We're excited to see Jonelsy in the recent issue of SAS News Digest, "Rutgers Celebrates First Generation Students."
Jonelsy Gonzalez grew up in a New Jersey family with deep roots in the Caribbean.
From a young age, she’d travel with her parents to visit relatives in the Dominican Republic while absorbing Caribbean culture at home in Paterson.
She was passionate about her heritage, serving as vice president of the Spanish Honors Society at Eastside High School. But she sometimes felt frustrated in her efforts to learn more.
“I really knew very little about my Latinx identity, and nothing about my Afro-Latina background,” Gonzalez says. “It’s very difficult to understand your history when it’s not in your textbooks.”
The Latino and Caribbean studies major helped me connect with my culture and history—and also recognize and understand other people’s cultures and history
That changed when she arrived at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Her major in Latino and Caribbean studies has opened up whole new worlds of knowledge—about her own identity, and about many other communities and cultures.
“The Latino and Caribbean studies major helped me connect with my culture and history—and also recognize and understand other people’s cultures and history,” she says. “And it establishes a common ground where I can communicate and interact with people across a very diverse, complex world.”
Gonzalez entered Rutgers with the intention of pursuing a major in criminal justice. By second semester she felt compelled to add Latino and Caribbean studies as a second major. Her teachers, including Kathleen Lopez and Carolina Alonso Bejarano, nourished her intellectual curiosity, encouraged her to question long-held assumptions, and stretched her knowledge of the world, including the legacy of colonialism.
In spring semester of her first year, Gonzalez participated in an externship at the New York State Supreme Court, where she observed a range of criminal and civil cases.