Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
When I first got to college, my parents had announced their separation and I became really depressed. I had also witnessed instances of domestic abuse, so that was affecting me too. I’ve always been the tough one and my goal is to always take care of my mom and sister. The depression began affecting my grades, and [Program Coordinator] Jennifer Hernandez-Khan from APPLE Corps knew that wasn’t like me. I remember her saying, “You don’t fail classes — what’s going on?”
I come from a Dominican household, and in Hispanic homes there’s a saying, “Lo que pasa en casa, se queda en casa,” which translates to, “What happens at home, stays at home,” so talking about what I was feeling or what was happening isn’t part of our cultural norm. But Jennifer, along with Natalie Jordan [Senior Academic Advisor], would hear me out and offer me help. I’m really thankful for that. I used to tell Jennifer all the time, I didn’t think I would make it to graduation; I thought I was going to be a dropout. But Jennifer, APPLE Corps, and John Jay helped me grow. I matured and began to understand things. I learned how to ask for help when I needed it. The John Jay College experience shaped me into who I am today.
John Jay was my dream college. I remember back in high school I told my counselor I was only applying to one school, and that was John Jay. I watched a lot of shows like Forensic Files and Criminal Minds and I’ve always wanted to help people but I wanted to make sure I did it in a field that I found exciting as well. I love everything about criminology, so John Jay is a perfect fit for me. My major is in Criminology with a minor is Human Services and I’m getting my certificate in Dispute Resolution, which is about helping others resolve their conflict.
With APPLE Corps, I knew the program dealt with law enforcement — at the time I was considering becoming a police officer — and I wanted to join something in the College that would let me meet others. I loved the program because being in APPLE Corps helped me discover what path I want to take in life. Through it, I learned I wanted to help law enforcement as an advocate for others but not as an officer. I did two internships — the first was in BronxWorks, where you help individuals and families improve their wellbeing. The next was with the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, or ACE. ACE is a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless get back into the workforce.
Thinking back, my best experience here at John Jay was actually a result of my being in APPLE Corps and my internship with ACE. Through my ACE internship I learned that sometimes you see people and you’re not really seeing the whole picture. I learned that in all my courses, but seeing it played out in front of me took that learning to a different level. In ACE I was involved during the intake process. That’s when you ask the folks coming in questions to learn about their situation. There was a lady who walked in and she looked totally fine. I remember thinking, “What is she doing in here?” Then she started to tell me her story about how she’s battling depression. That experience helped me grow so much and it let me understand there’s more to people’s stories than what we see.
My dream job would be counseling and helping young adults that have been involved in the criminal justice system. This would let my combine my two loves, criminology and helping others. For me, the feeling that you get when you’re helping others, when you know that you’re helping another person do something good with their life, it doesn’t compare to anything else in the world.
Without John Jay, I would be lost. I would have never discovered my passion for helping others. I would have never believed that I could achieve what I wanted to achieve. And now, it’s something I want to give to others.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice ‘19
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