urban Scholars

Clerson and Jefferson were strong students at Irvington High School. Teachers steered them toward Centenary University, which is known for its great science programs. The cousins are first generation college students who receive financial assistance through the Educational Opportunity Program.

Research Rock Stars

At Centenary, Professor Lauren Bergey, Ph.D., quickly spotted their potential. She invited them to participate in research on the effects of an invasive Japanese shrimp specie on South Jersey’s waterways. That experience later led them to conduct marine-life research through a Centenary-sponsored program at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Florida.

Clerson Xavier ’21
Future Trauma Surgeon

International Stage

Clerson and Jefferson presented their research at an international conference in Texas, alongside students from around the world. Their hard work—juggling classes and research with part-time jobs—paid off big-time. Clerson placed second in the competition and Jefferson was in the top 10, facing more than 750 undergraduates and master’s candidates from Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Brown, as well as research giants Stanford and Johns Hopkins. In fact, all four Centenary University student researchers placed in the top 10!

Big Plans

As senior year approaches, Clerson  and Jefferson are already thinking about their applications to medical school. With their sights set on internships at a surgical orthopedic center, they also plan to visit Irvington High School to encourage students to aim higher. Clerson says, “We come from a high school where people don’t expect much from us. I want to tell students, ‘You’re smart. You can do this, too.’”


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