Feature Stories

She Was Born to Lead

Daisy Gallegos will received a Presidential Leadership Award during Convocation.

When she was just a child, starting around age five, Daisy Gallegos would translate for her parents. They had immigrated to America from Ecuador and didn’t speak English, which Daisy had learned in preschool.  So when the family went to a store, Daisy would speak for them.  Or when they needed to pay a bill, Daisy would translate the English into Spanish for them.

“My parents didn’t know a word of English,” recalls Daisy, who is now doing a master’s degree in information technology at NJIT. 

Sometimes, being born into an immigrant family forces a child to mature early and to assume leadership roles in the family.  It was that way for Daisy, and it paid off handsomely.

Her family settled in Jersey City and Daisy went to the local public schools.  Her high school, Dickinson, had a rough reputation, but that didn’t faze her.

At Dickinson she belonged to a magnet program, the Academy of Information Technology.  She took all honor classes and joined the swim team and the track team.

Tellingly, in high school she started taking on leadership roles.  She joined the school’s technology society and worked as an ambassador for the Information Technology (IT) program.  She graduated at the top of her senior class and was accepted into the college of her choice: NJIT.

Daily excelled at NJIT. As an undergraduate she had several leadership jobs. She was president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the student chapter, as well as treasurer for the Society of Women Engineers. She co-captained the women’s cross country team and belonged to Phi Eta Sigma, the freshman honors society and to Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society.  She worked as a tutor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), helping EOP students learn English and Computer Science.

Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. This week, NJIT will recognize Daisy’s volunteer work during its annual Convocation ceremony, when it gives her a Presidential Leadership Award. The award honors student leaders who have enhanced campus life.

“I loved holding leadership positions,” said Daisy. “It's fun working with teams of people who are all aiming to accomplish the same goals. I don't only take pride in my own success, but I value the success of my team members even more. Knowing that I made a positive difference in their lives is a great feeling!”

Daisy also worked during her undergraduate years, accumulating some invaluable professional experience.  She had two internships: one at AT&T in Middletown, N.J., where she worked as a project manager in the IT department, and a second at the Vanguard Group in Malvern, Pa., where she worked one summer as a security operations analyst and a second summer as a mobile application developer.

Daisy, who in May of 2011 earned a bachelor’s degree in IT, was the first in her family to graduate from college. And when she finishes her master’s degree, she can look forward to a bright future. Her parents eventually want to return to their homeland, Ecuador, says Daisy. They are staying in America a few more years to help her through graduate school.

“Then when I’m working and have a good career,” says Daisy, “I’ll help my parents financially so that they can return to Ecuador and enjoy their lives. They worked hard at low-income jobs to help me, so of course I’ll help them as soon as I can.”

(By Robert Florida)