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Student Spotlight: Sofia Da Silva '18

October 19, 2016

Student Spotlight: Sofia Da Silva

By: Karen Loya '19, Latina/o Student Success Office Intern

Hailing from New Haven, Connecticut, junior, and first-generation college student, Sofia Da Silva is aiming to revolutionize the education field.

Sofia is a Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology double major with a minor in Education. She is a McNair Scholar, an Arts and Sciences Ambassador, and one of the newest members of the Cornell Educational Policy Committee. Coming from a small city that is frequently overshadowed by the university that encompasses it, Sofia learned the importance of giving back to community members, especially when one is part of an elite institution where it is so easy to focus on one’s self. She combines her passion for education with her desire to give back to her community and is the co-president of both Early College Awareness (a mentorship program designed to help students in the Ithaca community become more aware about college and the opportunities afforded to them) and First in Class (a club tailored to the first generation college student community).

Although her schedule is constantly filled, Sofia is adamant about making time for breaks and fun. “My favorite memory at Cornell is Homecoming of freshman year,” she said with the bubbly excitement of a child, “it was a really great moment—we got to take pictures with Touchdown and the mayor!” Sofia also explained her love and deep appreciation for the Prefreshman Summer Program, a program dedicated to help facilitate the transition between high school and Cornell for students who mainly come from first-generation backgrounds. Sofia participated in the program the summer before her freshman year and went back the next summer as a Program Assistant. She elaborated on the close relationships with her coworkers and the lasting relationships formed during her first PSP, emphasizing how her “friend group has grown, but [her] squad is still PSP.”

Aside from the love and fun of Homecoming and PSP, Sofia experienced her most profound turning point at Cornell after attending the first annual First-Generation Ivy League Conference held at Brown University. The 1vyG Conference gathers first generation college students to meet each other and attend workshops and seminars oriented toward their academic and personal success. “I felt like I had a community that understood the things that I was going through. I had a very difficult first semester freshman year,” she admitted, “then during my spring semester after the conference, I felt energized, ready to get involved in the Cornell community.”

With that same energy from her freshman year, Sofia plans to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain during her spring semester of junior year. She hopes to improve her Spanish when abroad and views herself leaving the United States as a “rite of passage” since both her parents and grandparents were immigrants and were able to thrive in a country whose language they did not know. After Cornell, she plans to go to graduate school and complete her Masters of Arts in Teaching, teach for a few years in a public school, and then get her Ph.D. in Educational Administration and become a superintendent of a school district.

One piece of advice that Sofia would give to any incoming freshman is to know your resources and to get involved. “It’s okay to go to different people for different reasons; you don’t have to always go to the same person for every single thing.” She highlights the importance of expanding networks in order to efficiently find the appropriate resource for different social, extracurricular, academic, or research questions, and one way she did so was to join clubs and surround herself with people who were passionate about the same field. “I am happiest when I can find a balance between my academics and something that I can dive wholeheartedly into.”

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