PATERSON, NJ  –  As local students continue to adjust to remote learning and uncertainty regarding when classes will begin again, one senior in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at International High School (IHS), has something even bigger to focus on.

Recently, according to a statement by Superintendent of Schools Eileen F. Shafer, Nicole Velecela received noticed that she has been accepted at Cornell University. Velecela will begin studying at the Ivy League university’s College of Human Ecology in the fall.

“Nicole worked hard to achieve this great opportunity, and she had the support of three strong women in her family – her grandmother Betty, her Aunt Mary, and most especially, her mother, Milagros, whose unfailing support of Nicole was founded upon making education the top priority in their household,” Shafer said, extending her congratulations to them, and her thanks Nicole’s teachers and administrators “who worked to draw out the best of Nicole’s abilities. 

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“It felt surreal reading the acceptance letter and seeing the word ‘Congratulations’ first,” Velecela, who has grown accustomed to be people frequently asking her where she will go after she graduates high school, said. “Thankfully, I can reply with a simple answer: Cornell University.”

“For me, this is especially important for the medical career that I will pursue because a doctor is more than a worker in a facility,” Velecela, who intends to major in Human Biology, Health, and Society, added. “Doctors are members of society with a mission to encourage health and wellbeing to all people in our society.”

Raised by a single mother who immigrated from Peru and worked long hours as a cook, Velecela, even at her early stage in life, reflects the realization of the American dream. “Growing up, my mom ensured that my focus on my education was always my priority,” said Velecela. “Because of this, I learned to be independent with my academic-related activities and push myself to get where I want to be.”  

Active well beyond her studies, Velecela is a member of the National Honor Society who has been active in many extracurricular activities including the National Chinese Honor Society, the Robotics Club, and playing volleyball. But, she said, it was the 4-H Science Pathways Program that had the greatest impact on her.

“I had the chance to meet new people, learn about STEM and leadership, and also do community service activities,” said Velecela.

With regard to the IB program, the only one of its kind in Passaic County, and one of only 17 in New Jersey, Velecela said, “Throughout these years, the program has allowed me to develop a foundation as a student and person. It requires students to think beyond and seek more knowledge, and although the coursework can sometimes be time-consuming, the program has also prepared me to develop skills as I get ready to face the next step in my life: college.”

Velecela is the third senior from International High School this year to be accepted into a world renowned university. Earlier this year, Emily Cruz was accepted by Johns Hopkins University and Cindy Munoz was accepted by the University of Pennsylvania. All three students intend to enter careers in the healthcare field.


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