Graduating While Saving Lives During Coronavirus  

Graduating While Saving Lives During Coronavirus  

Graduating While Saving Lives During Coronavirus  

John Jay College Senior Students Balance Front-Line Work with Education Demands  

(May 26, 2020) When graduate student Khalid Islam ’20 took a course at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and studied how Toronto handled a SARS outbreak, he didn’t know that just a few months later he’d be using what he learned to keep safe the EMTs and paramedics under his supervision as an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Safety and Training Manager for the Mount Sinai Health System.

“The SARS outbreak was almost a mirror image of what’s going on now with Covid-19. There were issues with space, issues with equipment, and issues with ventilators. I credit a lot of my John Jay courses with helping me get through this Covid-19 crisis because I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learned in class on the field.”

Islam is just one of many John Jay College students who are battling on the front lines against the coronavirus while continuing to work to earn their degree. He receives his master’s degree this month, having managed to balance his work, family obligations, and education; all in the shadow of a global pandemic. (Read more about Khalid Islam)

He’s not alone. Other John Jay students, many who live and work in communities of color hit hardest by Covid-19, are also on the front-lines.  Their stories of studying while saving lives and keeping New Yorkers safe are inspiring examples of sacrifice and resilience.

Rosa Jimenez ’20 is an EMT working in the Bronx, the borough with the highest infection and mortality rates in New York City.  While studying full time in her senior year at John Jay, Jimenez has seen firsthand how the virus is impacting families, communities, and medical professionals. 

“I’ve seen so many doctors and nurses end up with Covid-19. It’s concerning when you look at the patient’s chart and you recognize the name,” says Jimenez.

Between shifts, Jimenez studies for finals. It’s her last semester and she’s not letting the coronavirus or the shift to distance learning stop her momentum. (Read more about Rosa Jimenez)

Estefania Solis ’20, a transfer student from Panama, is a Presidential Intern at John Jay and a member of the National Guard. When Covid-19 spread across New York City, her Guard unit was called into full-time action. Estefania’s life rapidly transformed from that of a typical student attending class and an internship to that of an active duty National Guard member contributing to a critical and heartbreaking mission of transporting the remains of those who have lost their lives to the virus.

“My community has been affected because some friends have had to fly back to their home countries and struggle with financial hardships, others have been laid off, many have gotten sick. I am grateful I have the chance to help and not stay at home when so much needs to be done.”

The virus has altered all of her current and future plans, from summer job opportunities to her coursework. Balancing the internship, the National Guard, and her college work was initially overwhelming and Solis thought she wouldn’t be able to complete her classes. But her professors stepped up and worked with her to make sure she finishes the semester and doesn’t lose momentum towards graduation. (Watch Estefania in her own words)

Matthew Hart 20 plans to graduate this summer, taking six courses this semester to keep on schedule. He is also serving in the National Guard at Covid-19 testing sites and food distribution centers.

“The juggle is very difficult. There are times when you just want to sleep, but then you remind yourself that you have to get your homework assignment done.”

Despite the struggle, Hart tries to keep a positive attitude and is committed to finishing his undergraduate education. He’s slated to start working on a master’s degree in the fall at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. (Read more about Matthew Hart)

All these students rose to the challenge these past few months, facing the danger of Covid-19 head-on while staying on the path to graduation. Their commitment to public service and to their communities centers them on a course to become tomorrow’s leaders.

John Jay College is proud to honor these students and their classmates from the Class of 2020 in a virtual celebration to mark the end of the semester on Wednesday, May 27. The celebration will include pre-recorded remarks from special guests including CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, The Honorable Charles Schumer, United States Senate, The Honorable Kathy Hochul, Lt. Governor, The Honorable Letitia James, NYS Attorney General, among others.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: 
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.