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A Hand Up, Not a Handout

Family, Home, and Social Sciences

December 2022

Female student outdoors
Photo credit: Jaren Wilkey / BYU 

Josie Zenger’s family moved from Boston to Queens in New York City when she was 12. In high school she saw the academic and college-prep struggles of class- mates who lived below the poverty line, so when Zenger came to BYU as a freshman, she knew she wanted to learn about and help fix educational struggles worsened by poverty.

Anthropology professor Greg Thompson invited Zenger (now a sociology student) to conduct research about impoverished families in south Provo. Later, Zenger conducted focus groups with BYU students who are first-generation degree seekers from low-income backgrounds or from diverse ethnic groups. 

“It was really interesting, often heartbreaking, and sometimes encouraging,” Zenger says. “One senior told us, ‘I’ve always felt included. I never felt like I didn’t get the invite. But when it came to belonging, I didn’t feel like I belonged.’” 

One student said, “I never felt like I didn’t get the invite. But when it came to belonging, I didn’t feel like I belonged.”

True to her motivations to aid the struggling poor, Zenger is working in Provo with an organization her mother started in New York that helps disadvantaged students prepare for and get to college—particularly BYU. “I’m continually amazed at how open BYU administrators and professors are to opening doors for their students,” Zenger says. 

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