Driven by Service and Excellence

Photo of Elena Ortiz, article image

When introducing Elena Ortiz, a recipient of Farmingdale State College’s (FSC) 2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award, President John S. Nader recalled his initial reaction when reading her catalog of accomplishments. He was “thunderstruck,” he said.

Ortiz, an applied psychology major who plans to graduate in December 2023, is a first-generation student, a Sillcox Scholar, and a RAM Scholar. She has conducted sophisticated research, interned at a federal courthouse, tutored her peers, helped start a women’s club on campus, and maintained a near-perfect GPA. She also volunteers at her church, helped care for younger siblings, and has a part-time job.

“I have received so much that giving back is the only thing I can do,” said Ortiz, who lived in Hempstead and recently moved to Brooklyn. “It wouldn’t be right to receive so much and not give back. All my hard work and everything I do is to honor my family, God, and those who have mentored and supported me.”

Her family emigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 2011, when she was 9-years old, Ortiz pushed herself to succeed and was named salutatorian of Hempstead High School’s Class of 2020.

“I don’t think it’s so much that I’m smart,” Ortiz said, reflecting on her achievements. “It’s the hard work I put in and the consistency.”

Now, Ortiz generates advanced research that grabs peoples's attention. Through the Research Aligned Mentorship (RAM) program, Ortiz raised awareness of Latinos’ unwillingness to report crimes, revealing that Latino students are less likely to contact the police because they are uncertain how they will be perceived. President Nader invited her to join him in a meeting with Campus Chief of Police Daniel Daugherty and Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Dr. Kevin Jordan.

“We spoke about my research and everything that they were doing,” Ortiz said. “I gave the chief of police suggestions as to what could be done to make students feel more comfortable while on campus. The chief mentioned that the police are constantly undergoing training to ensure campus safety for the well-being of students, which was a relief to me.”

Ortiz’s largest undertaking was in the summer of 2022, when she spent 14 weeks on an assignment through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, one of only nine students selected nationwide. There she explored disparities in the criminal justice system and victim-related factors in prosecutor case summaries.

More recently, Ortiz interned in the United States Pretrial Services Agency, located in the Brooklyn Eastern District federal courthouse, deepening her understanding of the court system.

“Seeing those who were more vulnerable to crimes made me want to help,” said Ortiz, who hopes to enter law enforcement and enroll in a graduate program in forensic psychology after graduation.

Leslie Sillcox of the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation encouraged Ortiz to study applied psychology. “Mrs. Sillcox said it would help me develop a broader perspective,” Ortiz said. “I am really enjoying it; I go into the courses with an open mind. I love the professors at FSC, they make learning so much easier.”

Last year, Ortiz helped start the Women’s Empowerment Club and serves on the club’s e-board as vice president.

While she is immersed in her studies and campus life, Ortiz has also found time to volunteer at St. Ladislaus Roman Catholic Church in Hempstead and enjoys relaxing at home with her parents and three brothers.

“They are my ‘why,’” she explained. “They work arduously, and I owe it to them to be someone who gives back. Seeing them smile and say they are proud of me is my motivation.”

Share This

  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Pinterest
  • Share via email