Top Two Students Follow Their Dreams to John Jay

valedictorian and salutatorian 2014 021-small“I came here with two little children, looking to fulfill the American dream.”

Cristine Fredericks, 38, is living a dream she might not have dared to imagine 12 years ago when she emigrated from Ecuador. On May 28, Fredericks, a Legal Studies major, will take to the stage at John Jay’s Commencement as valedictorian of the Class of 2014.

With an associate’s degree from Nassau Community College in hand, Fredericks said the decision to transfer to John Jay for her bachelor’s degree was an easy one. “The tuition is super affordable, I like being in New York City, and I liked the focus on social justice,” she said. “Plus, I read about the professors, and they are amazing.”

Currently working as a paralegal for an immigration law firm, Fredericks says her John Jay degree is just the beginning. She has applied to the CUNY Graduate Center for a master’s in Liberal Studies, after which she’ll set her sights on law school.

Just as passionate about education is Fredericks’ fellow perfect-score graduate, salutatorian Venetia Siblal, who transferred to John Jay from LaGuardia Community College, and recently completed her B.A. in Forensic Psychology.

“I was ready to learn when I came here,” said Siblal, a native of Trinidad and Tobago. Her mother is a diplomat who six years ago was working for the Trinidadian consulate in New York. Mindful of what she described as an escalating crime situation in her homeland, Siblal said she applied to John Jay because “I wanted to get into a program where I could give back and help my country.”

Like Fredericks, Siblal had personal motivations to excel academically. “When you want to make the world a better place, it gives you extra drive, a sense of responsibility to do something great.” Adding fuel to her fire was her mother’s subsequent transfer to a posting in Costa Rica, leaving Siblal on her own in New York. “When my mom wasn’t here with me, I thought ‘I can’t do this,’ but because of her I wanted to make it, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for all her sacrifices.”

Next up for Siblal is applying to a graduate program for a master’s in Criminology, and looking for work in the nonprofit sector. “The passion to help is in me,” she said with a smile.