By Eric Hoover

Long before many people enroll in college, they see a version of it on glowing screens. Movies, television shows, and photographs flood our eyeballs with images of college students, shaping our understanding of whom higher education serves. The more folks we see who look like us, the more we might believe that we, too, belong in college.

But Shontise McKinney never knew that feeling. Growing up in Washington, D.C., she watched a slew of Lifetime movies about high-school and college kids with whom she had little in common. They were white; she is black. They came from two-parent homes; she was in foster care. They were wealthy; she was poor.

No one in McKinney’s family had gone to college. Though she loved books and daydreamed about becoming a meteorologist, she couldn’t see herself pursuing a postsecondary degree. Especially not after she got pregnant at 16. “College seemed like an imaginary place,” she says, “a place I just wouldn’t end up in.”

But she did. Now she’s a 25-year-old junior at the University of the District of Columbia, majoring in finance and accounting while raising two children on her own. And she felt good, really good, when she saw the images in the New College Majority Photo Series: They depict students who are mothers, just like her.

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