10/03/2018

Student and Alumni News

When Jonathan Peñuela was a child, his father was deported to Colombia. Ever since, the two have had only a long-distance relationship with occasional visits. The Macaulay senior said that the deportation was the first time—but not the last—when he “saw gaps between my idea of justice and the law.”

That early experience sparked Jonathan’s interest in public policy. At Macaulay, he is majoring in political science with a minor in economics. He plans to go on for a master’s degree in public policy so he can work in local government on policies related to immigration, housing, criminal justice, and other areas affecting low-income communities and people of color. 

Macaulay benefits helped shaped Jonathan’s interest in public service. For example, four years on the Macaulay Scholars Council gave him many opportunities for leadership including, most recently, as the council’s vice president of academic affairs.

Study abroad, supported by Macaulay Opportunities Funds, was another formative experience. In Florence, Jonathan studied the sociology and history of the Italian mafia. As is his custom in any city, including his native New York, Jonathan explored Florence by bicycle and on foot.

Most important to Jonathan was the level of mentoring he received as a Macaulay student. “It’s hard to put into words how pivotal it’s been to have an accessible advisor and personal advocate,” he said. His faculty advisor has alerted him to programs in his field, helped him apply, and put him in touch with former participants.

Thanks to this help, Jonathan won a three-year Watson Fellowship, which enabled him to work with detained immigrants in the Bronx, with housing advocates in Oakland, and with a refugee aid organization in Prague. The only downside Jonathan saw was that a broken clavicle kept him from biking around Prague.

These experiences have all solidified Jonathan’s commitment to policy work on behalf of disadvantaged populations. None of them would have happened, said Jonathan, “if I hadn’t had this unique support system” at Macaulay.