CLASS ACTS — Snapshots of members of the Class of 2019

Kenya Edmonds

Staying Strong

Kenya Edmonds, an Honors Program student and a Pre-Law Institute student, personifies many qualities that John Jay hopes to instill in our students-compassion, resiliency, and an unwavering commitment to justice. Before attending John Jay, Edmonds encountered a domestic violence situation. Through a bad turn of events, she was wrongfully incarcerated at Rikers Island for three and half years. She was never granted bail, despite asking for it repeatedly. "There's just this presumption that you're guilty before you're even proven innocent," says Edmonds. Vhile at Rikers, Edmonds tried to help the other women in her housing area. "I always understood that what I was going through was bigger than me." When her trial finally went to court, and the jury stood up and said "not guilty" over and over, "It was like a gray cloud was lifted off of my head," says Edmonds. After being released, Edmonds remembered her acceptance letter from John Jay and she decided to make her education a top priority, helping to create a better life for her daughter and herself. While at John Jay, Edmonds interned at the Innocence Project and the National Network for Safe Communities. She is currently preparing to take the LSAT. "My passion lies in criminal justice reform and policy reform," says Edmonds. "I can understand academia, but I can also relate to communities affected by the criminal justice system."

Hannah Chu

Succeeding in Science

When Honors Program student Hannah Chu first arrived at John Jay, her plan was to become a lawyer, but an invitation to join the Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Math (PRISM), changed her life. "I did terrible in science while in high school. But when I came to John Jay, I met my mentor, Dr. Jennifer Rosati, and she introduced me to Entomology, which is the study of bugs. It was in her class that I fell in love with science, and I realized what I wanted to do with my life." A Forensic Science major with a concentration in molecular biology, Chu sees science, and more specifically insects, as the key to better understanding human biology. Her research has led to her winning the Jonas E. Salk Scholarship, which is awarded annually to eight graduates at CUNY senior colleges based on their potential to make significant contributions to medical research. "I've been doing research for a little over three years now and winning this scholarship really validates my work. It tells me that the work I'm producing in the field of Biomedical Research is valued." Following graduation, Chu will begin a Ph.D. program in Entomology at the University of California, Riverside-ranked as one of the top programs for insect science in the world. "One of my biggest dreams is to work for NASA. They have a fruit fly lab at the International Space Station where they study how space affects the fruit fly's biology. This will lead to a better understanding of human biology."

Zach Hyde

Big League Dreams

Zach Hyde is a baseball superstar. He is currently the John Jay record leader in stolen bases, is tied for third all-time in hits, and is the winner of a number of accolades including Rookie of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year. His work ethic is impressive, and he draws inspiration from athletes like David Wright, his immediate family, and his extended JohnJay family. "Coach Joe Mandile always told me that in order to fulfill my· dreams of playing professional baseball, I have to stay the course and never quit." That advice came in handy when Hyde tore his ACL during his junior year. "I was going to physical therapy four times a week and there were days I just wanted to give up," says Hyde. "It was really everyone's support that got me through the recovery process." While the expected recovery is a year, Hyde healed in a record time of seven months. "My entire senior year was special for me because I was able to get back on the field and play the sport I love after having it almost taken away from me." This feeling of elation continued when he was named the 2019 CUNY Athletic Conference Player of the Year, the first Bloodhound to receive the award since 2006. The next time Hyde hears his name called out, he hopes it's during the Major League Baseball Draft. "The week after graduation is the draft. I'd love to play for the Mets, but I know it's a blessing to just be on any team at that level. I'll be happy just being out on that field and making my family proud."

Tyriek Warren

Leveraging Life Lessons

Growing up, Tyriek Warren's mother would take him on trips outside of their Brownsville, Brooklyn neighborhood, where he could experience different cultures and environments, and see a new world of possibilities. "She did that for a reason," says Warren. "Brownsville wasn't the greatest. She wanted me to see there was more to the world than just what was happening in my neighborhood. When I was in pre-school, I remember looking out the window and seeing one man beat another man to death. It was the first time I witnessed a crime," he says. ''As I.grew up, I would see more. Once I was at the park watching a basketball tournament, and a young man ran in and started shooting people randomly. He killed an innocent bystander, a mother who was at the park with her children.",; After transfering from BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College), Warren took an interest in Sociology and Criminology at JohnJay artd found his way to the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program. The program paved the way for internships, including one with Justice Francois A. Rivera, where Warren gained valuable work experiences and life lessons. "One of the biggest lessons I learned from Justice Rivera was that if you don't know something to look it up and memorize it for the rest of your life," he says. After months of studying for his LSAT, Warren was accepted into 11 law schools, and he will be attending St. John's University School of Law on a full-ride scholarship.

