CALS junior earns national award for addressing social change

Christina Ochoa ’23 has been named a Newman Civic Fellow for her commitment to addressing social change and injustice.

The national Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes students who address issues of inequality through collaborative action to create long-term social change.

Ochoa advocates for incarcerated people serving life sentences in New York state through the Cornell University Parole Initiative; she earned the award for her dedication to transform systemic injustice in prisons and parole policies.

Christina Ochoa

“The work of an advocate is not to speak on behalf of a marginalized community, but rather to engage in direct, cooperative action to help secure improved conditions,” said Ochoa, a development sociology major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Global Development. She is minoring in creative writing, law and society, and inequality studies.

Through the Parole Preparation Project, Ochoa works with prisoners to prepare for their parole hearings.

“This project has been especially meaningful because not only are we helping people get a second chance outside of the prison-industrial system, but we also get to help reaffirm the humanity of individuals who have gone through the dehumanization associated with incarceration,” Ochoa said.

“By putting in the time to get to know the people who we work with and work for, we remind them that they are worth helping and prove that every person is worthy of support and second chances.”

The fellowship is a program of Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education. Ochoa is one of 173 student civic leaders in the 2022-23 class of Newman Civic Fellows from 38 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Mexico. Cornell’s David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement facilitates the university’s nomination process and provides financial support for the honoree.

“During our competitive application process to select Cornell’s Newman representative, Christina stood out as a student committed to addressing social change and injustice at individual, organizational and systemic levels,” said President Martha E. Pollack.

“We are proud to name such an outstanding and diverse group of students Newman Civic Fellows,” said Bobbie Laur, president of Campus Compact. “Their passion and resolve to take action on the wide range of issues challenging our neighborhoods and communities is inspiring and deeply needed. We cannot wait to engage with them through this transformative experience.”

Kelly Merchan is a communications specialist in the Department of Global Development.

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