“I was scared little freshman Jen who didn’t want to go to college.”
Although Jen Persia, senior elementary and special education major and class of 2014 valedictorian, has had a successful four years at Cabrini, she certainly didn’t enter Cabrini as the same person she is today. She entered Cabrini – like many probably do – being nervous and scared and excited all at the same time. Throughout her time at Cabrini, she has gained more confidence in herself and in her future.
“I came to Cabrini for the education program but I wasn’t set on going anywhere,” Persia said. “It was just what I fell into. I’ve been given the opportunities and I think Cabrini has opened a lot of doors and when those doors are open, when you take advantage of them, a lot of people can succeed.”
And succeed she has. Persia has been an active member of Cabrini’s campus since her freshman year. She’s a member of LEADStrong, three different honor societies, active minds, and interfaith. In addition, she’s also cemented her place in Campus Ministry as a peer minister, SEARCH leader and participant and leader in multiple immersion trips.
“We are very proud to see Jen as the valedictorian,” the Rev. Carl Janicki, director of Campus Ministry, said. “I have worked with Jen for four years. I have seen her grow and develop over these years. She is a pleasure to serve with. Jen has worked hard to come to know herself, develop her heart, and the courage it takes to follow one’s heart. Jen’s legacy for Campus Ministry has been one of growth and development. Jen is a woman of faith who is determined to be inclusive, kind, and whose life exemplifies Cabrini’s Education of the Heart.”
“I think everything I’ve done, I’ve done through Campus Ministry. With being able to go to West Virginia and lead the trip to West Virginia, and go to Ecuador and now lead the trip to Ecuador and go to Mexico and Brazil as a representative for Cabrini at World Youth Day,” Persia said. “A lot of it has gone through Campus Ministry and it’s also been where I’ve been able to do the leadership part of it.”
As excited as Persia is about being valedictorian, she is still nervous.
“I’m excited because it’s a really big moment. I feel really confident in what’s written and with the help from Dr. Stretton, the final finished product is going to be really awesome,” Persia said. “The thing I’m most nervous about is that I want to feel like I’m representing the class really well and that’s what my hope is, but it also makes me nervous. I’m the one representing everybody so I just hope that I do it well and try to hit on things that people really enjoyed in their experience here.”
“I’m sad to leave Cabrini because it’s given me so many opportunities. I’m nervous because it means I have to find a job and I’m still looking for that,” Persia said.
Even with all of her experiences and successes, Persia still would have never guessed she would have been valedictorian. According to Persia, at the beginning of the semester, each of the qualified candidates received letters asking them if they’d be willing to go through the process of trying out to be valedictorian. After that, the candidates had to submit a resume of sorts of all of the things they’ve done at Cabrini, and then later they had to present to the Academic Board. The decision was made the night they all presented.
“Last year, I was watching Cathy Matta do it and I was like ‘that’s pretty cool, I’d like to try that,’ but I didn’t think I’d ever get that far,” Persia said.
It’s evident to both friends and faculty that Persia is more than deserving of being valedictorian.
“Jen is such a fitting representation of our senior class in so many ways. She’s an outstanding and committed student, involved in so many aspects of campus life from campus ministry to active minds and orientation, and a fantastic friend and a mentor to the underclassmen,” Robyn Suchy, senior philosophy and English double major, said. “Jen is the true representation of a Cabrini student doing extraordinary things.”
Suchy has been a friend of Persia since their freshmen year when they both met and became friends in the honors program. Persia stated that in addition to Campus Ministry, she considers some of her favorite memories the ones she created living in the Honors Living and Learning community her freshmen year. “Just looking back that’s where I meant a lot of the friends that I still have and whether we were doing tea parties with Dr. Skleder and Dr. Primiano or just hanging out, that’s where I met a lot of the people I was able to grow with,” Persia said. “But they’re also so different than me, there’s people that are brilliant science majors and people that work in communications, there are English majors who write twenty times better than me but I feel like we’ve all really helped each other grow.”
“Jen and I have been friends since freshman year. After having had the privilege of getting to know her over the past four years, I think she’s an amazing choice for valedictorian because she embodies what Cabrini is about,” Brandon Desiderio, senior communication major, said. “I’ve seen Jen’s dedication to service, both on campus and abroad, with my own eyes; I’ve encountered her spirituality through many talks we’ve had, whether late at night or in the classroom. And her solidarity with others – whether with her fellow students here on campus or with the kids of Ecuador – have truly inspired me to be a better person. Besides all of that, though, she’s hilarious and creative, which I think are increasingly important traits to have in today’s world.”
Looking back on her four years at Cabrini, Persia has noticed that she has grown into more of a leader and a generally more confident person. When asked if she had any advice for the underclassmen, Persia stated simply to not stress the little things. “Just enjoy it and don’t stress the little things,” Persia said. “I know that this past month has been jam-packed with something every single weekend but I couldn’t say I didn’t enjoy a minute of it. I’ve enjoyed every minute of a jam-packed semester.”
In the end, although graduation is a scary thing, Persia is confident about what’s ahead, even though she’s not exactly sure what that is.
“Don’t be scared of what’s going to happen, because it’s all very positive things that are ahead and if you just open yourself up to people and places and things, you’ll go a lot further,” Persia said. “Which is also what I’m trying to do know, open up and not be scared of wherever I land. It’s just a new step.”