Jaymi-Lyn Souza seems to have appeared out of thin air. Coming to Worcester State from nearby Leicester, she spent her first year on campus quietly excelling in her classes and participating in the spring field hockey season. Last September, Jaymi was walking around the Club Kickoff with a friend when a member from the SGA table stopped her to ask if she was interested in joining.
“Right off the bat in Senate meetings I was active and involved, and when the Chairperson ended up stepping down… they nominated me for chair. I had no idea what I was doing, so I rolled with the punches.”
A few short months later, she was sitting in the Senate meetings as Chairperson. And her second year as Chairperson is just beginning.
It’s Not Make-Believe
Jaymi speaks proudly of the work she has done as a member of the Student Senate, with projects ranging from advocating for issues in higher education to helping develop the meal swipe donation program. The time she has spent in her role as Chairperson has only helped her better develop her personal leadership style.
“The thing with being the Chair that I’ve had to be really conscious of is, yes, I have my own really strong opinions about everything all the time but it’s really important to me that I don’t just impose those opinions over the Senate. I want it to be a deliberative body, I want it to be the Senate’s decision, not just Jaymi having an iron fist and deciding everything that the Senate does. I’ve had to be conscious of myself and keep myself in check.”
During last spring semester, Jaymi was selected to travel to Washington D.C. on the annual Student Leadership Trip, sponsored by the President’s Office. She was able to spend time with other students meeting with members of Congress and their staffers, as well as explore everything that D.C. has to offer.
Jaymi’s passion for activism and government was evident while she reflected on her experience.
“I loved it. That activism work that I talk about, it’s very real, it’s not make-believe anymore. It’s not talking about it in a classroom, it’s actually going and doing it. We went and talked to Ed Marky, and a couple weeks later he was here talking about the things we [had discussed]. It’s really rewarding to see your work pay off like that.”
Call Me Bossy
One thread through many of Jaymi’s experiences and future goals relate to her experience as a women in a leadership role. She referenced current Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the challenges that face her and other women in leadership positions.
“I hear all the time the conversation about strong empowered women being bitches or being aggressive or assertive. It’s really frustrating,” Jaymi shares. “But I’m a very determined person, it doesn’t make me back down. When I’m mad about stuff like that, like the system and the injustices I don’t like, this is part of it. Some people are like ‘I guess I’m too bossy?’ And I’m like no, cool, thank you for calling me bossy, it means I’m good at what I’m doing.”
Jaymi also took this moment to use a Taylor Swift song titled “The Man” to share some of her experiences.
“It [“The Man”] is exactly how I feel. I think coming into myself and just being able to say and point out, you wouldn’t be saying that to me if I was a man, has just kind of helped me take steps and realize there’s nothing inherently wrong with my leadership style. I’m not wondering if I’d be getting anywhere quicker, I know I’d be taken more seriously. I feel like I constantly have to prove myself first and then people will take me seriously, it’s not the default.”
People Who Don’t Like Peaches
Despite being just over halfway through her undergraduate career, Jaymi is already able to reflect on how her various collegiate experiences have changed her as a leader.
“I think one thing that I’m learning is that not everybody’s is going to like you all the time. It’s impossible to please everybody. You can be as peachy as possible, and there’s still going to be that person who doesn’t like peaches. I’m still learning this every day, and I just think doing the best I can has to be enough”
“I’m also a work in progress, and I think that’s really important. I think that people oftentimes look at me like I have [everything] together, but spoiler alert, I do not. I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m figuring it out as I go along. And so is everyone else. I make mistakes, I say things that I shouldn’t, I sometimes do things and I’m like, I should have seen that coming. Just because you make mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad leader, it just means that you’re human.
Asking for Help
When asked about a piece of advice she would share with students just beginning their leadership journey, she spoke at length about hers struggles with asking for help.
“I was like that for a long time. I had to do everything by myself. I think for a long time I was like, I can’t ask for help, I have to do everything by myself, always, and it’s exhausting, and it’s lonely, and it’s draining. And there were so many people that were willing to help me. I was just like no, I have to do everything myself.”
“Just because you have to ask for help doesn’t mean you’re a bad leader. Just because you’re not sure of where to go or you’re not the most outspoken person, doesn’t say anything about you as a leader. It’s better that you do ask for help.”
Life after Worcester State
Jaymi shared that she has wanted to be a lawyer since she was 10 years old. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference,” she stated. “I see a lot of things in the world that I don’t like. Instead of just being the person to sit there and complain about it, I’ve always wanted to be the doer and fix these things.”
With a double major in history and political science and a minor in computer science, Jaymi has immersed herself in her pre-law program. The plan after Worcester State is to go to law school and focus on either constitutional law or technology policy.
“Lately I’ve been leaning more towards doing private sector law or patent law, that stuff that sounds boring to everybody else but is really cool to me,” says Jaymi. She also hopes to do pro-bono work and different advocacy work on the side. “People always need lawyers, and a lot of people can’t afford a good lawyer when they really need one,” she explains. “The idea that I could be that person is really appealing.”
Jaymi is also on the Planning Board in Leicester, where she works with board members to review applications for zoning, special permits, and develop a plan for long-range land use. “I don’t think that I’ll ever stop holding some form of smaller public office,” Jaymi shares. “Politics and activism have always been an integral part of who I am.”
As for her political aspirations? “I know it sounds kind of ridiculous to take on an entire political system by myself…but if no one else is going to do it, I guess it will be me.”
*All photos provided by Jaymi-Lyn Souza.