From group home to dorm room: High school grad overcomes adversity

Josmary Ochao-Cruz will attend Binghamton University in the fall.
Josmary Ochao-Cruz will attend Binghamton University in the fall.

Doing the right thing isn’t always comfortable or easy — a hard lesson 18-year-old Josmary Ochao-Cruz has learned early in life.
The recent graduate maintained honor roll grades at a Manhattan high while living in a group home in East New York, Brooklyn — and is now headed to Binghamton University in the fall to study political science.
The Queens native and her 20-year-old sister went into a group home as a refuge from their hostile family life.
“Sometimes it’s chaotic,” Ochao-Cruz said of the situation.

But she found an escape, throwing herself into her studies, taking rigorous advanced placement classes and college courses. After school, she worked in a library and was active in extracurricular clubs.

“She’s one of the most thoughtful students that I’ve come across,” said High School of Fashion Industries principal Daryl Black, himself a Binghamton alum.

At Binghamton, Ochao-Cruz hopes to study criminal law while making new friends and experiencing college life.

But all her hard work and determination was rewarded with a scholarship that allows her to attend the upstate school.

Ochao-Cruz is one of five students who won a $10,000 Javits Juniors Scholarship funded by the late Sen. Jacob K. Javits’s family foundation and six event-industry leaders, including the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

An essay she wrote about improving the quality of life in New York City helped her clinch the award. Her proposal called for community farms in every borough to grow fresh produce.

“In impoverished areas there would be more access to unhealthy foods, fast foods, [and] junk foods. The corner store is filled with chips and sodas,” she noted.

After Ochao-Cruz conquers college, Congress is next.

She says she’s inspired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and hopes to follow in her footsteps. And with drive and courage like hers, she just might.

“I just like advocating for people,” she explained.

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