The New York City Urban Fellows Program is so prestigious and so selective that in 2012 only two students from the entire City University of New York were chosen to participate. This year, three John Jay graduating seniors have been selected for the program that provides exceptional students with an introduction to city government and public service.
John Cusick, Rosmarin Belliard and Keenan Lambert are among 25 undergraduates nationwide who were chosen as 2013 Urban Fellows. The program offers students the opportunity to work in the Mayor’s office or one of many city agencies. The fellowship program also includes a seminar series, site visits and trips to Washington, DC, to help Fellows understand the interconnection among city, state and federal governments.
“The Urban Fellows Program provides an unparalleled opportunity for young professionals to gain meaningful work experience in public policy, urban planning and government operations as they consider careers in public service,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It demonstrates New York City’s commitment to shaping future leaders. I am proud to sponsor this program.”
John Cusick, who will graduate in May with a major in Humanities and Justice and a double minor in English and Political Science, is interested primarily in the intersection of youth culture, the law and public health. He credits his passion for public service and youth empowerment to the internships and off-campus leadership roles he has enjoyed.
“My desire to go to law school and work in government was sparked when I was a freshman and took courses exploring government frameworks,” Cusick said. “To prepare myself, I interned at the New York County District Attorney’s Office and for the Hon. Judy Harris Kluger [Chief of Policy and Planning for the New York State Unified Court System]. “Working on projects involving problem-solving courts and juvenile-justice issues during my internship with Judge Kluger revealed to me the importance of a public health perspective to the law.”
This semester, Cusick has been working as an intern in the office of President Jeremy Travis on the project “From Punishment to Public Health,” which seeks to achieve closer integration of public health and criminal justice strategies to reduce mass incarceration.
A New Jersey native, Cusick attributes his affable demeanor to the five years he lived in Vermont; he credits his sense of pluralism and civic duty to his John Jay experience, notably the College’s diversity and the perspectives students bring to group discussions on a variety of topics.
“John Jay has been a home for me, and the continued support of my mentors has been integral to my success,” said Cusick. “This opportunity to work in city government is an unparalleled experience because government is in a unique position to change social policy. The Fellowship allows me to combine my grassroots work with policy-making in a more meaningful way. I will be able to bring some of my own perspectives, allowing me to contribute to initiatives that are affecting New Yorkers.”
Keenan Lambert, a Political Science major with a concentration in Urban Affairs, has had the Urban Fellows program on his radar since his sophomore year when he discussed strategies for obtaining the sought-after Fellowship with his mentor, Professor Janice Bockmeyer in the Department of Political Science. Professor Bockmeyer suggested that Lambert participate in internships to broaden his experience and develop his skills. He went on to work as an intern for Assemblyman Nick Perry of Brooklyn, for the New York City Commission on Human Rights and for City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.
“I think my goal in life is to be someone who is remembered and someone who does something positive for my community and for my nation,” said Lambert. “This Fellowship will give me an understanding of government that the classroom would not. The professors in the political science department are amazing and really gave me a wonderful foundation for all I am about to accomplish.”
In Lambert’s view, internships were essential to his college experience because they allow students to apply their academic and theoretical work to real-world experiences. After the one-year Urban Fellowship, Lambert plans to attend graduate school at either Brooklyn or Hunter College.
Rosmarin Belliard is majoring in Political Science with a minor in History, both disciplines that have fueled her interest in public affairs, women’s issues and immigration. Belliard said she was drawn to the Urban Fellows program’s holistic, hands-on approach to learning about public policy, and is particularly interested in learning about the interworking of local, state and federal government and how policies are used as tools to improve communities.
“I am a proud John Jay student,” she beamed. “My exposure to diverse views, people and social problems has instilled a greater humanity within me and has revealed that I can only pursue a career that will bring positive change to many lives.” Belliard has furthered her passion for both law and politics in a variety of settings, serving as a John Jay Peer Ambassador and as president of the Political Science Honor Society, and interning with the Law School Admission Council, the office of former Gov. David A Paterson, and the Hon. Marguerite A. Grays, Presiding Justice of the Queens County Supreme Court.
Belliard counts herself as a grateful participant in John Jay’s Pre Law Institute, citing the steadfast support of the PLI’s Director, Vielka Holness. “Vielka has had a positive, influential role in my transformation as a student,” said Belliard. “Her dedication to her students’ success and amazing work ethic has inspired me to be very dedicated in all that I do. I hope one day young Latinas can look to me as a role model just as she has been for me”.
Belliard says the desire to serve was instilled in her by the generosity and values of her parents, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the 1970’s. “My parents are very excited for the new chapter that awaits me as an Urban Fellow. I’m happy to have fulfilled their dream and for finding my own along the way.” Belliard, who envisions attending law school in her future, sees the Fellowship as a life-changing experience that will complement her experience thus far, help her find her place in policymaking and fulfill her ultimate goal of serving the larger community.
Established in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York is an international leader in educating for justice. It offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu.