Alumna Devika Prashad ’19 Fondly Looks Back At Her Time in ACE

Alumna Devika Prashad ’19 Fondly Looks Back At Her Time in ACE

Alumna Devika Prashad ’19 Fondly Looks Back At Her Time in ACE

When alumna Devika Prashad ’19 looks back at her time at John Jay, she sees it as a period of academic success. She was a member of the Accelerate, Complete, Engage (ACE) program, a student athlete, and a criminal justice major. But for Prashad, the idea of getting an education wasn’t always easy. Born in Guyana, Prashad came to America when she was just five years old. And, with little knowledge of the English language, she struggled to adjust to life at school. “I remember when I first started school in pre-K and how difficult learning in the classroom was,” she says. “I remember my teachers would speak to me, and because I didn’t know the language and couldn’t understand what they were saying, I would zone out and just stare at them.” As Prashad got older, and mastered the English language, her academic struggles began to subside, yet when it came time to apply to college she wasn’t sure that higher education was meant for her. “I knew that college would be challenging, and since I struggled with school before, I didn’t think it was the best thing for me. I was all set on packing up my things and moving back to Guyana,” says Prashad. “But then I started seeing my friends apply to colleges, and my high school softball coach encouraged me to do some research on different institutions. When I thought about what I wanted to do, become a police officer, I knew that John Jay was the school for me.”

Prashad at commencement
Prashad at commencement

Not long after applying and being accepted into the College, Prashad was contacted by DeLandra Hunter, Director of ACE, with an offer to be part of the program. “When I first got that email, I was a little hesitant to respond. I was newly accepted to the College, and the program was just starting,” Prashad says. “But after speaking to him and learning more about ACE, I realized that it would be good to join. I am thankful that I made that decision, because without ACE, I don’t think I would have made it across the graduation stage.” We spoke to Prashad to learn more about why she came to John Jay, her time with ACE, and what she hopes to do in the future.

“Without ACE, I don’t think I would have made it across the graduation stage.”—Devika Prashad

What specifically made you want to come to John Jay?
I’ve always been really focused on helping people and making sure that everyone feels supported. When I thought about how I could best help people in my community, the first thought I had was to become a police officer. Law enforcement’s role is not only to protect the community but to be part of that community and make sure that justice is being fairly implemented for everyone. So when I started thinking about going to college and what I wanted to do, I decided that I was going to apply to places where I could expand on my passion to help people while also being able to build a career. That’s when I found out about John Jay. As I read about the College’s mission to advocate for justice, it really resonated with me and I knew that John Jay was the right place for me.

Why did you decide to join ACE?
I decided to join ACE because of the resources and support they offer. Academically, they are incredibly helpful in sitting you down and helping you plan your classes. They offer tutoring, MetroCards, textbook vouchers, and provide you with the pathway to graduate on time. The biggest reason that I wanted to join the program was the one-to-one advisement. Berlyn Morales-Witten, Associate Director of ACE and my advisor, was like a second mother to me. She was there when I needed her and she really pushed me out of my shell. When I first got to John Jay, I was really shy, but Berlyn introduced me to all the activities the College and ACE had to offer. She really helped open many doors for me. Without Berlyn and ACE, I don’t think I would have been as successful as I was at John Jay.

What were some of your favorite aspects about being part of ACE?
I enjoyed that ACE taught us how to prepare for life after John Jay. They showed us how to dress professionally and held a day of training where they would do mock interviews, help us with our resumes, and give us tips on how to land a job. I also liked that they encouraged and offered tutoring. During my freshman year, I struggled with a few subjects. Math and Spanish were really difficult for me, but I was determined to pass my classes. ACE encouraged me to go to the Mathematics and Science Resource Center for tutoring. They told me where the Modern Language Center is at and about the help I could receive there. Everyone at ACE is genuinely interested in making sure students are succeeding in their classes and making the best out of their college experience.

“Everyone at ACE is genuinely interested in making sure students are succeeding in their classes and making the best out of their college experience.”—Devika Prashad

You were part of ACE’s first cohort. What was that experience like for you?
It was very much like being in a family. We were all growing up and figuring things out. When I joined ACE, the program was brand new, so we were able to give our opinions and help shape the program to what it is today. Because my cohort was the first one, and we got to experience the growth of ACE, we became a family. I could easily turn to anyone in the cohort for help and know that they would be there. The advisors became like second parents to us and always encouraged us to do our best. I know for me personally, when I was on the commencement stage, it was a great feeling to look out into the crowd and see the happy faces of my ACE advisors and fellow members.

Prashad playing softball
Prashad playing softball 
photo credit: Denis Gostev

“When I was on the commencement stage, it was a great feeling to look out into the crowd and see the happy faces of my ACE advisors and fellow members.”—Devika Prashad

While at John Jay, you were also on the softball team. How did the athletics department help you during your time at the College?
Like with anything you do, playing sports helps you build skills, and being part of the softball team taught me how to be disciplined. You have to be up at six in the morning and you learn to be punctual. Softball also taught me how to balance things. I had to make sure I went to practice on time, and that I was prepared for the games, all while studying and keeping up with my classwork. It’s not easy to juggle everything, but being in this sport taught me how to prioritize things, be more organized, and plan so that I can make sure I’m successful. And like ACE, the athletics department is always trying to make sure that their athletes are well-rounded individuals, even outside of sports. They offer internship opportunities and summer jobs, so that we have as much experience as possible before we graduate.

If you could give another John Jay student, who may be considering joining ACE, any advice, what would it be?
I would tell them to take any opportunity they can and to not regret it. Before joining ACE, I was such a shy person. I would come to my classes, meet with my ACE advisor, then leave. If it wasn’t for Berlyn, who insisted that I start speaking to people and took the initiative to introduce me to the many opportunities that the College has to offer, I wouldn’t have done so well. If one student can read about my experience, and take something from it, it’s to be unafraid to step out of their comfort zone, be unafraid to ask for help, and to look at everything as a stepping stone towards the career and life they want.

In an ideal world, five to ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
I see myself as a school safety agent. I took the test and just found out I passed, so I’m looking forward to starting that soon, and hopefully I will still be there in 10 years.