Miguel Angel Ascencio, Los Angeles, Calif.

Miguel Ascencio
Miguel Ascencio

My Roots/About Me
I am the first person in my family to attend college, and I hope to one day be the first in my family to earn a college degree. Both my parents came to the United States from Mexico at very young ages, working in the garment factories of Los Angeles as teenagers. Coming from a low-income family and community never stopped my parents from pushing me to do well in school or continue my education.  I grew up in South Central Los Angeles where gang violence and drug use is prevalent, but I was able to make it out and come to Cornell with the help of my parents and teachers. I am proud of my Mexican heritage, my parents, and my community.

Areas of Study
Sociology and Psychology

Cornell Activities
Alliance, Concert Choir, Third Wave Resource Group (TWRG), Hands On, Sustained Dialogue, Organization for Latino Awareness (OLA)

Long Term Goal
I hope to continue my education at the graduate level and earn a Ph.D. in social work to serve my community back home in Los Angeles.

Did you have any concerns about fitting in at Cornell?
Coming from South Central Los Angeles and a predominantly Mexican neighborhood, I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to being in a small, predominantly white school like Cornell. I was extremely worried about my performance in a rigorous academic setting like the one that Cornell provides through the block plan.  Despite my worries about academic performance at Cornell, I was able to adjust to the block plan and earn an A- in my first class at Cornell. I persevered through my first year successfully and realized that I was capable of doing things I did not imagine possible. Leaving South Central Los Angeles for a small and quiet town like Mount Vernon and a college like Cornell was definitely an adventure.

What were some of your initial impressions of the campus community?
I lived on the Community Service Connect Floor my first year, which I believe helped me adjust to life at Cornell. I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with people from all types of different backgrounds and places. I was also able to participate in different events in the Cornell and Mount Vernon community with people from my floor, allowing me to establish connections with people from the community and feel like a part of my new home. I can say with certainty that if I had not lived on a Connect Floor my first year I would probably no longer be at Cornell. Transferring from Cornell was definitely on my mind for the first few days that I was here. However, the people I met on my floor, my academic advisor Sue Astley, and the amazing professors I met and interacted with during my first year changed my mind.

How have you grown at Cornell?
Through my involvement with Alliance, I have become familiar with organizing events and networking with other groups on campus. My position as the public relations officer has helped me develop my communication skills and helped me become more outgoing. I definitely still have a lot of growing up to do and many more skills to develop, but Cornell is providing me the opportunities to do so.

How would you describe the campus culture to other students of color?
Cornell is a very active community. It is not very unusual to meet students who are actively involved in more than three groups at a time. There are an incredible amount of student organizations for just about any interest, and if there aren’t you can be sure to find others who share similar interests and start a group. One thing that I like about Cornell is that the relationships you get to develop with your professors. I know many of my friends at other schools are very jealous that my professors know who I am. Most professors are very interested in getting to know you not only as a student but also as a person. Professors at Cornell are very understanding and are always willing to help their students achieve their academic and personal goals.