Gabriela Mistral Award Winner Combines Passion for Literature and the Law

Jennifer Enriquez

Jennifer Magda Enriquez ‘19C received the prestigious Gabriela Mistral Award on May 8, 2019 for her academic achievements and noteworthy leadership as the president of St. John’s Epsilon Kappa Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society. A well-rounded student, Ms. Enriquez’s interests and achievements extend to many areas, including Spanish literature, English literature, cycling, and the law.

The Gabriela Mistral Award is granted by Sigma Delta Pi’s National Executive Committee and may be presented to only one person per chapter yearly; the honor is reserved for outstanding graduate or undergraduate students of Spanish who are active members of Sigma Delta Pi. In fall 2019, Ms. Enriquez – who minored in Spanish and Legal Studies while an English major at St. John’s – will begin pursuing her Master of Arts (M.A.) in Spanish.

Ms. Enriquez, a Queens native who attended St. John’s Preparatory High School in Astoria, grew up speaking Spanish at home with her Peruvian family. She started taking courses in Spanish during her junior year at St. John’s. Although her plan is to attend law school, she decided to complete a master’s degree in Spanish after receiving encouragement from Professor Marie-Lise Gazarian, Ph.D., who is the graduate director for Spanish at St. John’s.

“I’ve always been interesting in story-telling, which is why I became an English major,” said Ms. Enriquez. “Once I started taking classes with Dr. Gazarian, I started looking at the context of literature very differently in Spanish and wanted to learn more about the culture and stories of Latin America. I couldn’t leave that curiosity untouched.”

Outside of her academics, Ms. Enriquez served as a police cadet for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Legal Bureau. She plans to attend law school after completing her M.A. and aims to use her degrees to serve law enforcement, focusing in international, criminal, and immigration law.

“I want to use the law to help people,” she said. “My background in Spanish will help me work with bilingual clients. As a first-generation student, I also want to show other first-generation college students to keep striving and get as many degrees as you want because no one can take away what’s in your mind. Don’t give up. Follow your passions. Follow your purpose.”

Ms. Enriquez has built her law resume outside of the classroom. In addition to serving as a police cadet, she participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Internship Program through the New York Bar Association in 2015. She worked as a student assistant in the Law School Registrar from 2015-2019 and volunteered with the Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. in 2016. Ms. Enriquez has also completed an internship at a private law firm.

As a student at St. John’s, Ms. Enriquez has been active in extracurricular activities. She volunteers at her church in Elmhurst, NY. She participated in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) as well as the National Society of Leadership and Success. Next year, she will serves as head tutor in Spanish for the Global Language and Culture Center.

An avid cycler who averages 100 miles a week throughout New York City, Ms. Enriquez practices writing just as often. She writes short stories and poetry in both Spanish and English. “I write every day because it takes practice to become a great writer. My pen is my voice and my friend,” she said.

She encourages other students to “keep striving for your goals and dreams, and be interested in learning new things that are outside your comfort zone. You have to expose yourself to new experiences and be open-minded. When I was a first-year student, I didn’t think I would go for my M.A. in Spanish or gain experience in law enforcement, but I took a risk and found what I wanted to do. My story’s not finished. This is just the beginning. What I am building today is for my future and my future generations.”