William & Mary

Jeree Harris '08: "Everything I've learned connects in some way"

Jeree Harris is the epitome of what every student aspires to be: intelligent, relaxed, upbeat, dedicated, and modest.

She has achieved so much over her four years at college that it is tough to keep it all straight. Jeree has won countless awards and has been recognized time and time again for her hard work, effort, and dedication to her participation in and creation of community service here at William and Mary.

Jeree did not come to William and Mary with the intent of pursuing a degree in Religious Studies, but the quality of the faculty and course material hooked her. After taking just one class, Ancient Israel, with Professor Galambush, Jeree decided to become a Religious Studies major. "Professor Galambush was my inspiration. Religious Studies is just so deep; when you learn about people's religion, you learn about their culture. It helps you dig deeper and gain a more in-depth understanding."

Along with her Religious Studies major, Jeree created her own major: Social Justice and Community Advocacy. Jeree is a Sharpe Scholar, recognized by William and Mary for her active participation in community service. Service has always been a driving force in Jeree's life, and she integrated community service learning into her Social Justice and Community Advocacy major. Her self-designed major has gained so much positive attention and feedback that the College is now modeling a Sharpe minor after Jeree's idea.

As if this weren't enough, Jeree was awarded the President's Award for Service in the Fall 2007. For the last three years, Jeree has volunteered with Williamsburg-James City County's alternative education program, the Center for Educational Opportunities, as a part of her service learning. She noticed that the school seemed to have a narrow focus on short-term goals, and the students were missing the big picture, their futures. To remedy this, Jeree created Academic, College and Career Enrichment or the ACCE program in an independent study course. Jeree put a lot of effort into the construction of ACCE as well as the continuation of alternative education in Williamsburg. The alternative school faced devastating restructuring and possible closure in the spring of 2007. Together with a dedicated group of students, Jeree was able to petition for support for the alternative program. Ultimately, she was successful in keeping the school open and holding the school board accountable for their treatment of students in the alternative education program.

As Jeree finishes up the last leg of her undergraduate college career, she is as busy as ever, applying to law schools and staying extremely active in all of her extracurriculars. Jeree plans on being a legal advocate for social justice issues related to children and juveniles. Her work at the alternative school has made her realize how great a need there is for advocates of those who have been stripped of their voice. She has already been accepted into several law schools, making her one step closer to achieving her goal. Jeree has found that the insight that she has gained from her Religious Studies classes connects with the career path she has chosen. "In my class on Job, we discussed all of the issues he had with his friends and how they believed he deserved all of his pain. This parallels how today there is a mindset that criminalizes poverty. Everything I've learned connects in some way."