Raymond Ratti, a senior humanities and justice major at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, talks about the importance of obtaining a degree in higher education, as well as his experiences as a first-generation college student.
What influenced your decision to attend college?
The desire to attain an education in order to have a more productive life was what influenced my decision to attend college.
After I graduated from high school, I knew that I wanted to attend college. However, I did not attend college after graduation; instead I started working in a security night job.
One day I witnessed my supervisor (who is unable to speak English or Spanish adequately) insulting and disrespecting one of my coworkers because of a minor issue. That day was the turning point in my life; I knew that a poor man living in a very unjust and racially biased society needed to attain an education in order to move forward and deconstruct the stereotypes. Overall, it was a wake-up call that made me realize the importance of education.
What role did your family play in helping you to make your college decision?
My mother was the one supervising and making sure that I applied to college. She literally asked me about the application process every day. She is the persistent one who always is behind me. Quite frankly, I feel bothered and annoyed by my mother’s persistent attitude toward getting done whatever she deems important. But I do understand that everything she does is for me, for my betterment.
Did you have to overcome any challenges in order to attend college?
The English barrier was an obstacle. Also the fact that I am the first one in my family to attend college. So there is a lot of pressure and trust vested in me by my family members. That’s why, before making a decision, I think about what my family will say. That’s a constant challenge that I have every day. It seems easy for me, but on the inside, there are many factors that drive my motivation for success. The tenet of that drive is my family, in particular my mother and my little brother.
Where did you find financial aid and scholarship information?
On my college’s scholarship Web site. Also on the Internet, www.fastweb.com.
How did you select the school you are attending?
When I was in high school I wanted to do something along the lines of public service something related to social or criminal justice. Later on, I understood that it doesn’t matter what I major in, the only thing that matters is knowing how to write and speak clearly and also analyze issues effectively. That’s why I decided to major in humanities and justice, which has prepared me in history and philosophy.
Why did you choose the major you did?
Because it demands more critical thinking and writing than the other majors that the school offers. It also offers an interdisciplinary component, which is critical in order to enhance my overall knowledge.
How have you adjusted to the campus environment and the academic challenges? What made the adjustment process easier?
Basically, through the student clubs for the social side and through the academic support centers in the college. For example, when I started at John Jay I had difficulty with math and English, so I attended the ESL center and the math tutoring lab.
How would you describe the classroom experience? Are the classes large or small?
It depends. My natural science class had more than 100 students. However, the majority of my classes have no more than 20 students.
Are you involved in any student activities? How have activities helped you adjust to the college setting?
Yes, I am the incumbent Student Government president for a second year. My role as a student leader has helped me to understand what is going on in the college and the programs that I can take advantage of. I have also gotten to know the college administrators and faculty members through college-wide committees and other college activities.
What advice would you give to other first-generation Hispanic college students?
Try to avoid working or engaging in time-consuming activities. Try to use all the resources that the college has and seize any opportunity to forge relationships with faculty members who can later on become mentors.
What are your future academic or career goals?
Academically, I want to complete my thesis in immigration reform. Also, I would love to attend law school, practice law, and eventually run for political office here in New York or maybe in the Dominican Republic. I can see myself doing international law or working in my dream job as the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic or vice versa.