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Celebrating Our 2021 Graduates: Jalesha Bass

Jalesha Bass

Major: Communication & Leadership, Moody College of Communication

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Programs and activities: Institute of Engagement; Shift Press; XP3 Program; Fearless Leadership Initiative; Moody Mentor; Moody Success Scholars; Gateway Scholars Program; Orientation Advisor; Alternative Breaks, New Orleans 2019 Cohort; National Association of Black Journalists; Black Print; DDCE Study Abroad Program in Beijing, China, 2019 Cohort; Midtown College Church; CultureX Texas; Student Leadership Institute; Freshman Interest Group Mentor

Hitting the presses…Of all her accomplishments, Bass is most proud of launching Shift Press, an online youth publication, housed within her nonprofit the Institute of Engagement, that provides a unique platform for young people to speak their minds and influence changes in the community. “I started this publication to give more power and influence to young writers (ages 12 to 26) without them needing an adult on board. They aren’t typically used as a primary source in news stories, so this is a way to give them a space to share their concerns, to be seen and heard, and to put their issues at the forefront.”

When opportunity knocks…While attending high school in her hometown of Houston, Bass was more interested in playing softball than planning for college. Yet when a big scholarship opportunity presented itself, she knew she had to take full advantage of a world-class education. ” The Gateway Scholarship really sealed the deal for me, and the UT Outreach-Houston [now renamed Youth Engagement Center-Houston] staff really influenced my decision to come here instead of a HBCU, which was my initial choice. They truly cared about me, and they deserve a lot of recognition for all the good work they’re doing with high school students.”

Going fearless…Looking back at her time at UT, Bass is especially fond of her memories from the Fearless Leadership Institute (FLI), a personal and professional development program that serves Black and Hispanic undergraduate women. “I love FLI! It’s a relief to be surrounded by so many women of color to talk about issues affecting us—like what it means to navigate this campus as a Black woman and how to take care of ourselves emotionally. It’s a space where we could be our own authentic selves without having to code switch.”

Life after graduation…”I’m now studying the Yoruba so I can travel to Nigeria and completely immerse myself in the culture. I also want to expand upon my nonprofit and apply for a divinity school so I can be a leader in my church. As for the long-term future, I’m not certain what’s in store. I do know that I want to help people transform their communities, and I want to give young people the power to create change.”