Georgina Cedeno: 'I learned how wondrous, connected and harmoniously life behaves at the molecular level'

Georgina Cedeno​
Biological Sciences
Reedley, CA

What was your favorite class and why?

As a junior, I took Professor Feigenson’s biochemistry class, and in his office hours I finally felt like I belonged in the STEM field. Professor Feigenson strung together for me all the chemistry and biology I had been learning for the past two years, and he taught me how wondrous, connected and harmoniously life behaves at the molecular level.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

I have participated as a REACH tutor for elementary school students and this activity is especially close to my heart because when I immigrated to this country as a child, I did not speak English and consequently did not understand any of my classes aside from math. Homework was a big challenge for me, and as my parents could only offer their emotional support, they enrolled me in an after-school program where I could receive the help I needed. Despite many explanations, the tutors always treated me with kindness and patience, and they helped me keep faith in my potential to learn. By serving as a tutor now, I hope to be able to perpetuate this cycle of support for students who may face similar challenges.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?

The most important thing I have discovered about myself is that I am at my bravest when I am willing to be vulnerable. I used to think that as a Cornell student, there was shame in me not understanding a concept presented in class or being uncertain about my career plans. This mentality constantly discouraged me from seeking help. However, if my time at Cornell has taught me anything it is that being raw about my experiences and struggles is a sign of courage and not weakness. When we create spaces for vulnerability, I believe we take on the greatest act of courage to grow as scholars and as people.

Where do you dream to be in ten years?

In ten years, I hope to have completed medical school and be working in my current hometown of Reedley to open a free health clinic. I firmly believe people should not have to choose between paying for groceries and seeing a doctor to check on a health concern. I hope that the services provided by the free health clinic increase access to healthcare to individuals who might otherwise be forced to ignore a health problem. As a non-native English speaker myself, I hope that by entering the medical field, I can create spaces for non-English speakers to feel comfortable expressing the realities of their pain and to feel that their voices are heard, and in this way seal some of the gaps in the healthcare system.

How has your Cornell education and experience prepared you to deal with the challenges and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic?

My Cornell education has helped me discover a resilience I didn’t know was inside of me. I think the coronavirus pandemic catalyzes fear and uncertainty but by making kindness and goodwill a priority, our global emergency can become the greatest act of solidarity we will experience.

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 Georgina Cedeno