Personality profile: LaJenne Alcantar
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 22:09
When LaJenné Alcantar started preschool, she made a deal with the teacher. Because she hated naps, she would lie down until the other students fell asleep and then help the teacher with different tasks. Later, in kindergarten at a Christian school, the teacher was talking to the class about the Sabbath as the day of rest, and Alcantar asked, “If the Sabbath is for rest then how come I have to get up for church in the morning?” Alcantar was a difficult, yet extremely inquisitive child. She was always asking questions.
She is still asking questions. That inquisitive quality has helped her into the position she is today.
Alcantar grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, in Harvey and Riverdale, and then later in Chicago Heights. Although she did not grow up in “the best” neighborhood, she said she is grateful because it helped shape the way she views things.
“I was still in a sense privileged because I didn’t have to live in the Ida B. Wells vertical housing project, but I’m happy I grew up in that because it let me know what the real world is,” Alcantar said.
Alcantar was introduced to Langston Hughes and Bob Marley at a very young age by her mother. Her house was filled with African American history. In high school, she considered herself a scholar on the Black Panther party because she researched the party so much.
Since a bout of stagefright shut down her childhood dream of being a singer, Alcantar’s goal is to be a tenured professor at a university well-acclaimed for its history program, such as Northwestern University or the University of Chicago. She knows it will take work, but she’s confident that she will make it.
Alcantar attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., for a year until the stock market crash of 2008, when her scholarships fell through and she had to pay out of pocket just to get her transcripts to transfer to PUC, where she now a junior with a double major in English Literature and History.
“I’m not going to lie, I basically had a grudge at PUC for the first semester… but since then I’ve gotten a lot better. It’s a lot easier when you find people that you like and that you’re friends with,” Alcantar said.
Alcantar is a McNair scholar, and she spent the summer working on a research project for the McNair program on women in the Black Panther party and their influence on the organization. She is in the editing process of her paper now and relieved that the bulk of the work is over.
“Even though it was a lot I am okay with it because it was a labor of love. I am obsessed with women, I’m obsessed with feminism, I love African American history, and my paper was everything about that. It’s just 30 pages of love,” Alcantar said.
Professor of Sociology Alan Spector and Akili Shakur, director of PUC’s Boots to Books program are Alcantar’s mentors.
Alcantar is a part of the Social Justice Club, and she expresses extreme interest in the emergence of a feminist club on campus.
Alcantar loves good sushi, reading and watching documentaries.
Her reading list at the moment consists of “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Danesovich” for her Nobel literature class, and “Ain’t I A Woman?” by bell hooks.
“You have to make the university work for you. You’re not going to have a college experience if you literally just go to class and go home,” Alcantar said. “You’ve got to try. It’s not just going to fall in your lap.”