Student Profile: Jakayla Leary ’27

Jan 3, 2024
Jakayla Leary, a first-year at the University, sits at a desk with a book open before her. Her long brown hair is down, and she wears a grey sweatshirt with a blue Nestor logo on the front.

Jakayla Leary '27

Jakayla Leary, class of 2027, is a first-year and criminal justice major at Westfield State. In addition to her classwork, Leary is active on campus, as she is involved in the Student Government Association (SGA), as well as a member of the Criminal Justice and Black Student Union Clubs. Next year, she aims to be a residential assistant for student dorms.

Originally from Boston, Leary first heard about the University from a high school counselor.  When scouting for criminal justice programs, she said that Westfield State felt like a “very welcoming and diverse community.” “It’s smaller in size,” she added. “I feel like it makes it easier to make connections.”

Her passion for criminal justice was raised out of a desire to help people. Her ambition is to  become a defense attorney and aiding those who either don’t know how the law works or don’t have the opportunity for adequate representation. “I just want to help people and give them more freedom,” she said. “I don’t like seeing families get broken up through the prison system, so I want to do everything I can to help with that.”

Leary’s involvement with SGA mirrors this desire to create change in her communities. She and her friends often brainstorm about improvements that would benefit the campus, which she then presents to SGA meetings. 

“I feel like that helps a lot because the staff wants to know what the students want,” she elaborated. “I feel like my group of friends are very out there socially. I’ve been able to do a lot of things. We just had our first event for first-years… it was a recycling event, and we had a good turnout. I feel like we’re getting students really involved. It’s good volunteer work.”

Additionally, her experiences with the Black Student Union Club are similar in nature. Because her schedule is so packed, Leary splits her time between SGA and Black Student Union events and attends meetings when she’s able. 

“They’re welcoming,” Leary said about the club. “They’re really nice, and it’s just a friendly place. You can make a lot of friends through the reunion events, and you see how people really understand you. It makes you feel closer to home.”

In between attending club events and her classes, Leary also works for the academic advising office, where she works as a peer advisor. In her academic life, Leary is motivated to support the criminal justice department. Huguette Williams, Instructor in the department, has been particularly influential for Leary and they have built “a good bond”. 

“She really pushes us to our best ability,” Leary said. “I appreciate that. She taught me a lot about test taking. She helped me get used to it, because we have quizzes so often. She’s really personable and cares about her students.”

To supplement this support, Leary regularly utilizes the Course Achievements, Retention, and Engagement Center (CARE) for its tutoring services. Joseph Seal, Banacos Center Assistant, helped to direct Leary towards peer tutors for several of her classes. For current and prospective students, or for anyone on campus who feels like they need encouragement, Leary referenced her mother, who told her during her first day at the University to follow her dreams. 

“Follow your dreams, and remember your purpose,” Leary advised. “Remember why you went to college and why you chose this school. The helps me whenever I’m struggling socially or with my work. I remember my purpose and where I want to be. It’s going to help me reach my goals.”