Janessa Bonti ’14
Janessa Bonti ’14 knows firsthand the need for improved health care access in her medically underserved Bronx neighborhood—and plans to do something about it. The Falk College nutrition science major’s career goal is to become a physician in private practice and open a clinic in her home borough.
“Many adults in my neighborhood have no health insurance, no access to doctors, and a lot of ailments,” she says. “Obesity is a major problem, and I want to help people with weight management. That’s why I majored in nutrition science at Syracuse. Most medical schools in the United States offer only a general overview course, and it isn’t enough. How can you give someone weight-loss advice when you’ve taken only one class?”
As a junior, Bonti’s interest in operating her own clinic led her to become an IDEA Connector, one of a group of students from almost every SU school and college dedicated to igniting entrepreneurship across campus. “I was chosen because the coordinators hoped I would interest other pre-med students—who do not typically venture out into the business world—in entrepreneurship,” she says. “Looking to the future, I wanted to learn all I could about how to run my own business.”
As a 2013-14 Remembrance Scholar, she has learned all she can about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. Bonti’s scholarship is in the name of Theodora Cohen, one of 35 SU students killed in the act of terrorism. “After reading about all the victims, Theodora really stood out to me,” Bonti says. “I’m an only child, like she was, so I can relate to her. She was so driven, always wanting to be the best she could be. It’s heartbreaking that her life was cut short, and I am so honored to represent her.”
Bonti, too, has that inner drive to succeed. The first person from her family to go to college, she credits her mother with instilling in her a strong work ethic, and her religious faith with the strength to meet academic and personal challenges. “I’m grateful for the support I get from my mom and my faith—they have helped me persevere when I’m faced with difficult classes and choices,” she says. During her first year at SU, Bonti searched for a faith family on campus, but didn’t find one that fulfilled her needs. So the next year, she and a friend decided to start their own Pentecostal Student Association ministry at Hendricks Chapel. Other students expressed interest, and this year, the group found space off campus for worship.
Amazed by all she’s accomplished at Syracuse, Bonti is thankful for the opportunity to attend SU. “At first, I was intimidated about coming here, because I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. Assistance from the Office of Supportive Services and a Summer Start experience before she began her first year helped her acclimate to her new surroundings. “I was able to meet other students and make connections, which made all the difference,” she says. To give other new arrivals the same kind of welcome experience, Bonti has served as an orientation leader. “I’ve had a lot of mentors at SU,” she says. “So why not give back and help others?"