Jathikaa Pushparajah seeks a new start in a new country
May 12, 2017
Throughout her teenage years, Jathikaa Pushparajah always felt that she was capable of more.
The now-24-year-old, who graduates this month from Cuyahoga Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice, wanted to succeed. She wanted a college education, to find a purpose in life. But personal and family-related issues always seemed to get in the way.
She soon realized that as long as she stayed in her hometown of Toronto, the same problems would continue to sidetrack her.
Pushparajah – called “Jats” by her friends – was born in Dubai and raised in Canada, but she is of Sri Lankan descent and still has many relatives living in the South Asian island nation. She decided to travel to Sri Lanka in 2014, spending six months living with her extended family.
“It was an opportunity to reflect on what was really important to me,” she said. “I was always interested in law. I had seen people back home drift in and out of the justice system, and I decided I wanted to do what I could to try and help those people not become repeat offenders.”
Pushparajah returned to Toronto with a newfound interest in becoming a juvenile probation officer. But after enduring an unsuccessful semester at a Toronto-area college, she knew she had to find a college away from home.
As she had during her six-month trip to Sri Lanka, Pushparajah once again sought out extended family. This time, she was welcomed to stay with a cousin in the Cleveland area, and subsequently enrolled in the criminal justice program at Tri-C in 2015.
Almost immediately, Tri-C provided Pushparajah with the structure and encouragement she needed to pursue a criminal justice degree.
“The professors here go out of their way to help you,” she said. “They make sure you understand the material and that you have what you need to get your assignments done on time. They do whatever they can as far as connecting you with job opportunities or transferring to a four-year school.”
Later in her Tri-C career, Pushparajah ventured beyond her studies to become involved in extracurricular activities. During the 2017 spring semester, she served as a student ambassador at the Eastern Campus, assisting other students in finding academic help and services.
“The best thing about being at Tri-C for me is there are no distractions,” she said. “I can focus on school and schoolwork. I’m still kind of adjusting to being away from home for this long, but this was definitely the right move and the right school for me.”
Pushparajah aims to transfer to a four-year school by next January, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“I’m proof that you can get out of a difficult situation and better yourself, and there are so many other students here who have done the exact same thing,” she said. “If you really want to go after something, go for it. Once you have an education, it never goes away. It’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life.”
Throughout the month, we will be highlighting members of this spring's Tri-C graduating class. Click here to read more of their stories.