Jenni Berrios knew since high school that she wanted to be a photojournalist. The major wasn’t offered at Ursinus College, but Berrios created it not only because she wanted to study it but because of its importance in representing current events. Berrios is also majoring in Spanish even though she has always been fluent. She learned the language auditorily and wanted to learn it structurally to improve her speaking and writing skills. Berrios is completing a minor in Peach and Social Justice.
“As a person of color, racism has been a personal topic to me. It is a topic I find myself capturing in my photography. I explored the topic of Racism in photography in high school, where I captured the environmental racism and the poor education system that exists in my [Dallas, Texas] area. This project made me realize the potential of my art being a form of activism. From then on, I wanted to learn more about the potential of photography and how it can benefit the Latinx community.”
Berrios plans to apply for a Watson Fellowship that would allow her to do independent research abroad for one year following her graduation in 2022.
At Ursinus, Berrios serves as the photography editor for the student newspaper, The Grizzly. She is a member of Tau Sigma Gamma, a sorority whose focus is leadership, community service, and scholastic success.
As a participant in the college’s Bonner Program, Berrios is a Bonner Leader. According to Ursinus’s website, the mission of the program is to “transform the lives of students and members, their campuses, their local communities, and the world through service and leadership.” One of the key elements of the program is that members must complete 10 hours of community service per week. Berrios volunteers as a teacher with the Center for Culture, Art, Training, and Education (CCATE), an organization in Norristown, Pennsylvania that strives to “ignite social transformation developing the talents and empowering the Latinx community through education, culture, art, technology, health and science.” In her role, Berrios provides support to Latinx high school students in preparation for college. She also works with the organization’s photography club and encourages the students and their parents to get creative in storytelling.
As a POC (person of color), Berrios has talked with white students about microaggressions and the damage they bring to the Ursinus community. She has also initiated discussions about race to the Bonner class. Berrios said that these educational conversations do not always unfold as planned.
“I have had conversations with white students about how their actions are painful and make me uncomfortable,” Berrios said. “These conversations have been private, but at the end they always excuse their mental health and I feel like I have to aid them. The conversation never goes how I expected it. I also feel like I have to be careful how I word things because I don’t want people to think that I am being aggressive or get defensive when I call them out on their white privilege.”
If she could have one wish granted, Berrios would wish for more time in Spain. She studied abroad there in the spring 2020 semester, but the program was curtailed because of COVID.
Her wish for the world is for a heightened respect for differing cultures and spaces. She dislikes the American government’s involvement in other countries which often results in taking their resources and controlling their government.
Her favorite thing to do in leisure time is to hang out with friends and paint together. The top item on her bucket list is to live in a van and travel the country.