JENNIFER has excelled at an unusual school, both in and out of the classroom. Cristo Rey New York School in East Harlem requires students to work a day a week at corporate offices, with the pay going directly to the school. Her teachers praise her academic abilities – she will graduate fifth in a class of 90 – as well as what one calls her "charismatic" leadership abilities.
Those abilities were displayed when Jennifer – or JQ as she is known – was appointed captain of the soccer team in her junior year, inspiring what her coach recalled as a "mutiny" among the seniors. But she managed to right the ship and her team went on to have its best season in years. "JQ," her coach says, is "a young woman who does not know and will not accept failure."
That strength of character is a reflection of her family's response to great challenges. Her father has been unable to work since 2001, rising at 4 o'clock three mornings a week to go for kidney dialysis. Jennifer's mother is a home care aide, and the family supplements this income by selling homemade Mexican food to neighbors. Despite these challenges, Jennifer's older sister is attending Bronx Community College.
Scholarships allowed Jennifer to study advanced math and science for the last three summers in Colorado, where she also discovered the pleasures of rock climbing and whitewater rafting. Her adventures will continue at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her aim is to become a high school math teacher.