Melissa Montejo '23: How She Found Her Space at Cornell

Melissa Montejo, a graduating senior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, is an agricultural science major, minoring in education, and she hopes to combine this skill set to, “help people.” To help them learn more about agriculture, food science, and agriculture education.  She was always certain about her academic path but had thoughts of research and development. However, creating a community here on campus has inspired her passion to be active within the community.

Melissa was involved in several activities during her undergraduate studies to name a few, Cornell marching band, agricultural science ambassador, supervisor at Mann Café, CAL's peer mentor, and student intern in Latinx Studies. She specifically mentioned the importance of her internship with the Farmworker Program, which particularly solidified her ideology in connecting both academia and agriculture labor. Now you may be wondering, what possessed her to pursue so many outstanding extracurricular's at once? Well, Melissa responded, “I never wanted to be someone who felt like they could be doing more, being involved in a little bit of everything allowed me to be involved in these conversations [to create events].” She puts importance on building community and bettering the lives of students like her on campus, especially after the pandemic, she realized the importance of events that connected students to varying resources.

Despite her many academic endeavors, Melissa pinpointed her time as a TA in the CAL's peer mentor program being what she seems to be her biggest accomplishment here at Cornell. She felt it “really helped other first-generation students find community and progress their experience”. Melissa acted as a voice at the table for those like herself. But besides her overflowing resume, her biggest personal achievement was exploring  outside of college as “it gave me many opportunities to travel and get out of my comfort zone.”

If she’s not running around campus, Montejo finds herself watching TV and relaxing, because “when you are running around campus, there are days you want to just stay in.” She loves re-watching old movies or listening to music to destress. Other times she takes walks near Beebe Lake just to be out in nature.

Being so close to graduation, there are many things Melissa now reflects on; a big hurdle she overcame was her shy personality, she was afraid to ask for help, afraid to bother TA's and professors. In a place like Cornell, it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong. “I eventually realized that I needed that kind of support, [to] send that email, [to] reach out and ask for help.” She learned that spaces exist for people like her to help her feel as though she belonged.

When asked about what she accredits to her successes, she said the importance of her mentor in helping her find resources. “My professor and advisor, Jeff Perry, was [my] biggest supporter… he always believed in me.”

Now at the threshold of moving on to the rest of her life, and after pondering for a moment, she responded,“wherever I end up, I hope it's close to family” and not only contributing to a greater cause but helping people with her own two hands.

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Melissa Montejo