I AM UAA: Xavier Mason

by Ted Kincaid  |   

I AM UAA: Xavier MasonBusiness Management, Class of 2014

Hometown: Anchorage, AK 

Fun Fact: Last year Xavier was named the UAA poetry champion and plans to defend the title this year.

When Xavier Mason was spotted last summer working a booth at Anchorage's Saturday Market he wasn't selling his own handmade creations. He was selling scarves, beadwork and jewelry; the work of local homeless men and women in our community. In addition to being a stellar student at UAA studying business management, Xavier has started his own sole proprietorship called HandMade. HandMade was established to help Anchorage's homeless population get back on their feet by providing the opportunity to work for a company and put that name on a resume. "When looking for employees, a lot of employers look for work history," Xavier explains. "HandMade supplies work history by helping [clients] improve their skills and adaptability in different work environments. It's a stepping stone."

Xavier started working on the concept for HandMade in 2008 and began operations last summer. The booth at the Saturday Market provided a sales outlet for those who had a handicraft but didn't have the means to market their creations for profit. Identifying HandMade's clients through a brief interview, Xavier is able to recognize the skills of many of Anchorage's homeless, whether these skills are writing calligraphy, knitting or beading jewelry. He has also spent time connecting small companies to larger markets, opening doors to expand local businesses. "I've developed friendships with people who are struggling; it's rewarding," he says.

A born entrepreneur, Xavier has been in discussions with the Salvation Army and Bean's Café to expand HandMade by partnering on identifying clients and finding additional programs-from affordable housing to rehabilitation opportunities-to help clients find success in both work and life.

While not working on his business, Xavier can be found studying, striving to earn a 4.0 GPA and make the Chancellor's List as he did last semester. He's also a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society, Heifer International and Community Engaged Student Assistants. An avid reader, Xavier was recently inspired by Walt Disney's biography: "He was amazing. His company was in debt until the last 20 years of his life, but he was very determined; nothing ever stopped him, nothing at all."

To what does Xavier credit his drive for academic and civic pursuits? Family. Xavier's father came to him one night with tears in his eyes and a crackling in his voice. He had a simple message: Education is the key to unlocking everything good in life. Coming from a large family (Xavier is the middle child of seven siblings) his father often works 19-hour days to ensure his children one day would not have to do the same.

With his father's words in mind, and knowing his family was unable to help him financially, Xavier applied for scholarships to help finance his educational dreams. This semester he earned both the First Generation Student Scholarship and the Wells Fargo Career Scholarship.

"Coming from a low income family, scholarships are important because I'm working, have a business and am going to school full time," Xavier says. "Getting a scholarship alleviates the pressure of raising money to attend college. I can now tell my peers who are living in a similar situation that there is a chance to go to college."

Next semester Xavier will take a break from the UAA campus to see the world via the Semester at Sea program. Semester at Sea provides students the opportunity to travel the world, gaining global experience and exposure to world issues while aboard a cruise ship. The selection process is competitive and requires an essay for scholarship consideration. In the spirit of his business, Xavier's essay proposed providing bins for students aboard the ship to recycle their clothes for donation to a children's orphanage in South Africa. "There's a big market to sell used American clothes in South Africa," he says. "The orphanage could either sell the clothes to make money or reuse them for the kids."

While his essay was not selected for a scholarship, Xavier hopes he can still implement the program aboard the ship, spreading the HandMade influence internationally. When asked about the appeal of the Semester at Sea program, Xavier noted the participation of high profile philanthropists, business leaders and politicians, specifically Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "He is a peaceful man. Through all he's endured he still has faith in humanity."

It sounds like Archbishop Desmond Tutu isn't the only one who has faith in humanity.

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