Moving to a new state was difficult for Jewel Justice, but doing it during an intense election process helped reshape her perspectives and solidify a spot in the Ivy League.
Described by her Seneca High School teachers as a student with an “unparalleled sense of motivation and confidence,” Justice was determined throughout her high school career to earn acceptance to Princeton University beginning in the fall.
“I cried. It almost felt like a dream come true because I put so much effort into my application day in and day out,” she recalled. “When I got the (acceptance) letter, I was shaking.”
Justice’s family moved from a Delaware city to Southampton, and the cultural makeup of the two areas had an impact on her in the heat of the 2016 election.
“We moved here to a predominantly white area,” Justice explained. “Then the racism/racial aspect of it came, but I think it was mostly from the (2016) election and people were getting used to that.
“Once I got adjusted, I loved it here and once I came here to Seneca, most people were very nice and welcoming to me.”
That experience pushed her to join Seneca’s Anti-Defamation League Peer Training program in 2017. She also participated in activities with younger students to exemplify why diversity is a good thing and how to embrace one’s differences.
The 17-year-old decided to major in economics and minor in African American studies at Princeton following her exposure to the peer program and the business courses she took at the high school.
“When I took Econ, I learned about individual markets and also the broad scheme, like the U.S. in general,” Justice shared. “Then I’m also passionate about things such as race and equality. Combining it, I learned about the economy and the economic disparities in race.”
Justice has been in a number of extracurricular activities at Seneca since her freshman year, including the National Honor Society, track and field and the multicultural club. Her achievements and integrity — as her English teacher Jaclynn Lambusta described them — earned her the opportunity to have lunch with Lenape Regional High School District Superintendent Carol Birnbohm, during which she emphasized that the district should celebrate different cultures more often.
“Black History Month isn’t the only thing that is important,” Justice mentioned. “There are other races that come into play and mentioning that and making announcements here and there so students are (more) aware of what’s going on.”
Like many other high school students, Justice once struggled academically. Her toughest class was honors pre-calculus.
“(Justice) started the year with a B average for the first time in her math career,” math teacher Amy Mosser shared in her recommendation letter about Justice to Princeton. “What really stood out though was how she persevered through that challenge.”
Justice admitted she sought help from tutors on a regular basis to raise her grades to an A average. She ran for leisure and spent time with friends to ease the stress of high school.
Outside of school, Justice loved the “Star Wars” movies to the point of getting dressed up with her dad for the most recent chapter of the saga last winter.
“This proves that she is as incredible a daughter as she is a student,” William Palladino, Justice’s Latin teacher, shared.
Princeton’s tuition averages around $50,000. The senior admitted cost was in the back of her mind until after acceptance.
“I’m applying for tons and tons of scholarships to be able to afford because it is a lot of money,” she admitted. “It was a back burner thing for me.”
As the self-proclaimed sneaker head debates which of her 30-plus pairs of shoes to bring on campus, she advises other Seneca students to not be shy when requesting help and to take time on college applications.
“Don’t be the student who writes their essays the night before. It takes time,” Justice advised. “The amount of times I’ve redone my essays was ridiculous, so starting early helps you have time and makes it less stressful on yourself.”
Editor’s note: The interview took place before Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to close New Jersey schools.