Jennifer Vera ’23 knew she wanted a career in law enforcement, a goal fueled by a teacher's dismissive comment. “I mentioned that I wanted to go into federal law enforcement to a substitute teacher and she told me that I looked too ‘vulnerable’ for the job. She said it was an unrealistic goal,” says Vera, a forensic psychology and anthropology major. “When I came to John Jay, I used her words as a form of motivation.” To prepare, the Brooklyn native landed internships with the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], the New York City Department of Investigation [NYC DOI] and private investigators with support from LEAP [Linking Experience, Academics, and Practice] and the alumni mentoring program.
Why was John Jay the right college for you?
John Jay was my first choice for three reasons: First, it teaches justice core values and offers amazing opportunities thanks to the many alumni, faculty, and staff that have worked in the criminal justice field. Second, it’s a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which really means a lot to me because I grew up speaking Spanish, surrounded by Colombian and Ecuadorian culture. And third, I saw John Jay’s beautiful architecture on television shows, and that made me want to come here even more.
How has John Jay helped support your success?
My LEAP advisor, Cristina Di Meo, encouraged me to apply to the alumni mentoring program, which connected me with my mentor Cynthia Cavalie-Gonzalez ’02, a private investigator. Cynthia has taught me all about the private investigative field and she helped me become a student mentee for the California Association of Licensed Investigators [CALI]. Because of LEAP, I know what my interests are, the steps I need to take to reach my goals, and what it takes to be a leader.
What have your internship experiences been like so far?
Last fall, with the help of CALI, I interned with Nardello & Co., a private investigative firm. There, I conducted open-source research, used data mining software, and created proposals. This spring, I interned with the U.S. Marshals Service where I worked with different divisions, including warrants, civil, protective intelligence, criminal, and asset forfeiture. There were a lot of amazing hands-on experiences, like intrusion simulations and shooting range activities. I also really enjoyed their fitness training tests. It wasn’t easy the first time, but I was proud of myself for improving my fitness performance.
What internships are you looking forward to this year?
I’m excited to work with FEMA and the New York City Department of Investigation. At FEMA, I’ll be interning in the national preparedness division. Some of my responsibilities will include providing research, organizing webinars, and developing bulletin articles. At the New York City Department of Investigation, they’ve asked that I assist in conducting interviews, developing investigative strategies, and identifying relevant records. It’s rewarding to know that at FEMA, in some small way, I’ll help protect people from hazards and disasters; and at the Department of Investigation, I’ll help prevent fraud and corruption.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to get my master’s degree in international crime and justice and become a criminal investigator. My ultimate goal is to bring peace and justice into victims’ lives. I also want to demonstrate to Latina women that we can work in these traditionally male-dominated fields, and excel in them. One day I see myself speaking in front of a group of young Latina women and inspiring them to follow in my footsteps.