October 6, 2022 SPRING 2022

Sochima Onyekelu-Eze ’09: Federal Air Marshal

Sochima Onyekelu-Eze ’09 is a Senior Federal Air Marshal, author, entrepreneur, photographer, and mentor.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Onyekelu-Eze was expected to become a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. “I quickly realized that it was not a good fit for me. I wanted to work in public service,” he says. “That’s how I found my way to John Jay.”

While at John Jay, Onyekelu-Eze worked as a TSA agent at JFK Airport, balancing a full-time job, a full course load, and lab work. His work ethic and determination were recognized not only by his professors, who championed his efforts, but also by Federal Air Marshal Service agents who noticed his quick thinking and aptitude. “The education I received at John Jay was like a crane lifting me from the bottom floor to the top of the building. Being a John Jay student helped me stand out.”

 

“The education I received at John Jay was like a crane lifting me from the bottom floor to the top of the building. Being a John Jay student helped me stand out.” —Sochima Onyekelu-Eze ’09

 

As a federal air marshal, Onyekelu-Eze appreciates his role in keeping the public safe, even if the public doesn’t always recognize his efforts. “Much of our work is undercover and we can’t say much about it. But I’m very proud to do it,” he says. “Usually around the 9/11 anniversary, we’ll get a ‘thank you’ from people in the know: the pilots, crews, people that work at the airports. That always means a lot to us.”

When Onyekelu-Eze mentors students, he offers this advice: remain flexible and open to learning. “Apply your energy to the endeavors that will lead you to completing your goals,” he says. “I ask all my mentees the same question: What do you want your life to look like 10 years from now? Once you figure that out, take the appropriate steps, find the time, put in the work, be willing to make mistakes, and watch all your goals come to life.”

Contents

Remembering Our Heroes

Looking back on 9/11 two decades after the tragedy. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Improving Mental Health Behind Bars

Virginia Barber-Rioja’s, Ph.D.,’02, ’09 passion for psychology and law helps system-impacted individuals with mental health challenges. By Shirley Del Valle

President’s Letter

“We’re living through challenging times.” I’ve found myself writing, saying, and contemplating those five words countless times this year.

President
Karol V. Mason

Chief Communication Officer
Kira Poplowski, Ph.D.

Editorial Director
Andrea Dawn Clark

Writer/Editor
Shirley Del Valle

Creative Director
Laura DeVries

Web Developer
Chunhui Meng

Web Producer
Anh Phan