Rene Jovel doesn't forget where he came from: "I'm the son of an immigrant from a war-torn country, and I'm going to school at Northwestern."
The political science major in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences grew up in the Highland Park neighborhood in east Los Angeles, where he learned resilience and never giving up. He picked up that mentality from his mother.
"My mom came to the United States from El Salvador, became a legal resident and has been cleaning houses since she arrived," he says. "She did everything she could so I could go to this school."
Jovel took full advantage from the beginning of his Northwestern opportunity. He served as an Associated Student Government senator and president of Jones Fine and Performing Arts Residential College. He worked to establish himself as a leader in the Latino community on campus. His efforts as the Latino studies program chair in Alianza helped pave the way for a new Latina and Latino studies major at Northwestern.
But he wanted to be more than "that Latino guy," Jovel says. "I wanted to have an impact on the larger community. I wanted to be more."
And he has. Jovel is best known as the masked Wildcat football fan in the front row at Ryan Field. He wore a purple wrestling mask, belt and cape to nearly every football game, home or away. He says he wanted to show national college football audiences that Northwestern has diehard, crazy fans, too.
Jovel didn't come to Northwestern as a college football fan. That all changed when he stepped onto a Big Ten football campus.
College football provides a unique fan experience, Jovel says. "Getting up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, tailgating, sitting out in the freezing cold and taking road trips, I'm going to miss it all."
Jovel's crowning accomplishment came last fall when he won Homecoming king alongside queen Shauna Perlman, a School of Communication senior. He received a majority of the student vote after being nominated by a selection committee.
He says actually stepping onto the field to receive the crown was the highlight of his four years in Evanston.
After graduation Jovel will work as a legal assistant with Kempster, Keller & Lenz-Calvo, a Chicago law firm that specializes in immigration law. He wants to gain experience before applying to law school, hoping that career can lead to his long-term goal of becoming a U.S. senator down the road.
And one day, he says, he'll return to Los Angeles — but not yet. He still has lots to discover here.
"We spend most of our time here in Evanston in our own little bubble of safety and purple," Jovel says. He's ready to break that bubble with a move to neighboring Rogers Park, a Chicago neighborhood on the Far North Side that reminds him of his childhood home. He'll spend the short-term future exploring Chicago to determine where he's headed next.
— Marcelino Benito (J10)