#CYPossible: Jasmine Berrios, Mortuary Science

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Portrait of Jasmine Berrios

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Well, I knew I wanted to be in funeral service as a little girl (11ish to be exact) when I met an embalmer at a family party. He asked the typical question you’d ask children: What do you want to be when you grow up? I proceeded to tell him I loved science and wanted to help people but wasn’t sure. He asked if I wanted to be a doctor or nurse. I said no, I’m not quite interested in those jobs. We talked further about what he did, and he said a line to me that has always stuck with me: “I use science to help a person on my table when they die, I cast a wide net of helping their family.” Ever since then I have been called to serve.

I grew up as a first-generation Latina in Arleta to parents who migrated from El Salvador. Wanting to be in this career was a very lonely journey; many in our communities know very little about deathcare, or only know misconceptions. Growing up, I was always the outcast due to my style, and outspokenness. Being a part of a Latino family has many challenges, but now adding in that their daughter wanted to be in funeral service created many adversities for me. My folks were unsupportive due to their lack of knowledge of the profession and what I would be doing for the living and the dead. It was hard for them to truly grasp why I wanted to pursue this field, and they would constantly ask me to change majors or when I’d get out of this phase. Even after my degree, they asked me when I would get a real degree in another subject. I do not blame their fears of the unknown, but I will say it made my experience that much harder not having their support.

I have two brothers, my sons I call them, one older one younger. They were proud that I knew what I wanted to do with my life even if they didn’t know how to help me accomplish it. And now they proudly share with their friends what I do and what I’ve accomplished.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

Cypress College was the closest in-person Mortuary School to me in California… it was still 41 miles from me (at one time I moved, and it was about 60 miles from me). Being a student at Cypress opened so many opportunities for me thanks to the Mortuary Science faculty members. They encouraged me to attend industry installation dinners, vendor nights, and to be a part of our state and local associations. If it weren’t for my program director making it an assignment to apply for the State Associations Scholarship, I would’ve never won it two years in a row. Winning this award gave me a plethora of job opportunities to choose from.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I helped found “Sigma Phi Sigma” the mortuary programs’ club in 2019 this club helped students network with other professionals, previous cohorts donated their books to the incoming students, and we raised money for our regalia. Jolena Grande was one of the main faculty members who fostered my growth as a human and a deathcare practitioner. I could also look to her for a shoulder to cry on, or a law to get cleared on. Lori Collins always put me in positions she believed I deserved to be in, like being the MC for the graduating class above mine. These two women were always there to give their guidance and pass along their skill whenever called on.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

In the Mortuary Science program, it was necessary to fulfill an externship, which I ended up doing with Rose Family Funeral Home as a precepting location. I worked there for more than four years after my externship. After Rose FFH, I wanted to work in the cemetery side of our industry, and now I have been employed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery/Hollywood Funeral Home for a year and counting. I started volunteering with the California Funeral Director’s Association as a committee member circa 2020/2021, and in 2022 I was nominated onto the Board of Directors and am still fulfilling my term! I am also on the Advisory committee for the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau as one of the industry professionals.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I aspire to have my own funeral home; I still have that itch that hasn’t been scratched! I’d like to have a “teaching mortuary” that always hosts students from Cypress College, as I saw the value of having an open mortuary that wants to allow students to fulfill their externships.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about deathcare in general, its outreach, its betterment, and its people who work in it. I think the community needs to be more death-educated about what options there are, how heavily regulated our profession is, the laws that pertain to us as a community when someone dies, the different prices and that the people who are working in it are some of the most selfless (underpaid) professionals. I believe as a profession there is room to grow, there is room to be better. As the generations change, the expectations are different. Any death education I can pass on to the community to make their death experience alleviated in anyway would be a privilege for me. Any knowledge I have in general I’d be happy to give to anyone that’ll listen. I think it’s important for people to know the various job types in our profession as they may also be called to serve, we NEED more people, we need people who are compassionate, kind, and willing to help.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being awarded Young Funeral Director of the year 2022 by the California Funeral Director’s Association. I am proud of being the first feature in a death docuseries produced by NBC news. I am proud of being the CFDA’s youngest board member in 118 years. I am proud of my almost 50,000 followers on TikTok where I can openly speak about what I love doing and learning about. I am a 25-year-old first generation Latina; the community would’ve never expected this from me.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Nothing, I would change nothing. I did the absolute best I could with the resources I had, and I know I couldn’t have achieved everything I did faster.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

My best advice would be to do whatever you want, whatever is calling to you. At the end of the day life is too short, YOU must live with your own life’s decisions, no one else. And even if you do not have support, know that having your own support is enough; you are enough to accomplish your goals.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Please feel free to follow/message me on TikTok or Instagram @jasminethemortician

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