ASUWT President Jai'Shon Berry took his mother's words to heart: renew your commitment every single day and work hard for it.
June 2023 update since this story was originally published:
Jai'Shon Berry and Exita Lealofi met four years ago at UW Tacoma. They didn't quite hit it off, but the did eventually become best friends. Recently they recorded an episode of Paw'd Defiance, the UW Tacoma podcast.
Making a difference can be hard. In a university context, this involves providing students with tools and resources they need to be successful. The process takes time and effort & sometimes a lot of both. Fortunately, ASUWT President Jai’Shon Berry is up to the challenge.
Berry’s path to UW Tacoma has not been a straight one. “Like anybody else, I’m human and life has been one of my biggest challenges,” Berry explains, “For example, I’m the sole provider for my family right now. Dealing with that as well as all the stress and struggles of being a student leader definitely makes it challenging sometimes.”
Berry's initial steps down the path of student leadership happened in high school when he was elected treasurer of the student body. His mother adamantly informed him that “It’s not going to be easy,” and that, “If you really want to be involved in school in such a way, you will have to commit every single day and work hard for it.”
Berry took his mother’s words to heart.
Berry went to college straight out of high school. He was originally ambivalent about attending UW Tacoma due to its small size. Berry changed his mind after getting the opportunity to sit in on a class.
“I saw how tight-knit the class was and how the professor called each student by name instead of assuming that student was just a number,” he said. “I got to see how the professor understood the students and all of their different situations, that they all have different lives and they’re not just students — they’re parents, uncles, aunties, grandparents, brothers, daughters, and so many different things. I just fell in love with the community of UW Tacoma.”
Throughout his freshman and sophomore years, Berry maintained a complex school-life balance. But once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Berry found himself having to pivot and make adjustments. After many conversations with his admissions counselor, he declared a major in communication with a minor in business administration.
“I have a lot of supporters including my supervisors as well as a lot of my professors,” he said. “I’ve noticed a lot of the professors here at UW Tacoma want to make sure students have the opportunity to succeed and make sure that we’re able to meet deadlines and pass classes.”
Now in his senior year, Berry continues to balance academics and a variety of roles in student leadership. In his sophomore year, Berry began work as a Pack Advisor, a position he held for two years. During his time at UW Tacoma Berry has also served as a ASUWT Senator and an ACCESS Ambassador, the latter is a position that teaches K-12 students about different college majors. In 2020, he was recognized as Student Employee of the Year. In 2021, Berry took on the role of ASUWT Vice President.
Berry has also been a part of many Registered Student Organizations (RSO), one of them being the Pacific Islander Student Alliance (PISA). Working with PISA has led him to leadership roles outside campus and into the surrounding community.
This year, Berry is serving UW Tacoma students as the ASUWT President. “Not only do I want to help students, I want to help underrepresented students,” he said. “A lot of the things that my team and I are working on have to do with supporting underrepresented students, working with housing inequalities, childcare on campus, and bringing paid positions to DACA recipients and undocumented students, as examples.”
Berry’s dedication and commitment to student success are rooted in collaboration and solidarity. Drawing on support from mentors and professors and providing support to his fellow students, Berry is ready to tackle the upcoming school year — and even the future.
“In the immediate future, I plan to attend graduate school,” he said. “My top choice is the master’s program in entrepreneurship at UW in Seattle. After that, I want to start a food truck or restaurant and then eventually talk with friends, see their ideas and entrepreneurial goals, and try to figure out how we can work together to help each other succeed. I’m a big believer that no one person can make it through this world alone. We need as much help as we can get — we need to not only reach forward, but also reach back. Support those who are supporting us.”
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