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This article presents the findings of a mixed methods study that explores the individual, social, and infrastructure factors that influence educational participation of 403 “Champions” in Maharashtra, India. Champions are defined as second year female college students whose parents completed a primary school education or less. The results of the study, as framed by Kenneth McLeroy et al’s social ecology model, suggest “Champions” owe their success primarily to exceptional levels of familial support, mentorship from teachers, and personal resilience in the face of considerable obstacles including inadequate facilities and rampant sexual harassment. These findings mount a critique of the efficacy of public educational measures targeted at improving gender equality in education.