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YFCS Students In Action: Meet Wesley Berry 

Youth, Family, and Consumer Sciences (YFCS) student, Wesley Berry, says that his introduction to the term “toxic stress” was instrumental in helping him decide a career to pursue.  He stated “In 2018, I was introduced to the term and the role it plays in early childhood development and family life. It changed the way I viewed many things, and made me realize that the other important elements of my life, like faith and social justice, could intrinsically link with this discovery.” The YFCS program became an easy choice for Berry to pursue and allowed him to continue discovering the different aspects and impacts of toxic stress.  

Wesley Berry

Berry has been a key player within the YFCS program, including recieving his Leadership Certificate in Leadership and Volunteer Management and being park of the development of Dr. Jamie Alexander’s Opportunities for Purpose-Transformed Identities for Career Success (OPTICS) program. The mission of OPTICS is to help Black youth develop a purpose-based identity and provide them and their families with the resources and tools needed for youth to successfully transition into career and vocational roles.  

He says that his “time with the OPTICS program has been the highlight of his academic year. As we near the piloting portion of the program development, it is so exciting to see this program go from creative thought to fruition.”  Berry’s hard work and efforts within the program have helped an underserved population determine their purpose!  His work has combined the utilization of firsthand experience and data backed parent/youth based training, in an effort to see generational shifts in the families the OPTICS program serves.

Berry refers to the OPTICS program and his ambition for taking part in it as a tremendous opportunity to put to work the many things he has learned in the YFCS program. “I love putting my time and energy into things that I feel will deeply benefit our community and outlive me.” In his eyes, the OPTICS program is not temporary; it has a sustainable future. Looking to the near future, after he graduates in the spring of 2023, Berry is anticipating the opportunity to take diversity and inclusion training into the rural parts of our state. He plans to do this by utilizing his life experiences, faith, and family life education. 

Berry points out that Dr. Jamie Alexander has been instrumental in his success.  She has supported him as an advisor, been there through the challenging educational moments, and allowed him the opportunity to take part in the creation of the OPTICS program.  Without Dr. Alexander, his college experience would have looked a whole lot different; she has definitely impacted his life for the better!  One of Berry’s peers, Jessica Neal, has also been an instrument and support system for him.  The two became friends almost immediately during his first semester in the YFCS program.  They have been able to take part in several classes and have worked on multiple group projects together. Berry describes his friend as “funny, driven, and a phenomenal person.”  Within his hometown, Dr. Nicholas Jordan has served as an inspiration for him.  When asked why Dr. Jordan inspires him, Berry replied “2020 brought forth a great deal of unrest in our country. Time and time again he [Dr. Jordan] gave me a safe place to talk through many things. I value his honest feedback, vulnerable nature, and willingness to encourage me to dig deeper.”

In reflection of his time at NC State, Berry says that he still resonates with the life-changing conversation that he had with Dr. Jamie Alexander at his first initial advising meeting.  He said the meeting yielded a conversation about purpose that still motivates and drives him to pursue his passion to this day.  Other impacts on Berry’s studies and career have been Dr. Maru Gonzalez’s YFCS 590 Social Justice class, which he describes as “one of the best classes I have ever taken,” and Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody’s YFCS 523 class.  In this class, he was introduced to the genogram that enlightened him of family patterns that he is still analyzing in his current studies.  These are just a few of the moments that have impacted his life and career choice, as Berry stated “There have been so many moments, it’s hard to choose one. I am so grateful for the knowledge, relationships, and opportunities this program has provided me!”