Justin Vega: More than Meets the Eye

By Mary Ogunji

Sixteen year-old Justin Vega has high ambitions: he wants to rule the world, or if that doesn’t work out, he would like to be a writer.

The first time you meet Vega you immediately sense his striking personality. He is very passionate and confident and friends say he is very straightforward and blunt.

For instance, you can sense his passion, for his education, when he starts talking about his obsession with Stony Brook University.

“If the administrators tell me I’m not getting into Stony Brook,“ he says, starting to consider the possibility. “No no no I’m going there.”   No matter what happens, he is determined to get into Stony Brook.

A rising senior at Lehman high school, Vega is prone to making bad decisions like any other teenager, he says, and he likes to play around and joke. However he is serious about his academic performance and determined to pass his SATs, the Scholastic Assessment Test for college admissions, to qualify for acceptance to Stony Brook.

When asked about the SATs he has a piece of advice: when choosing the historical context topic, choose three topics beforehand  and make sure the Holocaust is one of them. “The Holocaust is always the best to use,” he says, explaining that the Holocaust is one of the easiest topics on the test.

Not only does Vega spend his time preparing for his SATs, he also hangs out with friends, watches TV, occasionally draws, uses the internet, reads, listens to music and plays video games.

His favorite music is Indie music and his favorite artists are Lana del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds.

When it comes to what is on TV he enjoys watching shows like “Teen wolf,” “Supernatural,” “Orphan Black” and “Doctor Who.”

When he picks a book to read it is usually fantasy and his favorite kind of stories are  the ones in which the main characters are going through some type of issue and have to find a way to fix it. He also likes “intellectual and articulate love stories,” he says.

When asked where he would like to travel to, Vega jokes, “an abandoned place with great internet access.”

Vega especially enjoys using the internet to blog. “Blogs are for fun,” he says, “ when I blog I’m exposed to new vocabulary and new topics.” Although blogging is a hobby for him, it is also a way to strengthen his writing.

Vega is an only child, but he says he has his friends to keep him company.

He admits friends call him “ratchet” and loves to “piss off friends by making lots of pawns.” He adds, “I let my friends know when they are slipping,” referring to how he jokes with them.

In an interview, friend Candace Pedraza  describes Vega  as “outgoing, loud, sassy and funny,” but also says, “he doesn’t really go out much.”

Pedraza and Vega have known each other for eight years now because “we have had so many classes together,” she says,  but they have been  friends for three years and best friends for  one year. They became best friends because they were in the same program, Peer Group Connection (PGC), over the summer. “We  were partners in mentoring freshman students in the program,” Pedraza says.

Mentoring students comes naturally for Vega, who loves going to school.

His favorite teachers are Mr. Serena and Ms. Matthews, his English teacher. He thinks of Ms. Matthews as a straightforward teacher and he likes her for that. “She calls out kids when they are being ridiculous,” he says, adding that he likes Mr. Serena because he “favors” him.

Vega can be sassy, especially when it comes to food.  “Don’t play with me when it comes to food, I will cut something or someone,” he jokes. He also talked about his desire to run his own country: a place where the main exports would be books and main import would be food, he says. “I love food!” he exclaims.

Something else he loves is games, especially cards. His friend Pedraza says they like playing cards during lunch break. “Justin and I and four other friends go to the library. We don’t really eat sometimes and don’t really do homework either, but play cards instead,” she says, and adds, “Justin is very competitive. He fights over card games.”

Vega also shows his competitive spirit in Badminton. “I don’t really like sports, but the sports I like are the sports I’m good at,” he says.

The ambitious and self-confident teenager has grand plans for the future, but is ironic about it. When asked about his post-school plans, he jokingly replies, “That’s the death question.”

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