When Janet Nwaukoni leaves the hill this May, she will be leaving behind a legacy that extends far beyond Cornell’s campus.
During her sophomore year, she founded Project Lansing, a student group that works with the young women of Lansing Residential Center. The girls, ages 13 to 17, live in the incarceration center because they have committed petty crimes or misdemeanors.
The residential center is often the last chance the girls get to rehabilitate before juvenile detention or other serious judicial action, and intervention from Cornell students at this tentative moment can be life-changing, Janet said. The Cornell students serve as positive role models for the girls, many of whom come from broken homes, she added.
Cornellians visit the center every week to engage with the residents and teach lessons on topics ranging from CPR and health education to etiquette and performing arts. They also organize events, including a banquet open to Cornellians, Ithaca College students, and the public that features performances by the girls. Janet’s hope is that this annual event addresses the misconceptions about the center by showcasing the girls’ talents to the local community.
A first-generation American born to Nigerian parents, and the second in her family to attend college, Janet has dedicated much of her time at Cornell to building organizations and fostering community development.
Apart from Project Lansing, she is a member of the Mu Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and she held an executive board position on the Multicultural Greek Lettered Council. In this role, she was tasked with organizing events that accurately represented Cornell’s multicultural community.
“Because the minority community is just that––the minority––it’s very important to us to put on events that represent our diversity, our uniqueness, and our culture ” Janet said.
Cornell’s commitment to diversity is one of the reasons Janet chose Cornell in the first place. She came to visit for Diversity Hosting Weekend and was, she said, “immediately sold.”
In addition, she has relished the full college experience Cornell offers and CALS’ strong academics. She originally entered Cornell as a biology major but switched to biology and society, swayed by her deep-rooted passion for helping others.
Janet said she loves the major because it provides a sociological and tangible application for biology. Her minor in global health further allows her to engage with the human side of science.
As part of the fieldwork component of the global health minor, Janet spent two months in Tanzania, where she conducted research on the nomadic Maasai people’s access to health care. Closer to home, she has conducted research on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in African and Asian Americans at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
She was recently recognized with a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
Next year, she plans to work at a health care consulting firm in Washington D.C., en route to medical school and a career with an international health organization.