There’ll Be Days Like This

Journalism student works through her learning disability and is prepared to transfer in fall, with eyes set on becoming a photojournalist


Lauren Berny stands outside the Mt. SAC Koi pond on June 14. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

“When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit/Then I must remember there’ll be days like this.” —Van Morrison

This heart-felt tune echoes as the anthem for Lauren Berny, 25, a Mt. SAC student and the past photo editor of SAC Media, who will be transferring to Cal State Long Beach this upcoming fall. You can’t help but get goosebumps when recalling these poetic and profound lyrics of her favorite song, when reflecting on the path that Berny has traveled. She has many layers, many loves and several factors that have led her to today. To put it simply, the puzzle pieces are starting to fit for Berny, although her days weren’t always like this.

Dedicated, bright, determined are the characteristics to describe her, although she would also add kind and reliable to this list of qualities. However, the odds have been stacked against Berny since early childhood. She has been proving the naysayers wrong since an early age, which is why Berny’s resilience is much to be admired. Berny, who suffers from a severe case of dyslexia, did not learn how to read or write until the fourth grade, and the teachers who schooled her throughout her early years failed to have confidence in this charismatic individual. Berny’s teachers told her parents that she wouldn’t make it past the first year of high school and if she did, she would be lucky. The advice from Berny’s teachers was to discipline her as she wouldn’t make it far in life.

How did a young girl from Chino Hills defy the logic and negativity of those who didn’t believe in her, to be in this spot today where she is graduating from Mt. SAC and continuing her college career with CSULB to major in journalism? To Berny, it has been a long, uncertain, yet rewarding process that has required her to take chances and risks.

“When no one steps on my dreams there’ll be days like this/When people understand what I mean there’ll be days like this.”

During her early childhood, Berny matriculated across nine different schools because the school systems at that time were not built in her favor and lacked resources for children with dyslexia. During a summer school session, she met a teacher by the name of Denise McClellan who believed in Berny and her potential. Berny’s parents decided to take her out of regular school and put her into homeschooling where McClellan was her full time instructor. Berny credits McClellan as a pivotal part of her early learning because McClellan pushed her beyond her perceived limits and encouraged her to do better. Berny worked with McClellan for four years straight until the middle of the eighth grade as she begged her mom to get back into the conventional school system. These years with McClellan served Berny well, as she acclimated back into school and went on to graduate from Chino Hills High School, defying the odds of her earlier critics.

Once high school was over, Berny struggled to decide what would be next for her life. She began attending Mt. SAC during the fall of 2012 in which she considered five different majors, such as American Sign Language, English and fine arts, but none of these areas of study appealed to her. Berny now recognizes that she felt this sense of confusion because she didn’t know what her passions were and struggled to find them.

Two years ago, the tides changed. Berny was taking a single class at Mt. SAC as life’s other priorities had taken the forefront. At this time in her life, she was working three jobs, had her own apartment and was spending all her time making rent and paying bills, yet still enjoying her independence that she worked hard to maintain.

“When it’s nobody’s business the way that you want to live/I just have to remember there’ll be days like this.”

The defining moment that changed the course of her college career is when Berny had to be honest with herself that she had zero idea of her passion nor a clue of what she wanted to do with her life. She had full autonomy, money coming in and a supportive boyfriend whom she shared her apartment with, yet realized she would be further from discovering her potential calling if she continued to value her independence over her future potential.

“I could stay independent, which was a really big thing that I wanted and I love having or I could find out what my passion was and what I really wanted to do with my life,” Berny said. “But the cost of that was my independence.”

Berny took what at the time seemed like a difficult choice and moved back in with her parents, who were more than willing to take her back.

Once settled back into her parents’ home, Berny decided that over a course of one year that she would take any class of any subject that she found interesting to determine what sparked her interest. As fate would have it, journalism was the class that clicked with her. The people, the professor and the overall energy of the newsroom brought a sense of amazement and excitement to her. However, she almost turned her back on journalism and SAC Media the first week of class.

There was a need for photographers on the SAC Media team. Berny was interested in making her contributions through photography as she loved it and loved capturing people and life. She felt immediately intimidated by other students with their fancy camera equipment and years of experience. Berny recalls heading towards the door of the newsroom, ready to turn her back on journalism, but something happened. Berny stopped, turned back and said “I’m a photographer, too; I would like to be [a staff] photographer.” She paid her dues, took initiative and became a cornerstone of the newsroom.

