Jessica Marmolejos values education — and so does her family.
“I come from a big family,” she said. “Everyone has either graduated from college or is going to graduate college,” she said.
With family roots in the Dominican Republic, education proved to be something that could lead to upward mobility.
“They didn’t really come from a lot back home. That’s why my family moved to the United States,” she said.
As she continues her degree in Human Development and Family Science, she has focused her efforts on mentoring others and conducting research with Latinx families.
Discovering mentorship as a passion
Because Marmolejos comes from a large family, finding a sense of community at the University of Missouri was important to her. That’s why she got involved with various organizations on campus such as the Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students (ABGPS), Latino Graduate Professional Network (LGPN) and the Cambio Center, where she is currently a fellow.
“It was important to find people who look like me, so I don’t feel alone,” she said.
Through ABGPS, she learned about the Emerging Leaders Program, a four-day conference that exposes high school students to the legislative process while building on their leadership skills.
“The program emphasized how much I like mentorship and to be involved in more work like that on campus,” she said.
She learned many new things from the program, but most importantly how much the students saw her as a role model for pursuing higher education.
“We showed them that they can go to grad school, or they can go to top universities,” she said.
Why her research is important
Before Emerging Leaders, Marmolejos’ personal experience as a mentor at Mizzou started in a lab with Antoinette Landor, associate professor in the department of Human Development and Family Science.
“Dr. Landor has undergraduate students come into the lab for a semester or for the entire year,” she said. “I enjoy helping people understand what they want for themselves. I remember how helpful having a mentor in undergrad and even in high school was to me – I just want to pay it forward.”
Marmolejos’ research seeks to understand how Latinx culture impacts the psycho-social development of adolescents. Additionally, she is studying the racial-ethnic socialization and gender socialization in Latinx families – how families educate their children about race, their culture and ethnic group, and gender.
“Emerging Leaders helped me see that there are different experiences,” she said. “It emphasized the differences that need to be researched in people of color.”