Jocelyn Vega ’17 lives by the sage words of her mother: a life worth living is your own. The rising junior, hailing from the Windy City, has been carving her own path since high school, opting to go to a military high school instead of a local public school. Vega participated in Junior ROTC while in high school, eventually climbing up to the title of commander, and joined college bound programs. Thanks to one such program, she spent the summer ofher junior year studying at PrincetonUniversity; her mentors there pushed for her to apply to Ivy League schools and one mentornominated her for the Posse Scholarship. Around 3,000 students are nominated for about110 spots as Posse Scholars in Chicago and 10 students form a ‘Posse’ and attend the sameuniversity.
Because of her leadership in Junior ROTC, Vegaearned one of the coveted spots and continued to learn and grow as a leader when she began her undergraduate career at Cornell alongside her Posse. As a Government and Sociology major, Vega blends academia with activism, conducting research on marginalized communities, intersectionality, and international development. She works as a Student Assistant in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, is a Public Service Center Scholar, and is involved with IvyG, an Inter-Ivy conference aimed at first-generation college students. Vega is also involved with campus activism, supporting her friends’ organizational efforts and is a mentor to those younger than she is, helping them foster their own leadership abilities. Recently, she was accepted to the McNair Scholars program, a competitive program that will prepare her for entrance to a PhD program.
Vega appreciates every moment as a formative moment, whether it be a 3:00 AM conversation with friends or a hike in the gorges, but last winter break she had the opportunity to visit Cambodia as part of a class. This trip was a defining experience in her Cornell career. She had no academic background in the area; even so, she embraced the uncertainty of traveling abroad to a place she didn’t know by keeping an open mind and allowing herself to live through the experience. Vega’s visit to Cambodia allowed her to build connections to local people and understand the unfolding events of history, bringing praxis to life, and challenged her to push beyond her knowledge and her worldview. Vega continues to follow her own direction and will be spending her summer in Ghana, working with a local high school of 700 students. She will teach, but also hopes to be a student, learning as much as she can from the people and the place.
Vega is a proud believer of creating your own future. This trail-blazer continues to find the value of herself, her work, and revels in truly embracing who she is and what she can contribute to the world around her. She is supported and empowered by her community and where she comes from, and continues to build her community here at Cornell. While Vega has immediate plans for her summer, she relies on her experiences and her passions to make each next step of her future possible, whether it’s graduate school or traveling. Wherever her path may lead, it will be one of her own making.