John Jay Welcomes Entering Class of 2016: Meet the Newest Freshmen

More than 1,400 freshmen entered John Jay College on Aug. 25 with the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. The newest John Jay students represent the youngest freshman class ever, with an average age of 17.78.

As in the recent past, the freshman class is approximately 60 percent female and 40 percent male. More than three-quarters of the freshmen are New York City residents, with Queens being the single largest source of new students among the five boroughs, with 32.74 percent.

The top majors for freshmen are Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology, Criminology and Forensic Science. Increasingly, freshmen are also choosing Computer Science and Information Security, Sociology, Humanities and Justice, and English.

The College also welcomed 1,659 new transfer students, and 491 degree-seeking graduate students.

Meet some of the members of the Class of 2020.


On the Marc

Marc SudaMarc Suda, a Computer Science major, says that his decision to come to John Jay was a no-brainer. “It has everything I want, and I can ride my bike here,” he said.

Suda is a native New Yorker whose family has been living in the same house in Long Island City since his grandmother emigrated from Ecuador 40 years ago. “I’ve always had a good family, living with my mom, dad and grandma,” he said. “Everyone is involved and everyone cares.”

Suda’s interest in computer science dates to his freshmen year at Xavier High School, where he and a friend built their own gaming computers from scratch. His combined interest in computer science and building things culminated during his senior year when he learned HTML, CSS, and C computer coding languages. He then put those skills to use during a robotics course, working on a team that designed, built, and coded a functioning robot. “Making something function, like when a robot picks something up for example, is a lot more satisfying then building a website,” he said.

Although Computer Science is his main academic interest, Suda plans to make the most of his time at John Jay by participating in several extracurricular activities. He has already joined the rifle team, which he says was a contributing factor to his decision to come to John Jay. Suda excelled on his high school’s team, which he led to national championship competitions during his junior and senior years. By the time he graduated, he was the top shooter on the team, and held the Xavier school record with a score of 274 out of 300.

Suda also plans to join the Photography Club, an interest that first began a few months ago when his brother gave him his old camera to use. He says the photos he takes capture themes of urban exploration including graffiti and abandoned cityscapes. “I like to shoot things that people don’t normally look at. Something that might not catch someone’s eye, because it’s not a monument or something famous, but still holds value, because it’s still art,” he said.

Photography also gives Suda a chance to ride his bike around the city, an activity he says gives him a natural high. “When I’m in control, just doing my own thing, it feels great,” he said, “and it’s a good workout.”


Running toward Success

Brandon DialFreshman Brandon Dial said John Jay College had been his top pick for a long time, and after getting into the Macaulay Honors College at John Jay, the decision became even easier to make. Dial, who was born and raised in Valley Stream, Long Island, has held an interest in criminal justice from a young age but was never quite sure of the best way to express it.

"Should I study science, become a cop, or a homicide detective?" he asked rhetorically. "Ultimately, I decided on science, because I was good at it in high school and I was always impressed by the process of collecting and analyzing evidence, and seeing how it was used to convict someone in a courtroom."

Dial's parents are from Guyana, and although neither obtained a college degree, both have earned considerable success in their respective careers since immigrating to the U.S. in 1989 - his mother in insurance and his father in the visual marketing field. Like his parents, Brandon has high ambitions. "My biggest fear is not being successful or not reaching the expectations I set for myself," he said. And those expectations are quite high - as a Forensic Science major, he aims to one day work at the F.B.I. as a crime scene investigator.

Although a self-described introvert, Dial was captain of the cross-country team in high school, where he was named to the all-conference team last fall and achieved a personal milestone of breaking the five-minute mile. Dial never expected to enjoy running, and in fact he joined the team mainly to have an extracurricular activity on his resume. But now he says it's the one part of high school that he found hard to let go. "My cross-country coach made me believe in myself when I didn't have any confidence," he said. "I guess she saw something in me, so she pushed me harder and I think it all paid off. She's probably the person I miss the most from high school."

Now a member of the men's cross-country team at John Jay, Dial plans to explore other interests in mental health and business by joining different clubs and student organizations, and he encourages others to do the same. "If I didn't get involved in extracurriculars or sports, I wouldn't be here," he said. "They helped me a lot in learning more about myself and what I was capable of."


Game On!

Joe BrownA native of Warwick, N.Y., Joe Brown says he has wanted to live in New York City since he was little kid. He's now an incoming freshman at John Jay where he plans to study information technology and cybersecurity. Brown has been working with computers since the fourth grade, when his interest in playing video games sparked the idea of trying to create them for himself. "I took out books from the library on how to make games, and I got really got into it and tried to learn exactly how it was done," he said.

