Jenna Calderon, a senior at the Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island, is concluding her four years at the Willowbrook school with a classical guitar senior recital. (Photo Courtesy of the Calderon Family.)

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – The education Jenna Calderon received through The City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island (CSI) was music to her mind.

Ms. Calderon, a Midland Beach resident and senior at CSI, graduated from Staten Island Technical High School four years ago and enrolled at the Willowbrook college because it seemed like a good opportunity to stay home while getting a really good education.

She’s a Music major who specializes in classical guitar and was preparing for her senior recital when the Advance caught up with her.

“That’s the culmination for all the work I’ve been doing for the last four years,” the young woman said.

It’s her version of the typical senior thesis.

In her studies, Ms. Calderon was able to learn about what New York City has to offer, scientifically, in the arts, its people, and its future.

One topic highlighted was the music that stemmed from the Big Apple. She studied it her first semester of college.

“We did a lot on New York City bands,” she said, citing Sonic Youth and The Velvet Underground. “I got really into that because I’m a musician.”

Her science studies included tree coring in Palisades Park, NJ, and a project on how it relates to global warming.

As most students presented data and details to peers at the same school, Ms. Calderon chose to travel west, and, along with other classmates, discussed her research at the University of Montana last April.

“It was huge,” she said, adding that college students from across the country participated in the National Conference for Underground Research (NCUR). “That was a lot of fun. It was definitely something different.”

Her experiences in the Macaulay Honors College didn’t end there, as she was able to study abroad in Paris, where she learned French.

“It was definitely intense. I came out of there learning a lot in just a month,” she said. “I’ve been able to explore a lot of things.”

The Math minor, at one point, debated choosing the subject as her major, but wasn’t sure if she’d be fully satisfied.

Through the assistance of her advisor, Ms. Calderon was able to pick the field she knew would fit her perfectly.

“They’ve definitely been very involved,” she said of the Macaulay staff. “My adviser always wants to know what’s going on. She’s kept up with me. She helped me decide my path.”

The Macaulay faculty has been very supportive of her, she said, and helpful in preparing for the future.

After graduation, Ms. Calderon will attend Teachers College, Columbia University, in Manhattan.

“They do a lot for you, but you still have the opportunity to do your own thing and get involved. They don’t hold you back,” she said. “They definitely encouraged me to branch out beyond Macaulay.”

This story appeared first in the Staten Island Advance on May 19, 2011, and is reprinted here with permission.