Jessica Noel knows one thing for sure: She does not want to “just live”; she has to live for others too. Her experiences at Caldwell University have solidified her determination to reach out to those on the margins.
“This whole college experience has opened my eyes,” says Noel, a resident of Union, New Jersey, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology on May 19.
In clubs and programs, Noel took advantage of just about every opportunity presented to her. When volunteering with the Educational Opportunity Fund at a soup kitchen, she learned to appreciate the Catholic Dominican tradition and its charism of helping others. In attending Student Government Association meetings, she came away encouraged to be involved in her community. In Black Student Union and Latin American Student Organization meetings, she realized the importance of being aware of the needs of others. With the Gamer’s Guild Club, she learned how to play a game; “something I never knew growing up with two sisters—I learned technology and it was fun,” she says. In her courses, she appreciated being exposed to world issues.
Noel, who came to the United States from Haiti when she was a year old, has a heart for helping others; it was born out of her life experiences. When she was starting sixth grade, she was diagnosed with cancer, medullobalastoma. “A minor aspect of my life” is how she describes it. Her experience with cancer made her realize how fragile life is. “I survived,” Noel says, but she saw other children who did not. She emerged from that challenging time this difficult time knowing “life is precious,” she says.
The Educational Opportunity Fund has been an important part of Noel’s experience at Caldwell. She started classes in 2015 in the EOF summer program. “I knew I loved it here.” Throughout college, Noel had a work study job in the EOF office, learning about the business world with the guidance of Director Andrei St. Felix and the other staff members.
Noel is considering graduate school to pursue social work, but first she would like to explore other occupations that would allow her to help others. She is concerned about kids and young people caught in horrific situations like human trafficking. “I want to empower kids to know who they are … I want to grow and help others.”
She is inspired by Matthew West’s song “Do Something” and points to the lyrics: “God, why don’t you do something?” He said, ‘I did, yeah, I created you.’” The song makes her think about the bigger picture as she maps out her steps after graduation. “So much to do. I want to save the world.”