After Three Years on Campus, Student Deandra Simon (’19) is Ready for Law School

After Three Years on Campus, Student Deandra Simon (’19) is Ready for Law School

After Three Years on Campus, Student Deandra Simon (’19) is Ready for Law School

There’s no denying that Deandra Simon, a junior who plans to pursue a career in law, is a total go-getter. When she’s not working on issues that affect incarcerated youth as a Pinkerton Fellow, she’s organizing campus-wide events through her role as Secretary of the Haitian American Student Association (HASA) at John Jay. This April, Simon and the leadership of HASA are hosting the second annual “Black Girl Magic” event, which celebrates the accomplishments and innovations of Black and Latinx women leaders from a variety of fields, including hair, fitness, lifestyle, and fashion. Last year, the event drew a crowd of 150 John Jay students. For Simon, putting on events like “Black Girl Magic” helps create a more inclusive John Jay community.

“This event is a chance for us to celebrate ourselves and share sisterhood, no matter what color you are. You can be Dominican and Haitian, like I am, or anything else. We need this on our campus. It’s a chance to create new friends,” says Simon.

John Jay is a designated Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) and Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), and students like Simon embody the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Simon was first accepted to John Jay as part of the SEEK program, which prepares students for college-level work with extensive opportunities for counseling and social support. Since then, she’s become highly involved not only on campus, but also in her community as a Pinkerton Fellow. As part of the 15-month fellowship, Simon is working part-time at a mentoring program in Far Rockaway, NY with youth who are on probation. For Simon, who grew up not far in Jamaica, Queens, the experience has not only given her hands-on experience in youth justice, but it’s shown her a potential career path.

“I help youth with GED prep, finding jobs, anything they may need,” she says. “It’s such a rewarding experience. It’s made me want to be a public interest lawyer.”

In addition to the Pinkerton Fellowship, Simon has had countless opportunities to become an expert in justice so she can prepare for her future career in law. She recently spent time abroad in South Africa with the Prisoner Reentry Institute, where she visited three prisons in Cape Town, and was able to compare international systems of criminal justice with what she sees through her work in the states. At the end of this semester, she’ll present on what she learned while she was abroad. “That trip was a catalyst for me to get even more involved in criminal justice,” she says.

Simon has clearly taken advantage of all John Jay has to offer. She’s already chosen what law schools she wants to apply to next year and is now working on her applications. But as a high school senior, she wasn’t always sure John Jay was the place for her. “It’s funny,” she says. “Initially, John Jay wasn’t my first choice. But John Jay has such a good network, and the professors are so diverse. I don’t regret my decision at all.”