“You got hit by a car?” I asked in shock. “Yeah,” he replied, “it’s how I got my fourth concussion.” Harrison Weber is a fourth-year history of public policy major at UCSB and a native of Falmouth, Maine. You probably know of him as our Associated Students President, but if you really knew him, you’d know that Harrison has sustained four concussions in his short life, his most recent during spring quarter finals in his sophomore year at UCSB. If you really knew Harrison, you’d know that his care and commitment for the student body runs deeper than the limitations of his injuries.
In elementary school, Harrison sustained his first concussion by falling out of a tree, in middle school, his second by face planting on ice and his third in his senior year of high school by flipping on a trampoline and landing on the edge of its circumference. “The thing about concussions is that they compound, there’s a cumulative effect,” Harrison told me, “each successive concussion, even if less severe than previous ones is that much more detrimental because the damage builds with each one.” After Harrison’s third concussion, his doctor recommended he take a cognitive leave — a break from doing anything mentally stimulating, including going to school, reading or writing.
According to Weber, the darkest point of his life followed as he rested and missed school beginning in October and not fully returning until second semester. As a decently hard-working student in high school, he began to fully appreciate the extent of his brain function and the importance of using what resources you have to their fullest extents. As he was on leave, in the thick of applying to colleges and unable to do schoolwork, he failed his first cognitive test — a medical examination of one’s basic mental processes — and was told by many that he wouldn’t be able to attend college and perform academically at the level necessary to earn a degree.
As colleges were asking Harrison for his first semester grades, he had to postpone submitting them because he had so much catching up to do. In the spring he was accepted to the university he had worked all high school to get into, George Washington University, but on a trip out to California to see UCSD he decided to continue up the coast to UCSB after hearing of its scenic setting from a friend.
“It was a hard decision between the school I had worked so hard to get into and the school I had just kind of heard about right before applications were due, but when I visited UCSB I felt this instant sense of community I would need, especially coming from the East coast.” Harrison chose the school on the beach and became a part of the Leadership Education and Action Program and worked as a caseworker for the Office of the Student Advocate.
At the end of his junior year, Harrison was biking home from the Associated Students office when he was struck by a vehicle near the San Rafael Residence Hall. His friend found him kneeling on the concrete with his head in his hands and blood running into the asphalt. The damage from this fourth concussion left Harrison with further injury.
“I had to become more deliberate in my studies; I couldn’t have distractions anymore and my attention span suffered. My vision became unfocused and I now wear glasses to correct my alignment due to the accident.” Harrison has since been in three outpatient programs to improve his brain function.
When he won the position of Associated Students President last spring, the job seemed like a natural fit, though Harrison said he had doubts about the role his past injuries might play in his capabilities. Harrison initially turned down the offer to run as Open People’s Party’s presidential candidate due to his concerns about the damage inflicted by his concussions. “I care so much about the student body, Associated Students and the Office of the President. I didn’t want to put myself in [a] position [where] I wouldn’t be able to do the best job possible.”
For about a week and a half, O.P.P. struggled to find a replacement on their slate until Harrison decided to accept the offer after talking with friends, who encouraged him to reconsider. “I think I realized that I would always regret not running for that position when I had so much I wanted to do in that role.”
He reads more slowly now and struggles in focusing his attention on multiple things at once, but Harrison plans to take the LSATs and try to get involved in either law or political involvement. “I hope to be that person in town, wherever I end up, that people know they can turn to. And to be half as good of a parent as mine were to me.”
Christina Lavingia is a second-year political science major and the online editor at the Daily Nexus.
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