A N N - J A N E T T E. F U E N T E S 00
The following feature story appeared in the campus publication Mosaic in February, 1999.
DIVING HEADLONG INTO NEW EXPERIENCES
Ann-Janette "A.J." Fuentes experiences at Trinity offer a textbook example of broadening ones horizons. Whether earning academic honors, being selected for a highly competitive political internship in Washington, or starting Trinity's first chapter of Amnesty International, the junior English major from Miami has used her creativity, intellect, and determination to make the most out of her college experience.
During her first two years at Trinity, Fuentes participated in the Cities Program, a rigorous series of courses developed for a select group of highly-motivated and promising students. In the program, students explore cities, past and present, in the United States and elsewhere, and become exposed to a variety of humanities and social perspectives that helps them understand contemporary urban and societal issues in all their complexity. G. Keith Funston Professor of American Literature and American Studies Jan K. Cohn, who teaches in the program and is Fuentes faculty adviser, says of her advisee, "A.J. is one of the most engaged students I've taught at Trinity. In two very different courses, The City Imagined: Visual and Literary Representations of Urban Life, and in the advanced English course Character and Conditions: Fiction of the Gilded Age, she was genuinely interested in and curious about every single text, film, or slide that we discussed in class. Moreover, she could always be counted on to jump-start a discussion. And that's something we professors always appreciate."
A political internship
After her first year, Fuentes was one of 15 students selected from among more than 300 applicants to intern in Washington, D.C., through a program sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. She spent one week in the nations capital working with U.S. Rep. Illiana Ros-Leihtenin, (R-FL), and then five weeks in Miami working with Florida State Rep. Annie Betancourt (D-116 District). The internship provided Fuentes the opportunity to publish an article about her experience in Vista, a national, bilingual magazine. The internship also caused her to rethink her decision to focus on politics and to instead explore her longtime interest in literature. "I really enjoyed the internship, but decided politics were not for me," she says.
With more than a year and a half to go until graduation, Fuentes has the time to expand her Trinity experience even further and explore more options for life after Trinity. As someone who describes herself as "an only child who always had too much of a vivid imagination and who enjoys creative writing," its not surprising to learn that she imagines herself someday writing for a magazine or other publication about the entertainment industry or politics.
"My parents always encouraged reading, and I was reading before I was 5," Fuentes says. At Trinity, she has not only been reading but writing as well. Her paper entitled, "Miami: City of Contrasts," was one of eight pieces selected for inclusion in Trinitys First-Year Papers, a volume that recognizes academic excellence. Her academic achievement also resulted in faculty honors in the 1998 spring semester, and she is a recipient of William Pond Barber and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Rittenberg Presidents Circle scholarships.
In addition to making the most of her academic experiences, Fuentes has affected the Trinity community in real and visible ways. She founded a chapter of Amnesty International as a first-year student and continues to serve as its head. "I started Amnesty International (AI) at my high school and then at Trinity because my parents are Cuban refugees who had to leave friends and family as well as all their possessions behind when they were children. They came to the States because they were being persecuted for their political beliefs," she says. "We have a close family friend who was imprisoned in Havana for a few years, and her story was another reason I was so aware of these issues and wanted to do something about them. One of the main focuses of AI is to help people imprisoned for their political beliefs."
Fuentes academic achievements and activism have enabled her to stand out among her peers while her warm, engaging personality has caused her to be embraced by the Trinity community. Part of her appeal stems from her willingness to share her heritage and cultural experiences, which has sometimes produced amusing results. "For instance, I greet all my friends at home with a kiss and often speak both Spanish and English," she says. "You cannot imagine how many times at Trinity Ive gone in for a kiss and gotten strange looks. Its actually been pretty funny. Then Id explain to them about (the custom in) Miami."
This semester, Fuentes is studying abroad in Paris. Her program there, including one class at the University of Paris, involves doing all course work in French. In addition to studying, she has planned a few trips, including to places such as the chateaux of the Loire Valley and Brussels and Bruges in Belgium. "I have been studying French for almost seven years, so I decided to study in France and perfect my French. Europe is a fascinating continent, with so much history and so much culture. I cannot imagine passing this opportunity up."
-Jocelyn M. Jones 99