Genesis Correas’s father always told his daughter how important education was. And even though he passed away in 2018, she knows he would be proud of where she is today having become a first generation college graduate this past June.
Correa obtained a bachelor’s in English from John Jay College, regularly appeared on the Dean’s List and plans to get a master’s degree and Ph.D. so she can teach others.
She spoke with the Bronx Times about her road to success and how her dad Pedro Correa would feel if he were alive to see her successes.
“For him school was something big,” Correa said. “Because of him I never missed a day of school.”
Correa, 21, of Fordham, was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the Bronx at age 6 with her dad and brother Luis. She did not know English and life in New York was quite different. With the help of her friends, she soon got used to her surroundings. It took her a few years to understand English, which is a harder language to learn than Spanish, she said.
As her father only had an education level through elementary school, he wanted his daughter to do much more than he did. So, even as some of her classmates dropped out of school or got involved with the wrong crowd, Correa was always focused.
“Since he didn’t have the same opportunities as me, he wanted me to go to school,” she said. “He wanted me to have a better education.”
Correa originally wanted to be an FBI agent and enrolled at John Jay for criminal justice. However, she didn’t enjoy her classes and changed majors to English. She loved reading and writing and at first thought about becoming a journalist, but soon realized that teaching was her calling.
“When I switched to English, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” she said.
But tragedy struck during her sophomore year of college when her father had a heart attack and passed away. She was now forced to live alone and work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Correa was forced to live alone and work multiple jobs, and her dad’s death also began to affect her at school. When Correa struggled at the beginning of her time at John Jay, her counselor Virginia Diaz from the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program wouldn’t let her give up. Diaz saw her potential and knew how much graduating would mean to Correa and her family. SEEK, a state and CUNY academic-support program, provides financial aid and individual counseling to thousands of students who are academically and financially disadvantaged.
These past few years, especially during the pandemic, have been quite hard on Correa. In particular, being disconnected from her mother who remains in the Dominican Republican. “Growing up and living without parents, that’s very hard,” she said.
Correa will be starting the paperwork to bring her mom Carmen to America. As Correa’s dad helped her become a citizen a year before he died, Correa wants to do the same for her mother.
She also plans to attend graduate school for a master’s in teaching with her eyes on Yale, Lehman College or Hunter College. She hopes to teach in the Bronx and help others succeed like she did.
“I want to give back to my community,” she said. “I want to motivate people that came from the same background as me to do more.”
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.