My name is Tara Cueto and I am a student at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) campus, pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS). I first heard about USG at a career fair I was attending at Montgomery College (MC). It was for those interested in a criminal justice career, and that is where I met a USG program director for the CCJS program. After meeting with the program director, I saw how similar my educational journey was to hers and was instantly intrigued.
My college journey first began when I was accepted into UMD at the College Park campus for the spring 2016 semester, but decided to take some classes at MC during the Fall 2016 semester in the meantime. After being on campus at UMD, I realized it was not the right fit for me and eventually dropped out. The campus was way too big for me, and I found it difficult to form connections with my classmates and professors. In addition, being a first generation student, I struggled to navigate things like financial aid, dorm living and dining on such a large campus. The whole experience was overwhelming for me at only 18 years old.
I decided to take some time for myself before eventually returning to school at MC, where I ended up earning my associate’s in criminal justice. I had remembered USG and upon further research about the campus and UMD’s CCJS program there, I knew it was the perfect fit for me to complete my bachelor’s. Not only was the program considered one of the best for criminology and criminal justice, but I also liked the fact that the USG campus was very diverse, affordable and offered a more personal environment.
Since attending my program at USG, I have become more involved in my community, helping those in need of resources and getting more involved with advocacy groups like Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE). CARE is a service offered by the UMD Health Center that provides free, confidential services to help victims and survivors of sexual abuse or other forms of violence on campus. During my time with CARE, I worked as a Violence Intervention Ambassador, to provide training on how to identify, respond to and prevent violence. I also interned with the International Rescue Committee, where I worked with clients on their intake paperwork and helped to assess their needs for services. These experiences really helped me solidify my passion and desire to help those in need on a more personal level.
After my graduation in the spring of 2022, I hope to continue advocating for and helping those who believe they do not have a voice. My career goals include working as a victim advocate or working with the courts and social workers to aid those in my community. I hope to continue helping those in need while also educating and building communities that are less represented. I want everyone to know that they are not alone, that we are here to help, and that this knowledge can be passed along to continue building the bridge between the criminal justice system and underrepresented communities.