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Jessica Cazares making the most of her Stritch experience

Jessica Cazares
Jessica Cazares

As a fan of television crime shows while growing up, it’s no surprise that Jessica Cazares would be interested in pursuing a criminal justice major in college. What is surprising is that Jessica did not waver from that intended major during her undergraduate studies.

As a fan of television crime shows while growing up, it’s no surprise that Jessica Cazares would be interested in pursuing a criminal justice major in college. What is surprising is that Jessica did not waver from that intended major during her undergraduate studies.

“My career goal even back in high school was to be a detective,” she shared. “Then during my sophomore year, I became interested in being a homicide detective.”

Her experience during an internship at the Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center in Milwaukee during her junior year influenced her to pursue a career working with at-risk youth.

One of her most memorable academic experiences was the Special Topics in Criminal Justice course taught by Dr. Denita Ball, ’18, chief deputy for the Milwaukee County Sheriff Department. The course provided focus through field trips and a variety of experience and reinforced Jessica’s decision to pursue a criminal justice career.

Jessica is a native of Waukegan, Ill., and a graduate of Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep. She is also minoring in Spanish and sociology. When she began her college search, she knew she didn’t want to be too close to home or too far away. During her campus visit to Stritch she felt a sense of community and family that was similar to what she experienced in high school.

“The transition wasn’t too bad,” she reflected. “I kept an open mind and adapted pretty easily.”

Upon arriving at Stritch Jessica immersed herself in campus life. She has lived in residence halls all four years and believes this enriched her overall Stritch experience and offered her the opportunity to meet more people.

She has worked several campus jobs, including serving as a desk assistant and desk manager in Assisi Hall, one of two campus residence halls. Jessica believes these jobs have prepared her for her career, particularly her ability to multi-task and communicate more effectively.

"I worked with Jessica for a brief moment as her supervisor in Residence Life," said Senior Coordinator of Student Activities and Leadership Matt Weiss. "In her role, she was acting as a student manager for our front desks, and she always approached her work with a level head and with a lot of fun. Jessica has this great balance of knowing when to have a good time and when it’s time to work. She’s not afraid of doing the work!"

"Due to changes in Jessica’s work and my work, we aren’t spending as much time with each other, but I’m always glad to see her interacting with other students and finding new ways to grow and challenge herself. She is such an asset to our community, and I hope more people get a chance to see how great she truly is!"

She expanded her on-campus participation and bucked another trend by joining the women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams as a senior.

“I wanted to try something new and knew this was my last chance,” she said. During the fall cross country season she set personal records in every race, consistently improving as the season went on. She will run the 400 and 800 meter events this winter and spring.

“It was a little nerve wracking in the first cross country meet,” Jessica shared. “I really appreciate connecting with more people and expanding my circle. The experience has opened new doors for me.”

"It’s been great having Jessica on both the cross country and the track and field teams during her senior year," said Alex Rosenau, head coach of Stritch's men's and women's cross country and track and field teams. "Although she joined the program late into her collegiate career, she has been a joy to coach. She is continually improving through her hard work and positive attitude. It’s unfortunate that she is graduating soon as we would love to have her on the team for years to come!"

Jessica received a CIC/UPS Scholarship provided by the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU) and its national partner, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in Washington, D.C.

“The Council of Independent Colleges is proud to support WAICU and its member colleges through the CIC/UPS Scholarships Grant Program,” said Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges. “Designed to make private colleges more affordable and accessible, the scholarships will assist 536 low-income, first-generation, minority, and new American students nationwide.”

“I have a younger sister in high school and it was getting tough for my parents to support both of us,” Jessica said. “I started to worry about the impact on my parents, so I decided to search for scholarships. Receiving the scholarship helped me stay focused on academics and eased the stress on my mom and dad.”

Her advice to high school students preparing for college includes, “be organized and stay organized. It’s important to prioritize all that you have going on. Your time in college will go fast, so have fun by getting involved and taking advantage of all the opportunities in front of you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

For students enrolling at Stritch, Jessica encourages them to get explore clubs, organizations and athletic teams because those are all good ways to learn about the University. She also encouraged incoming freshmen to attend events even if they are not in the sponsoring club or organization. “That’s a really great way to meet even more people.”

Jessica will graduate in May 2020 and will pursue career opportunities in Milwaukee and in northern Illinois. There is no doubt that her well-rounded Stritch experience has prepared her for professional and personal success.