Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon gives back to the program that supported her college dreams.

Although Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon will graduate from Rutgers University–Camden in May after going straight through in four years, her connection to the university dates back nine years. A Rutgers Future Scholars participant since she was in the seventh grade, the Camden resident credits the program, which allowed her to attend tuition free, with helping her to prepare for college and to excel, which she has certainly done.

She will be the first in her family to graduate from college. (Her parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Camden in 2000, the year before she was born.) A double major in criminal justice and political science, she traveled to London, Dublin, and Belfast for a Learning Abroad course in March 2022, and, in May, she’ll travel to Amsterdam for another course. She says in kindergarten she decided that one day she wanted to become an attorney. In August, she’ll follow up on that dream when she begins law school at Drexel University in Philadelphia on a full scholarship.

What’s a day in her life like in her final semester as a Rutgers–Camden student? We asked her to share an account of a busy day. Here is what she did on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

By Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon, as told to Sam Starnes GSN’04.

7 a.m.

I wake up and think about my day. I need about half an hour to get started. After a while I get up and just throw my hair in a bun and put on clothes and go to the gym.

8 a.m.

I arrive at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which is near my home where I live with my parents, in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. I do cardio for an hour. I’ve been doing that every day, seven days a week, for a year and a half. I’ve lost 125 pounds from two years ago.

9 a.m.

I go home and take a long shower, do my makeup, my hair, and pick out my outfit. It’s a ritual I do every day.

Avi Steinhardt

10 a.m.

I arrive at campus and go to the cafeteria and sit at the red tables until my friend Nathan gets out of class and meets me about 11. That’s my homework time. I check my email, review my homework, and do anything I have to do for school.

11 a.m.

Nathan comes over and we eat lunch and talk. I also chat with multiple miscellaneous friends who pass by.

12:30 p.m.

I clock in online to my job as a Rutgers Future Scholars cohort adviser. I mentor about 15 Camden ninth graders in the program. I reach out to them via text to see how they're doing in school and if they need any help or anything. I also have to prepare lesson plans because we go into the schools to teach lessons about college prep and college readiness.

I’ve been working as a mentor in the program for all four years that I’ve been a student at Rutgers–Camden. I love it. I’m very well-connected to my scholars. They always text me right back. It’s like I’m an older sister to them. They all call me “Miss Ezzy.”

I enjoy it because feel like I am returning the favor that the Rutgers Future Scholars program did for me. It essentially just got me ready for college. From the age of 13 to the age of 17, I was here every summer, and I knew the campus like the back of my hand by the time I got here. They helped me with my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), with tutoring, and with applying for college. They helped me with literally everything. Even when I was a student here, they helped me with my LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test.)

2 p.m.

I go to my “Ethics of Criminal Justice” class with Dr. Nathan Link, a professor of criminal justice, in the Fine Arts building. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s awesome. We are reading a book he assigned called Locked In, and I’m learning a lot about prosecutors and how the amount of discretion they have can impact communities of color. I believe want to become a prosecutor after law school.

Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon
Avi Steinhardt

3:20 p.m.

After class, I go to the Starbucks in Campus Center. I order my favorite, a grande vanilla latte with sweet cream foam and light ice.

4 p.m.

I have a meeting with Dr. Beth Rabinowitz, a political science professor. I’m doing an independent study with her on nationalism, and I’m reading her writing about it. I’ve taken three classes with her. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. I look up to her as a mentor, and she supported me when I applied to law school.

4:45 p.m.

I leave campus and drive straight to the Cherry Hill Mall, where I’m due at work at the Sephora store at 5 p.m. I work until 9 p.m. on Wednesday. My specialty is fragrances because I can smell lots of perfumes without getting a headache. I’ve got a little encyclopedia for perfumes. I also help with skin care products. I started there in August 2021 and worked through December 2021, but I took time off when I did an internship with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in the spring semester of 2022. I went back to Sephora in February and plan to work there through the summer until I go to law school. While I’m at the mall, I get a smoothie—the vanilla blue sky. That saves my life.

9:20 p.m.

I get home and have a bite to eat and take a shower and do my skincare routine. I do a little bit of homework and make sure I’m ready for my classes for the next day.

11 p.m.

By 11, I’m in bed, where I watch TikTok, TV, and YouTube. By midnight, I’m asleep. It has been a long day and I’m tired. I’m looking forward to graduating and later in the summer moving to Philadelphia, where I’ll live while attending law school.

The Day in the Life series details the challenges and hectic daily itineraries of Rutgers students in programs that benefit from donor support, such as the Scarlet Promise Initiative and Rutgers Future Scholars.

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