Ryan Bernhey, a senior in AJU’s College of Arts and Sciences, is a powerhouse of optimism, work ethic, and goodwill. As the newly elected President of the Associated Students of American Jewish University (ASAJU), he is making an impact on the school and the greater community as well.
Bernhey, a political science major, aspires to one day become a local elected official who will generate change in his community, and he is getting good practice at AJU. His stated goal is to raise the standard of student government, and since becoming president, he has - along with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs - Campus Life, Julia Hubner - edited the ASAJU constitution and redefined the responsibilities of each board position. Under his watch, there has been an increase in the number and quality of student events.
Last year, Bernhey and Zach Friedensohn (a student at the time), decided that they wanted to give something back to Los Angeles, the city that offered them so much. They met with Sam Levitt, an alumnus of AJU’s Graduate School of Nonprofit Management, and the Senior Director of Facilities & Auxiliary Services at AJU, to brainstorm about helping the homeless. Because of AJU’s commitment to Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), the school agreed to provide food, and the "Bag Lunches for the Homeless" project was born.
Once a month, AJU students work together to create 300 – 350 bag lunches consisting of sandwiches, fruit, a granola bar, cookies or crackers, and a bottle of water. Then Bernhey transports the bags to the Union Mission downtown Los Angeles, where they are distributed to homeless men, women, and children.
At his high school in north central Maryland, Bernhey was one of only three Jewish students. He always involved himself with Jewish youth groups, but they were short-term. What Bernhey really wanted was to immerse himself in a Jewish community, which was why, out of the several colleges to which he was accepted, American Jewish University was his choice. "I love this school; it's my home," says Bernhey, who has worked in AJU’s mailroom, dining hall, bookstore, front desk, and with catering and logistics.
Following graduation next spring, Bernhey plans to become involved in the AJU alumni community. He is currently studying for his LSAT, and plans to attend law school in preparation for public service.