Newsroom Archive


Two John Jay Students Accepted into Harvard’s Latino Leadership Initiative Program

Melissa Manrique, a BA/MA student in Forensic Psychology, and Sabrina Jimenez Pestel, an Economics major, have been accepted into the highly competitive Kennedy School’s Latino Leadership Initiative Program at Harvard University that only selects 42 of the country’s most outstanding undergraduates who have shown commitment to serving the Latino community. The Program was founded on the premise that the Latino population in the U.S. is the country’s fastest growing population requiring specific services to meet their emerging needs. The Initiative strives to help students interested in the Latino community to develop leadership skills, facilitate networking, and inspire students to have the highest expectations and standards of excellence for themselves.

The LLI offers a week-long intensive program providing classes in foundational skills such as public speaking, decision-making and negotiation.

“The entire John Jay community is rightfully proud of these two remarkable young women. The Harvard LLI Coordinator made clear that Melissa and Sabrina stood out even among an incredibly strong pool of applicants. Moreover, the program’s coordinator state that CUNY’s cohort is one of the most impressive LLI groups and that their arrival on Harvard’s campus is highly anticipated,” said Vielka V. Holness, Director of the Pre Law Institute and the Office of Fellowship and Scholarship Opportunities.

Jimenez Pestel was born in Brittany, France and was raised on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. She says that although she is not Latina her husband is and one day her children will be, so the mission of LLI has particular significance for her.

“It was breathtaking to learn that I was selected for the program,” said Jimenez Pestel. “Having the opportunity to work and advocate for something you truly believe in and in such conditions, is a true honor.”

Jimenez Pestel whose long-term goal is to become a lawyer is currently a Pinkerton fellow, interning for the Osborne Association where she actively participates in the development of their youth programs which provide support and services to children with a currently or formerly incarcerated parent or caregiver in hopes of “transforming lives, communities, and the criminal justice system”.

Manrique is in her fourth year of pursuing her BA/MA in forensic psychology. She has lived her entire life in Queens, and she is excited to learn about leadership and skill-building through the LLI program. She is interested in the psychology of children who have undergone trauma and in helping children develop coping skills. Manrique anticipates learning through the program how to influence social policy so that it reflects best practices in psychology.

“I'm interested in advocating for vulnerable populations, such as children, who cannot defend themselves. Being accepted to the Harvard LLI is a tremendous honor for me as I will take part in positive social change. I am looking forward to work with this year’s cohort to implement a social project that would help the Hispanic community overcome some of the disadvantages they face. Although I have various ideas of my own, I am excited to hear the rest of my cohort’s ideas. As a Latina, this opportunity is extremely valuable and will allow me to be pro-actively involved,” said Manrique.

Students: Learn more by contacting the Office of Fellowship & Scholarship opportunities ( and check the OFSO website for more information.