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Meet Jasmine McLeod of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jasmine McLeod.

Jasmine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am where I am today because of the forensics team at CSULB. I am the first person in my family to ever go to college, let alone graduate school. When I was in undergrad I had no intentions of going to graduate school, frankly, I didn’t think I was smart enough to get through any program. I never struggled in school, yet somehow I doubted myself. Joining the Speech Team (Forensics), helped me find my voice. It gave me a platform for advocacy. It gave me an audience to talk about things that were happening in the Black community and people listened! With my success and the through the encouragement of my coaches and friends, I felt that I had a message that needed to be heard. This also made me realize that I was given a gift and an opportunity that most people are never granted. I felt that it was my obligation to pass that gift forward.

Before I began my journey at Mt. San Antonio College (Mt.SAC), I worked at Fullerton College as an Outreach Coordinator for the Umoja program. Umoja is a community and critical resource dedicated to enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of African American and other students. Umoja believes that when the voices and histories of students are deliberately and intentionally recognized, the opportunity for self-efficacy emerges and a foundation is formed for academic success. I worked for the program for two years. During my time I was able to counsel students and run cultural workshops such as; Black girl Magic and Natural Black hair.

I was then offered a temporary full-time position to coach the forensics team at Mt. SAC, as well as teach. Many of the students I serve are people of color. I always knew that representation was important. However, it stood out the most when a young African American woman came up to me and said ” I have never had a Black teach before, let alone a Black woman teacher. This makes me believe I can finish college.” This changed me. I knew that being a coach and a professor, that being present was bigger than just myself. Many of the students on my team had a similar experience; there had been absent in diversity when it came to race, yet the very students we serve are diverse.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My journey has not been a smooth road. One of the biggest struggles that I dealt with is financial instability. My parents had three other children at home and I moved away for school. At the time you could not receive EBT if you were a student. There were times where I was starving, times when I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent or make it work. You maybe wondering why didn’t you just try to get financial aid or scholarships. I received a few low paying scholarships but the higher paying ones are very competitive. As far as financial Aid, on paper, it seemed like my parents made a lot of money, but what it didn’t reflect is both my dad and sister have diabetes and even with insurance the medicine and doctor visits add up. My brother also at the time had kidney failure and my parents were in and out of the hospital because of it.

Lastly, there were times where I wanted to give up. Unfortunately, during graduate school, my partner developed a drug dependency problem. This tool is a mental, physical and financial hold of me. I fell into a depression and it was hard for me to get through the second half of graduate school. However, thank you my network of support I was able to break away from that toxic relationship and regain my life.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Mt. San Antonio College is proud to have one of the nation’s most unique community college forensics programs. The Mt. SAC Forensics Team has earned an unprecedented 10 national speech titles at American Forensics Association’s national tournaments and is the only community college team in the nation to place in the Top Ten, which it has done for more than 15 years.

I specialize in putting together oral interpretation; Dramatic Interpretation, Prose interpretation, Poetry Interpretation, Program Oral interpretation DUO, Readers Theatre.

I think what we are most proud of is putting together speeches that challenge people to think about the social and political injustices that are currently happening. For example, one of our best event I put up with the help of another coach was a Readers Theatre that informed and framed the implications the 13 amendments has on Black Men.

What were you like growing up?
I think I am biased, so I will go off of what other people say about me.

I was active, my dad made sure that we were always doing something outside. I was always in sports, plays or band. I played softball, basketball and ran cross-country. I played the clarinet for 7 years. I was in band all two years of middle school and three years in high school.

I was a part of several clubs in high school and made friends with nearly everyone.

My teachers used to say that I was tough ( I still speak to some of them to this day). They noticed that I never took mess from anyone. I always made decisions even if I didn’t know how they would turn out.

From a young age, I was doing speech competitions, it’s probably why I love to speak so much. I tried out and was in every play in my high school.

Some say, that I am wise and others say that I have a goofy personality. I think that there is room for both.

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