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Young Alum: Mercedes Sornoza

Brooklyn native Sornoza finds new home, rewarding career, on opposite end of state

Mercedes Sornoza grew up in New York City. There was a time in her life when she couldn’t have imagined choosing a college that was seven hours away from home.

Once she visited SUNY Fredonia, however, she couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else.

“I knew Fredonia was the best choice for me after attending their Multicultural Weekend,” Sornoza recalls. “I learned so much about Fredonia in those three days, through speakers, students and professors. Stepping onto the beautiful campus just closed the deal.”

She quickly appreciated her decision, treasuring Fredonia’s smaller class sizes and the personal interactions she was able to have with her professors.

“My experience at Fredonia was remarkable,” she says. “It was very reassuring knowing that my professors would always be there when I needed assistance.”

Mercedes found a similar network of support through Fredonia’s Educational Development Program (EDP), which helped support this Spanish and Criminal Justice double major, both academically and financially, as she worked toward her career goals.

“My counselor, Rachel Skemer, helped me through the transition of not only becoming a college student, but also of being so far from home and family,” she explains. “Although the workload was challenging, EDP was always willing to offer tutoring. I succeeded not only because of my hard work, but also because of the resources I had available.”

She quickly developed a strong social network as well, becoming an active member of student groups such as the Black Student Union and Latino Unidos. She also became a huge supporter of the athletics department, especially the men’s basketball team.

During her senior year, she interned with the Dunkirk City Court, which helped her realize how much she enjoyed her field — as well as Western New York. Today, this 2011 graduate is a Chautauqua County Probation Officer in Jamestown, N.Y., and the Brooklyn native has no plans to leave anytime soon.

“I’ve been a probation officer for 21 months now, and within that short time I’ve helped rehabilitate several offenders who have gone on to further their education, raise families and live very productive, fulfilling lives,” she says. “It feels incredible to know that I’ve helped change the future for not only one person, but our society as well.”

Sornoza, who is also pursuing a graduate degree, adds that Fredonia’s criminal justice program provided her with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of law, crime, public policy, and social systems. Fredonia also helped her develop logical reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills, as well as strengthen her desire to help others.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities Fredonia gave me,” she says. “Through the internship, I not only gained experience in my field, but I also built relationships and networked with people that I eventually started working with once I was hired.”

Mercedes Sornoza is literally changing people’s lives, and their communities, for the better — because she is a Fredonian. Would you like to become one? Just visit our admissions section to learn more — and connect with a counselor who can help transform your life too!