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Jocelyn Solis and family

Undergraduate Jocelyn Solis shares her story


This is the word that describes Jocelyn Solis. When she decided to come to the University of Illinois as a first-generation student, her extended family asked, “Are you just going to last a semester or are you going to push through?” She describes her initial semester as “rough.” Everything was new, and she didn’t know whom to turn to for advice. She had to wade her way through the murky waters of college life and figure things out for herself. When she first decided to go to college, she knew that she would be responsible for supporting herself through school and had intended to go to the least expensive school that offered her admission. Jocelyn had visited the University of Illinois when she was a child and had attended an Illini baseball with her uncle. Upon admission, she realized that despite being more expensive than other offers, her heart yearned to be here. She created a budget and payment plan, took on multiple jobs, and figured out how to make it work.

A huge weight was lifted off of Jocelyn’s shoulders when she made it through her first semester with decent grades and zero debt. Eventually she made her way to RST after taking RST 100: Recreation, Sport, and Tourism in Modern Society. Once in RST, the small class sizes allowed Jocelyn to better connect with her professors. A natural introvert, she was encouraged to network and connect with people, and she found that exercise helped her combat stress. She grew as both a person and a professional. “I learned how to network here. During my sophomore year when I went on the Chicago Facility Tour, Don [Hardin] pushed me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to a facility manager during the trip. I didn’t know how to go up to people and introduce myself, and it was a little uncomfortable for me, but afterward, I was like, ‘Oh, this is how you do it.’”

When asked about her favorite RST memories, Jocelyn describes loving RST341: Community Recreation Planning and RST465: Event Implementation and Evaluation in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. These hands-on courses made her feel like she was really in the field, allowed her to actually “do something” for a community, and taught her how to work with a team. After graduation, she knows she is going to miss the RST community and her multicultural sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma, which focuses on empowering women and has provided her a support network of like-minded individuals.

Jocelyn Solis with award

Jocelyn credits her mother, Virginia Mejia, for her accomplishments. A single-parent and self-directing woman, Virginia raised her “to be a strong independent woman who knows her worth.” She showed her that “she was going to be who she was and that she didn’t need to change for anyone else.”

This past spring, Jocelyn won the Margaret K. and Edward W. Harvey Scholarship in Parks and Recreation, and on May 11th, she was the first in her family to graduate college. This summer, she will complete her internship with the Associate Director of Facilities, Jessica Lee Adkisson, at University of Illinois at Chicago Campus Recreation. Afterward, she wants to work in campus recreation or with a park district.

Jocelyn hoped she could pave the way for her younger brothers and sisters to also go to college and pursue their dreams. She wanted them to know that “you can still be great and do what you want to do even if others have chosen a different path.”

Her trailblazing efforts have paid off. Her brother, Luther, recently came to the University of Illinois and has fallen in love with RST as well.

We will miss you, Jocelyn!

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