You might not know the following figures—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue and White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. This issue, we bring you two campus power couples who aren’t couples. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at email@example.com.
Lucero Jorge, CC ’16 is firmly unconvinced of her own impressiveness. She sits with her arms drawn up against her and nervously fidgets with her hair, the physical tension only broken by occasional bouts of sharp, but contained laughter. She checks her phone every few words. She is excited to be interviewed primarily because her boyfriend is jealous of the offer. She doesn’t see why she would be a person of interest.
And yet, she’s extremely impressive. She forcefully follows her impulses, both educational and otherwise. Her answers are confident and decisive: she gives a brief, succinct, clear answer and is done. She has strong opinions about students leaving class early, and is annoyed with the fact that as a Dominican-American she has to field an irritating number of questions about Junot Diaz. She has mixed feelings about the mission of Teach for America, critiquing the way people use the program to further their own development at the expense of others. She has to leave at 8:00.
At other times, Jorge is jarringly erratic. Her senior year of high school, she applied to 22 schools, and a few months into life at Columbia she left the pre-med track to pursue Urban Studies at the suggestion of a friend. Also because she “was dying.” Defining the future isn’t her strong suit. But to her, unlike the majority of her peers, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. There’s a confidence in the way that she flashes back and forth between possible futures. She says she could see herself in D.C. (“People are just less New York there, less aggressive.”) Moments later, she discusses postgrad plans closer to home in the Bronx. Her mother would prefer for her to stay close to home, and she does “really love New York most of the time.”
Jorge is co-founder of the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP). But when we begin to discuss her work with FLIP, her answers became brief and pointed. She’s bored of the subject. “We were mainly just letting off steam,” Lucero clarifies of the organization’s development in spring 2014. It started off as a conversation among friends in her Casa Latina suite—more a series of complaints than the percolation of activism. Jorge refuses to take credit, putting the development of FLIP as a concrete, public organization down to its co-founder, Mandeep Singh, CC ’15. “He really pulled everything together more than anyone else,” she says.
Last year, FLIP succeeded in starting a Facebook page to share spare meal swipes and began a widespread campus conversation about food insecurity and income inequality. But Jorge emphasized that she has since pulled away from the group, which has run into problems this semester. The group severed its partnership with the Swipes meal app, only to restore relations the next day. It also shut down its immensely popular Columbia Class Confessions Facebook page, which has been its main communication tool.
Jorge’s dissatisfaction with the group solidified over the summer. Jorge notes that FLIP was beset by problems, and she often felt that one of the group’s biggest projects last year—its book drive to create a free lending library—often fell solely to her. “Most of the time it was just me, there usually wasn’t anyone there to help me,” she says. While organizing the books during an impromptu move this summer, she hurt herself and decided that she needed to take a break from the group. She laughs. “It is senior year after all.” And with that, the discussion is over.
— Mikayla Petchell