At the end her first semester working for the college media team, her hard work was recognized, and she was elected as the photo editor for SAC Media, which she attributes to the success of her academic journey.

“Lauren is a bright light in our newsroom. She’s always willing to help and mentor students, but also recognizes that she is still learning,” Toni Albertson, professor of journalism and adviser of student media, said. “This is what makes her so special. She is constantly trying to better herself. When instruction isn’t available, she self-learns.”

Since then, Berny has found a connection, passion and a second family in the newsroom. She has had the chance to participate in photo competitions to stretch and challenge her skills. She won fourth place for the news photo category at the 2018 SoCal Journalism Association of Community Colleges conference for the On-The-Spot contest. She also won an award from the JACC for magazine photo contribution to the Mt. SAC Substance media article entitled “Thicc Strip for Body Positivity.” Berny recalls this experience as memorable, positive and sees this as one of her best and most interesting contributions to SAC Media. “That was a lot of fun, very positive…it was really, like, sexy and fun. All the girls that danced were of different body types. So it was a lot of fun to see something like that raise money…for such a good cause,” Berny said.

Berny doesn’t have one particular photo that stands out as a memorable moment because she believes all of her photos are like her children. She spends copious amounts of time on her craft, planning the frames out one by one to the precision of each angle. “I like a lot of my photos. It’s hard to pinpoint one that resonates with me. But definitely the first semester of photos that I had to do resonates with me, because it brought me to here,” Berny said.

When she is not out taking photos she spends her time thinking about the next story, the next best picture and how to push her creative limits, even working with editing platforms to blend multiple images to compliment and help visualize a writer’s story. Inside the newsroom, Berny spends most of her time working with her fellow editors in collaboration to meet various publication deadlines.

Outside of the newsroom, Berny has a set schedule of classes, but she thinks of her general interest as “really geeky”. A few years ago, she picked up an affection for “Dungeons and Dragons.” The fantasy role-playing game that was once coined nerdy has changed in way of public opinion and is now considered cool, according to the multitude of blogs claiming its resurgence. When invited to her first D&D get-together, Berny assumed it was a weird game for nerds; however she fell in love with it and met a solid group of friends out of it. Every other Saturday night, Berny and friends bring a bunch of food, hang out and play the game. With it, she has found a community of like-minded individuals that she calls good friends. Apart from D&D, Berny likes watching movies, which is not exclusive to any particular genre. However, she has a fondness for the hero’s journey movies and the “Indiana Jones” films, specifically the first three in the series. Some of her favorite television shows consist of “Parks and Recreation,” “The Good Place,” and “Stranger Things.” These influences, along with her friends, family and newsroom colleagues have helped to shape the person she is today.

Looking back, Berny recognizes that the ride hasn’t been easy, but she looks at the discovery process as the most rewarding and challenging parts of her time at Mt. SAC. “That’s the good thing about community colleges, I could take all these different classes and test run certain majors to see how they work out,” she said.

She is not concerned about how long it took her to get her or even her age, but what matters to her is that she found her passion.

“Now that I’m here, it’s like okay, the process was actually the best part. It was the hardest part and the best part. All the sacrifices I made to be here were worth it,” she said.

She looks forward to her academic career at CSULB and the future to come. Once out of college, her ideal job would be to work for National Geographic as a photojournalist and a writer. Her love for travel, exploring new places and stepping outside of her comfort zone is why the influential magazine would be her ideal job. Once she has made a name for herself in journalism, Berny eventually wants to go back to school to achieve her master’s degree and become a professor of journalism in hopes that maybe one day she can inspire someone else to discover their dreams and passions as Albertson did with her. “Cal State Long Beach is lucky to have this amazing person as a student. She will be one that makes CSULB and Mt. SAC long proud,” Albertson said.

Berny has come a long way from that little girl who struggled with dyslexia to having high hopes in a bright future. She believes that anyone who suffers from a disability should never be shut down nor shut out. “It’s ok to ask for help, even when people make you feel stupid for asking. Proving them wrong is also the best revenge,” she said.

Imagine if Berny or the early influencers in her life had truly believed she wouldn’t make it far in life? Berny’s tenacity, drive and resilience make this an unimaginable idea because she has shaped her own path and continues to do so.

“When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch/Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this.”

Things are undoubtedly falling into place for Berny, and everyone looks forward to seeing her continue to follow her passions and proving the skeptics wrong, over and over again.