St. John’s Trio Wins Elite Fellowship

St. John's Watson Fellows

From l to r: Jenna Chandu, Jewel Antoine, Clyde Drayton

May 6, 2019

Three sophomores are the recipients of the 2019 Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, earning distinction as the greatest number of students from St. John’s to be accepted into the highly selective, global internship program in one year since University scholars began to vie for it in 2011.

St. John’s is tied for first place with Hunter College as the local school with the most Watson Fellowship winners this year.

“This is part of the ongoing evidence of how St. John’s University students distinguish themselves in remarkable ways, locally, nationally, and internationally,” said Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, History; Founding Director, Africana Studies Interdisciplinary Minor; and the University’s advisor for the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship.

Students Jewel Antoine, Jenna Chandu, and Clyde Drayton bring to 11 the number of St. John’s students to be named Watson Fellows over the past eight years. The three will be part of the elite fellowship’s class of 2021, which is the 20th class of Watson Fellows.

Funded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the fellowship provides 15 outstanding undergraduates from 12 partner colleges and universities in New York City with three years of personal, professional, and cultural immersions in the United States and around the globe. The foundation helps each fellow secure paid internships that are the core of the program and which take place at leading organizations over three successive summers. The first internship must occur in New York City; the second one can be located anywhere in the United States, and the third one must be based overseas. The fellowship’s comprehensive programming also includes a cohort of supportive peers and ongoing mentorship.

Jenna, a member of the University Honors Program and a double major in History and Government and Politics, wants to become a public defense lawyer. She also has a special interest in public housing policy. Her first summer internship will be spent assisting lawyers at the Urban Justice Center. Headquartered in Manhattan, the Urban Justice Center is a social justice advocacy organization that works on behalf of the most vulnerable in New York City through a blend of direct legal services, advocacy, community education, and political organizing.

“This internship revolves a lot around public housing policy, which affects minority populations and other communities that I want to help,” Jenna said. “I hope to learn more about the legal process and refine my knowledge of how issues get resolved professionally and how laws work to help people get past these issues.”

“Jenna balances a passionate drive with a self-awareness about challenging her own opinion, and these qualities make her an exceptional J.K. Watson Fellow,” said Dr. Tuchscherer.

Clyde, who majors in Government and Politics in a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program, and is pursuing a minor in Philosophy, is described by Dr. Tuchscherer as “a born leader.”

“He consistently works to put others at ease and demonstrates daily acts of kindness to all he encounters,” he added.

An Honors Program member, Clyde is also President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, St. John’s Chapter; and Vice President of Student Government, Inc., the official representative of the undergraduate student body on the Queens, NY, campus. He is considering possible career paths that include serving as a legislative director or a political theorist. In addition, he said, “I have completely fallen in love with philosophy. I like thinking about the different perspectives that people have because of their backgrounds and about how it goes on to influence their thoughts, decisions, and beliefs.”

His summer internship will be spent supporting the efforts of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP). Located within the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, MAP is a targeted, comprehensive approach to reduce violent crime in and around the 15 public housing developments that comprise almost 20 percent of violent crimes in New York City’s public housing.

“With this internship, I will work hands-on with local communities to help organize and conduct programs that bring the needs of local residents to the forefront,” said Clyde.

“If I have the capacity to do good, then I should.”

Jewel, who majors in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice, is keenly interested in reforming the nation’s criminal justice system, as well as exploring a career as a forensic psychologist. An Honors Program member, Jewel also discovered a passion for journalism in January when she joined the staff of The Torch student newspaper.

“Before January, I had never written a news article. I fell in love with the whole process of producing a newspaper—the writing, the editing, and the production nights when we put the paper together and I could hold it in my hands,” said Jewel. She will be assisting reporters with research during her internship this summer at the Gotham Gazette, a New York City-based, online, watchdog publication that covers city and state government and policies affecting New Yorkers.

“Jewel is self-aware about pushing herself outside of what is comfortable to her. As a Watson Fellow, she constantly seeks out new ways to challenge her own world view,” Dr. Tuchscherer said. “Her motivation to help others in big and small ways, as well as her understanding of intersectionality and diversity, make her an excellent addition to the Watson Fellowship.”

“My whole purpose, really, is to be of service to people who are marginalized and ignored by society,” Jewel said. “This is very important to me, serving people who do not have a voice.”