Taylor Jackson and Alejandro Perez: Community, Collaboration, Commitment The CAB member and newly elected Student Assembly senator seek to lend an outsider's perspective to UGBC.

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he’s felt a connection to Boston College her whole life. She’s a legacy who grew up merely 40 minutes from Chestnut Hill. Her mother graduated in 1998, and her grandfather worked on the janitorial staff. She knows every inch of campus—besides the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC). But that’s no deterrent for Taylor Jackson, MCAS ’21, who hopes her fresh eyes and outsider status will be an asset to her presidency.

Her running mate, Alejandro Perez, MCAS ’21, has believed in Jackson from the moment he met her.

Their paths crossed early in their first year at BC—Jackson and Perez met through BC’s Emerging Leader Program (ELP), a mentorship and development program which accepts 50 students during their freshman year. The two remained friends into their sophomore year, and when Jackson reached out to Perez with the opportunity to join her team, she had his unwavering vote of confidence.

“I was like, ‘Absolutely,’ no hesitation,” Perez said. “Because Taylor is someone who I look up to a lot. She has this large network of people who can really vouch for her throughout this campus. Everyone that I told I was running with Taylor Jackson, [was] like, ‘Taylor Jackson!’ They immediately knew who Taylor was.”

Hailing from Boston’s South Shore, Jackson has never been far from BC. A formative moment of her adolescence—one in which she was forced to confront her identity and rectify what she saw herself as in comparison to what others saw—came early on.

In a fight with a kindergarten classmate, Jackson was called a “blacktop,” a racist epithet spoken by a clueless five-year-old. Still, the careless remark remains one of the most significant experiences of Jackson’s early years.

“That was one of the most defining moments I had,” said Jackson. “Just realizing part of my own identity, and then understanding how to cope with conflict. And then going to school the next day, and having to still be her friend.”

When it came time to make her college decision, Jackson nearly missed the 11:59 p.m. cut-off in choosing to attend BC over Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

“I ultimately chose BC because it’s kind of a family school for me, and I grew up here, and I’ve always felt comfortable on campus,” Jackson said. “So I knew, going here, [that] even if I didn’t love it, I’d be comfortable here, and I’d grow to love it, which I totally did,” said Jackson.

She soon immersed herself in several clubs and extracurriculars on campus. One of the first organizations she joined was the Campus Activities Board (CAB), where she now works in the Campus Engagement Center to plan events such as bingo, movie nights, and the BC Boardwalk.

“And I remember thinking to myself, at five years old, I was like, ‘Where do I fit in this scale?’” Alejandro Perez, MCAS '21

Jackson is also a proud member of the Committee for Creative Enactments (CCE), an improv group, as well as the dance troupe BC Full Swing. When she’s not unleashing her creative energy, Jackson is uplifting the women around her through her participation in Thrive.

“She definitely is super hard-working, super diligent—she’s involved in so many things on campus and gives everything her all,” said Meredith Sullivan, MCAS ’22 and Jackson’s CAB mentee. “It’s amazing to see and she’s super passionate about everything she does. She’s not just doing these things to get involved … and it’s super inspirational.”

One organization Jackson didn’t join, however, was UGBC. Her introduction to the Student Assembly (SA) arrived in tandem with her decision to run for UGBC president.

Perez remembers the day he sat in his kindergarten classroom on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as the first time he confronted his Hispanic identity, when Perez’s teacher instructed students to organize themselves into different groups based on their racial identities.

“She basically said, ‘If you identify as black, get on this side of the room, as white, on the other side of the room,’” said Perez. “And I remember thinking to myself, at five years old, I was like, ‘Where do I fit in this scale?’”

To this day, Perez reflects on the experience—he credits it as a formative one. Yet this feeling of uncertainty followed Perez throughout his adolescence, as he wondered why he was forced to fit into a box but didn’t feel like he belonged in any of them. He mentioned standardized tests, specifically the preliminary question of whether or not someone identifies as Hispanic or Latino—one that is separate from the ensuing race boxes that every student is expected to fill in. After checking this box, Perez faced confusion as to how he should categorize himself racially.