Ayanna Miller-Smith

Researching for Justice

When Ayanna Miller-Smith transferred to John Jay, she knew that this was where she would build her career. "I came to John Jay in the middle of my sophomore year and ended up doing an extra year here," she says. "This is where I got all my internships, did research and figured out what I wanted to do." What Miller-Smith found was a passion for research. With the help of the Ronald E. McNair PostBaccalaureate Achievement Program, and her McNair mentor Zelma Henriques, Ph.D., Miller-Smith conducted research on the portrayal of police brutality on social media and its effects on populations. "My research stems from a tweet I made when I came across the Philando Castile video. When I saw the video, I didn't even click on it. It started playing automatically on my timeline and I didn't have the choice to engage in this content," she says. "Talking to my peers, I realized that we all felt anxious because it was too much to take in." McNair helped focus her interests and gave her the confidence to present at the 2019 Research and Creativity Expo and Black Doctoral Network Conference where she won an Honorable Mention Award. Inspired by her research, Miller-Smith will be completing her Ph.D. in Criminology and Justice Policy at Northeastern University. Her hope is to influence criminal justice policy through her research and become a professor one day. "I believe in mentorship and I want to continue the pipeline of students of color into graduate school."

Bosco Villavicencio

Teaching the Future

Bosco Villavicencio is the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor's degree in the United States and to pursue a master's degree. Now, he's eager to become a professor at John Jay. "Teaching was something I always thought about doing. At first, I wanted to be a high school teacher," he says. "But after coming to John Jay and working as a teacher's assistant, I realized that I wanted to be a college professor." The Accelerate Complete Engage Program (ACE) has been instrumental in making Villavicencio's dreams come true. Through ACE, he participated in community service activities, and careerbuilding and academic success workshops. But, what he credits the program for most is his networking skills. "ACE is really about networking. Through it, I met faculty like Professor Amy Adamczyk from the Department of Sociology," says Villavicencio. "By networking with Professor Adamczyk, I met other John Jay professors." And, it was this network that offered Villavicencio an opportunity to teach at John Jay. "When I got the call to be an adjunct professor for the Sociology Department, I was elated. Starting in the fall, I will be teaching Sociology 101," he says. "It's because of this College that I see myself walking across the stage with my Ph.D., applying for a tenure track position at John Jay, and trying to help the youth."

Brenneis Nesbitt

Envisioning Law School

Brenneis Nesbitt knows firsthand what it's like to have poor legal representation. "I was involved in the criminal justice and legal system. At my sentencing, my attorney was not as well-versed as he should've been. I thought I would get a 10-year sentence, but instead I received 17-and-a-half years," he says. "Because of this experience, I earned a certificate in Paralegal Studies, got my associates degree, and decided that I wanted to go to John Jay." With the help of the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI), Nesbitt got the opportunity to come to John Jay. Although he dreamed of getting a law degree, he doubted his chances until he was introduced to Charles Davidson, j.D., Ph.D., Director of the Pre-Law Institute (PLI). "Where I saw my criminal history as a hindrance to my progress moving forward, Dr. Davidson saw it as inspiration," he says. "He advised me to focus on my grades, prepare for my LSAT, and that he would take care of the rest. Without him and Elizabeth Broccoli, Associate Director of PLI, I wouldn't have envisioned myself heading into the legal field." With the help of PLI, Nesbitt has interned at the Innocence Project, was a Pinkerton Fellow, and offered young criminal justice involved individuals the resources they need to succeed. After graduating, he plans to attend law school and become a criminal defense attorney. "I want to diversify the bar and advocate for people like me who are poor, underrepresented, and from marginalized communities."

Ana Correa

Fighting Fraud

Ana Correa knows how to persevere in the face of adversity. When she came to America from the Dominican Republic at age 11, she had to learn a whole new language in an entirely different school system. When her high school guidance counselor told her John Jay was a long shot, she applied anyway. She told the counselor that John Jay was the only College she wanted to attend. Then she paved a path to the College on her own. At the start of her college experience, her parents separated, and she experienced a bout of depression. She knew she couldn't keep it to herself. "The depression began affecting my grades and Jennifer Hernandez-Khan from APPLE Corps knew that wasn't like me. I remember telling her I didn't think I was going to graduate. I thought I was going to drop out," says Correa. But soon, the fog would lift thanks to support from the John Jay community. "Everyone in APPLE Corps and John Jay helped me grow. I learned how to ask for help when I needed it," says Correa. She now wants to pay it forward. While she will take some time off after graduation-working at both a bank and a high school-she plans to pursue a master's degree in counseling. "I want to help young adults that have been involved in the criminal justice system get back on track," says Correa. "For me, the feeling that you get 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."