By his freshman year in high school, Joe had tried his hand at a few different games and was ready to build what he calls his first "major game," called Double Death. It is inspired by vintage arcade games such as Alien Storm and Streets of Rage, and has since been completed and is scheduled for release this fall. Brown also started a business called Top Hat Studios Inc., with the help of his parents, through which he could begin to expand his services.

"I made a sizeable investment and then I started taking up contract jobs and working with other small businesses to help them make their games," he said. As of today, he's worked on close to 30 different video games doing everything from implementing story lines with code, implementing mini-games, porting games to other platforms, and other advanced tasks.

Although Joe already works with some professional companies, he says that the college experience will allow him build a greater network, and help him get a job if the video game business doesn't work out. He is fascinated by the connection between cybersecurity and politics. "Technology has shifted to a vital point in society, but a lot of politicians grew up before computers," he said. "Because of that, I think computer security and politics will start to go hand in hand."

Outside of the classroom, Brown enjoys reading dystopian novels, going to ComicCon, and embracing his new urban lifestyle.


Self-Discovery Channel

Nadya Gutierrez Nadya Gutierrez, an incoming freshman at John Jay, was simply looking for an SAT class when she discovered South Asian Youth Action (SAYA), a nonprofit youth development organization in Elmhurst, Queens. To join the class, the organization requires that students also participate in a leadership program. "At first, I didn’t want to do it," she said, "but when it was over, I was more sad to leave that program than I was on my last day of high school."

Gutierrez was born in rural western Massachusetts, moved to New York as a child, lived in the South Bronx, went to high school in Long Island City, and finally landed in Astoria, where she now lives with her mother. "I look up to my mom because she had me at such a young age and couldn’t go to college," she said, "but now she has started her own construction business."

Her experience at SAYA, in combination with a documentary she watched on the subject of human trafficking, sparked something inside of Gutierrez, and set her on a course of fighting for social justice. After completing the SAT course, she decided to come back and work with the nonprofit for another year in its youth leadership program, facilitating group discussions on issues of gender, race, identity politics and other complicated issues. "You could be really open, there was no judgment there," she said, "That class helped me grow up and become more mindful."

Gutierrez hopes to work for an organization that fights against human trafficking. "I think I would like to be a counselor," she said. "I’m just really willing to learn."

Another informative experience for the student was a mission trip she took to Hawaii as a teenager. "It was enlightening, because you picture Hawaii as a paradise, but then you see the other half. Hawaii has the largest homeless population in the United States, and it was sad to see entire families homeless," she said. "But I learned to appreciate that even little things can help. You yourself can make a difference."

Gutierrez hopes to participate in the B.A./M.A. program at John Jay, focusing on forensic psychology and gender studies.


Solving a Mystery

Soraya Alli Soraya Alli, a Macaulay Honors student from Jamaica, Queens, likens cybersecurity to solving a mystery. This incoming freshman says she chose John Jay because it was the only place she could combine her interests in computer science and social justice.

"I always had a thing for computers," she said, "but I didn’t think I wanted to major in it, and I never had a formal class." That changed during her junior year of high school, when she asked herself a question popular among young adults: "What do I want to do with my life?" Resolving to answer that question, Alli began joining different clubs, and though her school didn’t offer a computer science club, she remained undeterred.

That summer, she enrolled in GenCyber, a cybersecurity camp at New York University. "That was my first time coding, and from there I knew it was what I wanted to do," she said. The all-girls camp group followed a mock murder case in which each clue led to the next. Along the way, the students participated in talks with visiting cybersecurity professionals including representatives from the National Security Agency and the Secret Service.

Returning to school her senior year, Alli founded a new club called Scholar’s Point, in which the top 10 percent of seniors offer tutoring sessions to juniors. "Junior year is one of the most hectic years in high school," she said. "You’re trying to find out who you are as a person, and while it’s great to talk to a teacher, it’s even better to have someone who just went through it."

Social justice issues captured her attention as well, specifically an A.P. history class in which she participated in debates and discussions on a wide range of social issues. This prompted her to join the Girl Up Club, a United Nations campaign that raises funds and awareness for female education in underdeveloped countries. "We’re all so lucky to have this opportunity to go to school regardless of gender, but that’s not true for everyone," she pointed out.

When asked if she was always a high-achiever, Alli recalls one moment in particular. "My father passed away when I was seven and that had a big impact on who I am. I felt like I had to be the person to do something great in the family." Alli’s mother is a factory worker from Guyana who never earned a high school diploma, but raised two children, one of whom — Soraya — is now attending John Jay on a full scholarship.

Most recently, the aspiring cybersecurity expert spent three weeks at Google’s Manhattan office, where she learned to code in four languages and build web applications as part of the Computer Science Summer Institute. After experiencing the excitement of presenting her work for Google’s engineers, she knew she could say, "My heart is in cybersecurity."