“Hispanic [is] not a race, so all you really have are your options of white, black, Pacific Islander, Native American, and I just feel weird not knowing where to go on that scale,” said Perez.

Perez grew up slightly farther from the Heights than his running mate: He was raised in Providence, R.I., while his parents are both from Colombia.

When Perez was in high school, he participated in the Keith A. Francis AHANA Weekend, an overnight event which provides admitted students with a sampling of the opportunities and extracurricular activities that BC has to offer. Over the weekend, all of the prospective freshmen in attendance piled into one room in the Yawkey Center to hear from administrators who waxed poetic about how BC would soon start to feel like a second home.

“At that point, it really didn’t feel like that for me,” Perez said. “They had invited like 50 or 60 AHANA kids, but could I really fit into the community like this?”

At the end of the day, it was a fellow student—not an administrator—who most influenced Perez’s decision to attend BC. The then-newly elected UGBC President Akosua Achampong, BC ’18, gave a powerful speech and assured AHANA+ students that their community was tightly-knit and resolutely supportive. That speech was ultimately why Perez chose BC, and its inclusive message is one he hopes to emulate if elected as UGBC’s Executive Vice President.

So this year, it just seemed more tangible—I had found my footing on campus.” Taylor Jackson, MCAS '21

Perez is no stranger to student body leadership. During high school, Perez also served as prefect, the equivalent to the student body president. Hoping to capitalize on this momentum by representing his fellow BC students, Perez unsuccessfully ran to be a senator in the Student Assembly in the fall of his freshman year. But this one mishap did little to hinder Perez’s desire to be a leader on campus.

“That’s really why I decided to get involved with it—I wasn’t going to give up after losing out that first time,” said Perez. “I really wanted to give it a second go because I’m not a quitter. So I gave it a second try, and I ended up winning that election, and for that I’m very grateful.”

Jackson notably did not partake in any of these experiences. While she’d been interested in joining student government since high school, Jackson didn’t have the courage to do so until this year.

“I originally decided to run because in high school I was scared to do everything, and I was like ‘Oh, I can’t do it, I’m gonna fail,’” Jackson said. “Last year, I was like, ‘Oh, I should totally run before I graduate,’ but I was like, ‘Oh, I’m too scared, I can’t do it.’ So this year, it just seemed more tangible—I had found my footing on campus.”

With Perez and Elizabeth LoPreiato, MCAS ’21 and the duo’s campaign manager, already on board, the team came together seamlessly. Perez was driven to run because he’s an RA in the Duchesne community on Newton Campus. He’s grateful to them for the inspiration they provide—if elected, Perez hopes to expand his efforts to bring people together to the student body as a whole.

“He passionately cares,” said Ana Luque, LSEHD ’21, who works in the Office of Student Involvement alongside Perez. “He really wants to make an impact. … I feel like he would really go out of his way to make sure he does what he’s promising and take it a step further, and just really live by what he says he’s going to do.”

Broadly, Jackson and Perez categorize their platform in terms of three “C’s:” community, collaboration, and commitment.

One of their major initiatives is to offer new opportunities for students to connect with others by expanding the scope of the Compass Mentoring Program, a program for freshman AHANA+ students, to include local high schools. This would involve sending BC students from the AHANA+ community to visit local high schools to draw in a more diverse student body.

Additionally, the two want to establish a pen-pal program, coined “Flight,” which would link current BC students to high school seniors. These BC mentors would advise the high school students throughout their application process to BC—such as the BC student explaining how he or she went about completing a supplemental essay on the application. Ideally, this person would continue to be a resource for the applicant as he or she becomes a student and serves as an older mentor to guide the new student during his or her initial months on campus.

This initiative overlooks the confidentiality of the application base and UGBC’s lack of accessibility. Jackson and Perez believe it could potentially result in a higher number of accepting students, particularly members of the AHANA+ community and provide inclusivity and support to new members of the freshman class.

