“He was very intelligent and he was independent. He persevered through some of the most difficult challenges that a kid can face, so his accomplishments are remarkable and should be celebrated,” said Jessie Luxford, reflecting on Reemajah Pollard’s life. Berkeley High School alumnus and former University of California, Berkeley student, Pollard was loved by many and his passing is felt within the Berkeley community.
Luxford, a teacher for the Bridge Program at BHS, met Pollard his sophomore year, and recalled him as a determined student who was funny and always helpful to others. She said that his ability to get along with anybody made him stand out, and he consistently made the classroom more exciting.
“He gave me a lot, as a father, as a person who was his mentor, and his counselor,” former BHS college counselor David An said, who was a mentor to Pollard throughout his time at BHS. According to An, Pollard was not only an inspiration to his peers, but to his mentors and teachers as well, who loved to see him smile and laugh.
Prior to becoming his college counselor, An and Pollard developed a relationship when they were introduced by Pollard’s longtime friend. Pollard would often stop by the College and Career Center (CCC) to check-in with An, and An was glad to be able to support Pollard on his college journey as well as through his personal life. According to An, Pollard opened up to him about some of the challenges that he had grown up with, something that made An want to love and support him even more along his journey.
Despite the personal challenges he faced, he was described as “one of the funniest you’d see at Berkeley High.” According to Mary Jacobs, a former counselor for the College and Career Center at BHS, “he’d sing and dance and it gets you through those stressful situations.”
When Genevieve Mage received Pollard as one of her Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) English students during his junior year. Pollard quickly showed that he was highly driven, intent to make his dreams a reality.
Mage discussed how Pollard impacted the AMPS community, his peers, and his teachers through his sense of levity in the classroom. “I think he was a great inspiration to a lot of kids, especially given his life circumstances. You didn’t need to know a lot about his personal life to know that he was coming from a lot and he could find joy even in the darkest corner,” Mage said.
Pollard faced difficulties and was dragged down by the systems that were supposed to help him, however he fought hard for his successes despite the disadvantages he faced. In a life where the odds were constantly stacked against him, Pollard succeeded in many ways and worked hard to reach these achievements, said An.
Pollard endured many challenges in his personal life, and the lack of mental health resources available for Pollard left him isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mage. “Part of the impact that I hope he leaves is that we need to take better care of people,” Mage said. “And it’s not any individuals fault, but (Pollard) could have had an incredible positive impact on this world and because so many systems failed him we will now be forever in deficit.”
He was a leader in his community, and while he had many goals of his own, he never failed to help out his classmates and offer his support, according to Jacobs. She explained how the entire counseling team rooted for Pollard and wanted him to achieve his goals. “I used to joke that we were part of ‘Team Reemajah.’ There were so many adults who supported him … He was such a … lovable person.”