Ray helps students through government

Tim Paluch

Editor’s note: In recognition of Black History Month, this week the Daily is profiling five African Americans who are making a difference on campus, but work “behind the scenes” and out of the limelight. Today, we profile Jennifer Ray, sophomore in apparel merchandising, design and production.Some people need to be doing something all of the time or they aren’t satisfied. Jennifer Ray knows what that’s like.”I can’t just go to class, come home, go to class, come home,” she said. “If I’m not busy, I’m not happy.”Ray, sophomore in apparel merchandising, design and production, has been actively involved at Iowa State since her arrival. And it didn’t start there.In high school in Davenport, Ray was co-editor of the newspaper, a cheerleader and a member of the volleyball team.When she came to college, she was drawn to the Black Student Alliance by some of it’s older members.”The upperclassmen in BSA were good examples for myself, a freshman, to follow,” she said.Since her freshman year, her activities have increased while her free time has dwindled.Ray is the Big 12 delegate for the Black Student Alliance, and is on the Board of Directors for the Memorial Union.As the American ethnic minority senator for the Government of the Student Body, Ray fought to get minority recruitment added to a bill of top priorities for the redistribution of student fees.”That’s something that I am really proud of because we had to really fight to get that,” she said.Ray is a strong believer in working to make Iowa State more appealing to minorities.”The idea of Iowa scares a lot of people,” she said. “The cultural climate of Iowa State is pretty bad, and we need to fix the environment here.”In addition to getting minorities to attend Iowa State, Ray said more needs to be done to keep them here.She said while Iowa State has programs for minorities who are incoming freshmen, there is nothing that keeps an eye on the students all four years.”They send a minority rep to your high school, and you think everything is going to be fine,” she said. “Then they get you here, and you have a summer program and a freshman semester program, and that’s basically it. You need to have something every year.”Ray said she would like to see some sort of continued minority retention program.”It’s sophomore year when people decide to leave, those middle years,” she said. “After those recruiting and those little retention programs wear off, that’s when the attendance rate drops and people leave.”Ray believes a stronger black community at Iowa State could solve the problem.”We need to build unity in the black population,” she said. “We really need to look at ourselves and strengthen ourselves and get that unity together. Then the more people come together, the more others are going to realize its not so foreign anymore.”P’Angela Haynes, who has worked with Ray, said she has a indescribable “spunk” that defines her.”She never quits a job,” said Haynes, sophomore in pre-journalism and mass communication. “She will work on a project until she gets her way, which is usually the right way.”Haynes said Ray gets a lot out of her work.”Putting her all into her work gives her instant gratification, and that’s why she is so involved,” Haynes said.It was Ray’s childhood that made her the independent woman she is today, Ray said.As an only child, she said growing up with just her mother played a big part in the way she is today.”I loved being an only child,” she said. “But now, I am kind of demanding with attention because of how I grew up; I think that’s why I am pretty independent.”Ray credits her mother as her biggest inspiration.”If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be who I am today,” she said. “She’s a very driven woman who doesn’t take any crap from anybody, and I really admire that.”After graduation, Ray said she plans to leave Iowa. There isn’t much for fashion in Iowa, she said, and she hopes to own her own business someday.But while she is here, Ray said she will continue doing what she’s doing.”I think in the black community there is a lot that can be done,” she said. “There are a lot of leaders out there who just need to be developed, and I still have a lot of aspirations for the black community.”Haynes said Ray is a good leader in the community.”Jennifer is like a major league hitter for a baseball team,” she said. “Great stance, complete follow-through and power behind every hit. She scores every time.”While Ray recognizes that she can be seen as a leader, she said there are others who are making a difference as well.”You don’t really have to be at the forefront to make a difference on campus,” she said. “Just helping someone with their homework may improve their grades, and at least that is something.”