As for students who already attend BC, they want to improve upon pre-existing community-building initiatives. The Campus of Difference workshops—which the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) pioneered last year with the Student Programs Office and the Office of Residential Life—involved students conducting mandatory cultural competency workshops with the residents of selected freshman residence halls such as Medeiros, Cheverus, and Kostka.

If elected, the two hope to expand the scope of these workshops to reach most, if not all, of the student body. They cited bringing these conversations about race, diversity, and inclusion to the sophomore and senior areas on campus, as well as expanding them within the freshman area.

“That’s something we really want to emphasize, that we’re really pushing the agenda of students more than our own, because we have their interests in our minds when we’re running for these positions.”
Alejandro Perez, MCAS '21

Perez, who works for the BAIC as a Bowman Advocate for Inclusive Culture, noted that the office is currently working to reformulate these cultural competency workshops to make them more interactive. Jackson and Perez are in support of this. They believe the format should be changed from comprising mainly statistics to more personal stories that will resonate more strongly with students.

“I know when I did DiversityEdu, like, I did it, and I paid attention, but I didn’t really retain it,” Jackson said. “So I think doing something in person, or something tangible, you can hold, or hear, or see, will definitely go further than an online program.”

Additionally, they want to implement a training module for senators in the Student Assembly, which would be formulated with the Bowman Center, and would be similar to pre-existing exercises currently offered in the BAIC office based on anti-bias education guidelines by Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“We haven’t really talked about it too, too much, but it would be different than DiversityEdu as far as, I think it’d be more helpful to have faculty members or alumni or speakers come in and talk to respective RA’s, or group leaders, or senators, and say, ‘Here’s what helped me, or here’s something that happened to me that I didn’t appreciate,’ or ‘Here’s my story, and this is how it can relate to other people,’” said Jackson.

Jackson and Perez have continually emphasized their desire to create “spaces for change” on campus. Ultimately, they’re pushing for the creation of a student center, though they realize that this will not be feasible under their tenure. It also falls under the jurisdiction of the administration. In the meantime, they want to make it known to students that there are spaces which currently exist around campus.

“One that is currently in use right now is the UGBC office over in Carney—that is a safe space for anyone who’s willing to use it,” said Perez.

In terms of creating a new space, Jackson and Perez want to initiate a pride summit similar to the Women’s Summit for BC’s LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m not sure how feasible it is, because we just thought of it today [Feb. 6],” Jackson said. “But I think as we have the Women’s Summit [which] just passed, I want to say this past weekend, I volunteered at it, and a lot of the participants were saying, ‘This is an amazing experience, I came last year,’ and it’s one of the reasons they chose to stay at BC is because they went there.”

Regarding the administration, Jackson and Perez want to aim for a “revolving door” relationship in which the two bodies can have an open, continuous dialogue. One example the two cited was the University’s decision to switch from Early Action to Early Decision in the application process.

“This isn’t something we can specifically change, but we just want the administration to take a second look at this, because we don’t think it’s right,” Perez said. “That’s a huge thing we want to focus on.”

The final “C,” collaboration, involves efforts to strengthen the alumni-student body connection. They cited increasing efforts to bring alumni back to campus to share their success stories with students, as well as hosting events such as a recreational “winter event” and a BC Athletics sporting event in Conte Forum which alumni and students could attend together.

Beyond this, Jackson and Perez plan to break the “BC bubble” by reaching out to undergraduate governments from other universities—especially those with larger populations of international students. They believe that through this, UGBC can discover new ways to better accommodate the University’s international population, in addition to providing stronger support for the entire student body in terms of diversity and inclusion, mental health resources, and dining accommodations and worship spaces for Muslim students.

“Commitment is one of the three C’s within our platform,” said Perez. “That’s something we really want to emphasize, that we’re really pushing the agenda of students more than our own, because we have their interests in our minds when we’re running for these positions.”

Jackson may have been far removed from UGBC up until this point, but she’s never felt closer to BC.

“I think that—well not ‘I think that’—I know that I want it more than the other candidates just because BC is so close to my heart and it’s always been really close to my heart,” she said. “It’s a place where I think it should come off as it is advertised—where it is a home for everybody and a place where you can grow and develop and find yourself.”

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

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