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Filling the gaps

How the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) Supports Students From Underserved Communities

Tufts is a long way from where Nathaniel Tran, A17, grew up, both physically and emotionally. Of the 575 students in his Arizona high school class, only about 350 graduated and about one in eight went on to a four-year college, he reports. “I didn’t want to be just a number,” he says.

The son of Vietnam War refugees, Tran struggled when his family and community refused to support him after he came out as gay. Determined to leave the state, he learned about the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) program, which is designed to support students from underserved communities who need help transitioning from high school to college.

For Tran, whose parents didn’t have college experiences of their own to share and who didn’t have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement classes like many of his Tufts peers, the program has been crucial to his college success.

Ultimately, Tran found inspiration and hope in others’ stories and knew that helping people was his calling. Now the anthropology and Spanish major is also fulfilling pre-med requirements and hopes to work as a physician in a community health center.

“The real benefit is having a family here,” he says of his BLAST friends. “The summer before school started created that feeling of having brothers and sisters here. We take care of each other, tutor each other. Robert Mack, BLAST’s director, is like a dad who watches over us and makes sure we succeed,” Tran says.  

Tran is particularly grateful that he has the assistance of Douglas, E84, A13P and Susan Kline, A13P, whose funding of the Kline Family Scholarship supported his BLAST scholarship.

“We met Nathaniel over coffee and really got his personality, his aspirations for the future, his appreciation of Tufts,” Douglas Kline says.

The Klines saw first-hand the opportunities a Tufts education provided. Douglas, who graduated in 1984, couldn’t have attended the university without significant financial aid.

“As parents, Susan and I see the foundation our son Zak received as a student here and we couldn’t be happier,” Douglas states.

Douglas and Susan choose to support a few places that they believe will be the most impactful, which is why they give to Tufts. “We love the university and know that as great and influential as it is today, it has unlimited potential. For Tufts to be everything it can be, people need to support it,” Douglas states.

Nathaniel is part of a complete, fulfilling community, Douglas says, and the university benefits by having diverse classes comprised of students who offer myriad ideas.

“The scholars selected for this program receive significant financial aid and most commonly are first-generation college students. We are grateful to the parents and other donors who have generously helped fund this program or invested in our financial aid initiative so we may continue to offer this opportunity to incoming students,” states Robert Mack, BLAST’s director.  

For Nathaniel, he sees himself as privileged to receive a world-class education. “I’m grateful to learn with professors who are the most devoted people imaginable and classmates who are incredibly smart,” Tran says. “I can’t imagine fighting so hard for this education and not making the most of it.”

BLAST scholars enroll in a six-week summer session prior to starting their first year where they attend a series of workshops to expose them to Tufts resources and provide leadership opportunities. Scholars receive on- campus housing, tuition to cover two courses for Tufts credit, roundtrip travel expenses for students who live outside of New England, a work replacement stipend of $1,000 upon completion of the program, weekly workshops and social activities, and continuous direct support provided by the BLAST program director and student coordinator.

More information on BLAST.