“I had a lot of opportunities to show my talents,” says Jessica Leon of her time as a student at Caldwell University. As a biology major with a chemistry minor, Leon is grateful for the support and trust of the Caldwell faculty, who motivated her, challenged her, and encouraged her to engage in research—not only in her Natural Sciences Department but campuswide. “The teachers make sure you understand the material. The professors and the classes help you build confidence with people you trust,” says Leon, a resident of East Orange who graduated on May 15.
Leon plans to pursue a career as a perfusionist, the member of the cardiovascular surgical team who runs the heart-lung cardiopulmonary bypass machine during surgery. “I love to be in the operating room … it really is a team effort. I want to make the patient feel comfortable and confident that they will be okay.”
She embraced the liberal arts, enjoying classes beyond her academic major. In her senior year, Leon discovered “her voice” for singing when taking a music class in which she sang and played the piano; it brought her back to her days of performing in musicals at another Dominican school, Lacordaire Academy. She advises other students to enroll in classes outside their majors to experience the fullness of a quality liberal arts education.
Leon is grateful for her peers, her pals, in the Natural Sciences Department who supported each other. Between classes and labs they would always meet to study together or just hang out. Prior to COVID, their gathering place was the red room in the library. This year, it was the same table all the time, their spot, in the lounge in Aquinas Hall. “We all motivated each other to keep doing our work. It is important to have good people you trust,” she says. “It is important to know who actually lifts you up.”
Her friends were there for her, but for Leon the most important person in helping her get to the finish line was “100 percent” her mom. “She motivated me to stay strong. It was not easy. Her love was enough.” She is grateful that her mother encouraged her to go to Caldwell; it is surely a family institution since two cousins and a sister are alumni. And now Leon joins them as a proud, grateful alumna. “I’m really going to miss it here.”