The first time Jocelyn Calvillo signed her name as an attorney was a powerful moment. That simple gesture of her pen represented the culmination of work that began for her in middle school.
Jocelyn attended DeKalb PATH Academy. She learned about Reach for Excellence when Karen Dessables gave a presentation on the Reach program. Jocelyn was eager to join Reach, but her parents were concerned about maintaining a commitment to attend classes on Saturdays and during the Summer. Jocelyn had 3 siblings, and both parents worked demanding schedules. Transportation to the program would be an issue. Her parents recognized the importance of education and worked with Reach and other families to negotiate Jocelyn’s transportation. Navigating MARTA and working out carpool became an additional learning experience for Jocelyn. It gave her a newfound sense of independence and confidence. She felt like she could do anything.
Looking back, Jocelyn believes that one of the most valuable lessons she learned from Reach for Excellence was that she could pursue an education without burdening her family.
She fit in quickly in Reach for Excellence classes. It was comfortable to be in an environment with kids from similar backgrounds, and she never felt like she was less than her peers. She recalls that there were always books available and visited Reach’s library often. She loved reading and was good at math, which are a big part of the Reach curriculum.
Jocelyn visited several college campuses with Reach for Excellence. She found a UGA sticker in the swag bag they gave students when they toured the campus in Athens. Jocelyn kept the UGA sticker on her mirror for years.
Being physically present on college campuses helped her envision college life and create a mental picture of where she wanted to be in 10 years. The UGA sticker was a reminder of what she hoped to accomplish and the academic pathway it would take to get there.
During her middle school years at Reach and DeKalb PATH, Jocelyn was surrounded by a community encouraging her to make a difference in her community. More than anything else, this encouragement shaped her and motivated her to pursue a career as an attorney.
Jocelyn attended Marist with the Class of 2012. She worked hard at her academics, joined many clubs, and did her best to positively represent the Hispanic community. Reach for Excellence was close by and available to support her throughout her high school years at Marist. After graduation Jocelyn attended Agnes Scott College, majoring in Political Science and Spanish, where she was president of the Latino Association. Her world expanded as she traveled abroad during those years, but her heart remained committed to helping her community as an attorney.
It was now time for Law School. Jocelyn enrolled in Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in Macon. She poured herself into working with organizations that supported the local immigrant community. She learned firsthand the power of mentorships and learning from those who have traveled a path before you. As her academic goals approached completion, Jocelyn now saw the importance and possibility of empowering future generations to succeed.
Jocelyn now helps her community as an immigration attorney with Catholic Charities Atlanta, an organization that provides supportive services that enable families to overcome barriers and achieve self-sufficiency. She primarily works with victims of crime, including violent crime and sexual assault.
Jocelyn is passionate about mentoring and wants to help children in the Hispanic community navigate their options for a good education.
In December of 2021, Jocelyn joined fellow Reach for Excellence and Marist alums, Genie Arcila, and Wollinsky Mendez meeting with parents of Reach’s new Hispanic Initiative and current students in the program. She shared her journey and encouraged students to position themselves as top-quality school applicants by volunteering and serving their community.
Jocelyn believes that Reach for Excellence opens doors and helps students succeed despite all the barriers they face. Seeing all that her fellow Reach classmates have accomplished, believes Reach students will change the world.
Jocelyn’s nephew is entering the 5th grade and she’s encouraging him to apply to Reach for Excellence.