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Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 12:45pm

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Jessica Brandt ’20 — a senior with an impressive record of academic and athletic achievement — was selected as the School of Liberal Arts’ undergraduate speaker for Mercy’s 2020 commencement ceremonies.

Majoring in journalism with a minor in business administration, she has maintained a 3.8 GPA while building her professional skills through Mercy’s student newspaper and internships at prestigious news organizations. Also an accomplished student-athlete, Brandt played on the women’s soccer team for the past four years and served as president of Mercy’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

For Brandt, the highlight of her time at Mercy comes down to the people. “In my commencement speech, I’m going to focus on the sense of community at Mercy. When I came to Mercy, I immediately had my soccer team to rely on. And I’ve always had a team behind me to help me write my resume, get internships, everything. Now, during this pandemic, it’s important to keep our community at Mercy and build new ones.”

Indeed, Brandt is an enthusiastic and active member of several communities at Mercy. As a member of the women’s soccer team for the past four years, she played in 77 games, ranking second in the history of Mercy’s women’s soccer program in assists and games played, and fourth in points scored. She also played in three NCAA Tournaments as a Maverick and was a key member of the 2017 team that made the Final Four of the NCAA National Championships for the first time in the history of Mercy’s women’s soccer program.

Even now, Brandt draws on her experience as a student-athlete to help her persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic: “You go through so many ups and downs as a college athlete that you can't focus on the downs all the time. It teaches you to focus more on the positives. I see this pandemic as a challenge we just have to get through. And I’m trying to see the joys that are in it.”

Her leadership as a student-athlete went far beyond her accomplishments on the soccer field. For the past two years, she has served as president of Mercy’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), an opportunity that allowed her to represent Mercy’s student-athletes at East Coast Conference (ECC) SAAC meetings. In this role, she also helped lead several community service initiatives, including the CODA (Co-Occurring Disorders Awareness) Awareness Games to support the nonprofit The Harris Project.

Though she is thousands of miles from Mercy since the pandemic started, Brandt is still serving the community by providing an essential service as a grocery store worker. Her parents own and operate Grocery Outlet in Valley Springs, California, so when Brandt returned home from Mercy in March, she began working as a front-end lead, which means that she spends most of her time as a cashier and also stocks shelves as needed. “I do feel very lucky that my parents own a grocery store where I can work during this time,” she said. “So many people don't have that opportunity right now, and they're struggling to pay bills.”

Another community that has been important in Brandt’s life at Mercy is the student newspaper, The Impact, where she serves as sports editor. Even during this pandemic, the newspaper is still publishing stories, which provides a much-needed sense of normalcy for the newspaper staff — and likely for the Mercy students who rely on the newspaper for campus news. “Working at the newspaper is helping me get through this time,” she explained. "Journalism is my passion, and my future is in news. Everyone at the newspaper has the same passion as I do, so we’re all leaning on each other during this time. That’s helping me stay focused on my career. I’m thinking about what I can do to make sure that I’m successful once this is all over.”

Beyond the student newspaper, Brandt has also built an impressive resume for an undergraduate in the professional journalism world. She has gained experience at several different news organizations, including interning at both CBS 13 and ESPN Radio in Sacramento and working as a production assistant at CBS Sports in New York City.

Even as she finishes her final classes at Mercy from across the country, Brandt still feels deeply connected to the supportive and resilient community at Mercy. Her advice for other students? “It’s about staying in touch with who you know. And joining groups to meet new people too. For example, I can reach out to journalists in journalism groups and talk to other people who share my interests. You never know where something will go from there.”

While it is true that you never know where something will go from there, Jessica Brandt is clearly headed toward success.

Mercy is a strong community and by working together we will make our community even stronger. If you are a Maverick making a difference, or you know of one, let us know at PR@mercy.edu.

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