CUNY Justice Academy Paves the way for Janet Acevedo’s ’21 Dreams of Becoming a Judge

CUNY Justice Academy Paves the way for Janet Acevedo’s ’21 Dreams of Becoming a Judge

CUNY Justice Academy Paves the way for Janet Acevedo’s ’21 Dreams of Becoming a Judge

Janet Acevedo ’21 always envisioned herself earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and through the CUNY Justice Academy program, she’s making that dream a reality. “One day, during my evening commute, I googled ‘criminal justice programs in Manhattan’ and of course John Jay came up, but so did the CUNY Justice Academy program at BMCC [Borough of Manhattan Community College],” recalls Acevedo, a Criminal Justice Major from the Bronx, New York. “Entering the CUNY Justice Academy program let me keep my full-time job while easing me back into the academic world, and creating a direct pathway to John Jay. When I learned about the program I knew it was perfect for me and I immediately said, ‘sign me up.’” Now at John Jay, Acevedo is determined to complete her degree and go on to law school. “I transferred to John Jay after the Spring 2020 semester and immediately began taking classes. I’m working full time and taking a full load of classes. I took classes over the summer and will take courses this winter, all while I’m studying for the LSAT,” says Acevedo. “My hope is to graduate this Spring 2021 semester and enter law school in the fall. It’s a lot of work, but I know I can get the job done.”

“Entering the CUNY Justice Academy program let me keep my full-time job while easing me back into the academic world, and creating a direct pathway to John Jay.” —Janet Acevedo

Growing Up in the Bronx
Acevedo credits two major forces in her life with shaping her into the determined person she is today: her upbringing in the South Bronx and her parents’ determination to see her graduate from college. “There’s this misconception around the South Bronx and about the people who live there. Yes, the Bronx is tough, but it’s also a place that brings out the best in you. The Bronx taught me how to survive, how to challenge myself to do better, and how to think critically in order to figure things out. I’m glad I grew up there,” she says. Comparing her upbringing to that of her parents, Acevedo can clearly see why they were adamant about her going to college. “My parents came from Camuy, Puerto Rico. Their home had a dirt floor, my dad worked in the sugar fields and my mom worked as a seamstress at the Hanes factory. Their dream was to come to New York, start a new life, and give their children the American dream,” says Acevedo. “My parents never had a formal education and because of that they emphasized going to college and earning your degree as a way to break free from the societal barriers put on people of color. I’m the first in my family to pursue a bachelor’s degree because of their bravery.”

“Yes, the Bronx is tough, but it’s also a place that brings out the best in you.” —Janet Acevedo

Transferring to John Jay
Studying at BMCC in 2017, Acevedo thrived academically. She excelled in her classes, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and last spring graduated with an associate degree in Criminal Justice. “Going to BMCC and joining the CUNY Justice Academy gave me a second chance. Years ago, I enrolled in college but took a step back in order to work and raise my daughter. In the back of my mind, I knew I would return to school one day,” explains Acevedo. “I look at my education like a marathon. I’m focused. I want to do this, and I have this intense drive to cross that finish line.”

“My CJA advisor, Ms. Plata, has been an incredible guide for me. When I transitioned to John Jay in May/June, she was able to help me through the entire process.” —Janet Acevedo

When it came time to transfer to John Jay, Acevedo found that the courses at BMCC, and the help from CJA advisors, eased the transition. “The whole experience felt perfectly streamlined. The classes I took at BMCC perfectly complemented the classes I’m taking at John Jay. It doesn’t feel like I missed out on anything, or that I’m falling behind,” says Acevedo. “A lot of times when you transfer to a new school, you feel confused and frustrated because you’re missing credits, your classes don’t line up with what you learned at your previous school, or you have no one helping you out. But that’s not the case at John Jay.” Giving a shout out to her CJA advisor Frances Plata, Acevedo is grateful for the vital role she played in helping her transition to the John Jay environment. “My CJA advisor, Ms. Plata, has been an incredible guide for me. When I transitioned to John Jay in May/June, she was able to help me through the entire process, letting me know what classes I needed to take in order to graduate within the year and answering all my questions. She’s been a great sounding board.”

Pursuing her Law School Dreams
As proud as she is about her academic achievements, Acevedo is equally proud of her focus on a future legal career. “I love the law. I love reading it and I love learning about it. You look at the first section of the Bill of Rights and everything about it is moving and so beautiful. The Bill of Rights is like poetry to me,” says Acevedo. But when it came to studying for the LSAT she hit a wall. “Exams don’t scare me, but when I sat down and started doing the practice LSAT exams, I couldn’t help but feel dumb and that was something I never experienced before,” admits Acevedo. To help, she spoke with Elizabeth Broccoli from the Pre-Law Institute (PLI) who suggested she attend PLI’s pre-law orientation, seminars, and LSAT workshops. It was during one of these PLI seminars that Acevedo heard Charles Davidson, Ph.D., Director of the Pre-Law Institute and Center for Post-Graduate Opportunities, speak about the LSAT being a terrible gatekeeper for students of color. “Dr. Davidson said, ‘Do not think of the LSAT as a test measuring your intelligence. It is not an intelligence test. So do not let it bring your confidence down. You are some of the best and brightest students in any classroom,’” recalls Acevedo. “His words of encouragement made me feel better about the LSAT and renewed my self-confidence. It’s been a few weeks now of studying for it, and though it’s a slow progression, my scores on the practice exam have improved greatly.”

“After graduating from John Jay I’d love to go to CUNY School of Law. Every CUNY school I have attended has been incredibly good to me and I’d love to stay in the CUNY family.” —Janet Acevedo

Aiming for the Judicial Branch
Thinking of her future after John Jay, Acevedo isn’t limiting her dreams, she wants to help diversify the legal profession and one day become a judge. “After graduating from John Jay I’d love to go to CUNY School of Law. Every CUNY school I have attended has been incredibly good to me and I’d love to stay in the CUNY family,” she says. “I then hope to practice law, specializing in the immigration and human rights field. I want to help those that have been neglected and forgotten by society. I want to provide support to those who feel disenfranchised. Whether it’s advocating for someone trying to stay in the country or fighting eviction from their apartment, I want to help. My ultimate goal is to become a judge. It’s important we have more Latinas in the legal profession and presiding in our courtrooms.”

Looking back at how far she’s come, Acevedo is proud of her journey and thankful for the CUNY Justice Academy. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, ‘Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.’ My life changed with a small and simple google search. That search led me to BMCC, the CUNY Justice Academy, and ultimately to my dream of coming to John Jay. Now, John Jay will lead me to law school, a career in law, and maybe one day becoming a judge. From here, the sky’s the limit.”