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Jazzy Colbert in front of her jewelry display

Being Jazzy

With unique skills and a new book, this Cal Lutheran senior prepares to launch into a creative career aimed at helping those living with OCD.

Jazzy Colbert is a force of nature with a lot of options. So as the California Lutheran University senior prepares to receive her customized degree in interdisciplinary studies and launch into her post-graduate life, her biggest challenge may be deciding which of her many talents will ultimately define her career.

Will she build on her initial work experience crafting and selling one-of-a-kind jewelry items? Will she use her finely honed creative writing skills to take wing on her newly published, highly personal book of poetry, “Spiral Bound: Diving into the Doubting Disorder”? Or will she use insight honed through her college studies to give voice to a disorder she shares with countless others, who often travel through their lives struggling in silence?

Most likely it’s going to be an evolving network of these things and more — all the experiences that have made her so dynamic already in her 25 years, and especially over the past eight years since she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

“Whatever I end up in for my career, at its heart will be the power of bravery (connected to) my OCD journey and what I’ve learned,” Colbert said. “I hope to provide an outlet for people to connect with others who have similar experiences with OCD so we can cope with our struggles, work on dispelling some of the popular myths and fight for better lives.”

Colbert read from her upcoming book at A Poetry Open Mic for Underrepresented Voices in April

Jazzy’s Journey

Born in West Hills and raised in Camarillo and Newbury Park, Jessica “Jazzy” Colbert (pronounced coal-BEAR) has always had a productive streak.

At age 11, she had a babysitter who taught her how to make earrings. She had a knack for the craft and turned it into Jazzories, her first business venture, at age 12. “I started off by selling my accessories to friends and friends of friends, at farmer’s markets and craft fairs,” she recalled, “and I was the youngest one working a booth at those events.” Later, she grew it into a lucrative venture at Cal Lutheran flea markets and on Etsy.

From the start, it was more about the therapeutic value than profit for Colbert. “It was a great outlet for me,” she said. “It helped calm me down.” 

Jazzories has always been a philanthropic venture, with Colbert donating proceeds to charity organizations. “I have always donated a portion of my proceeds to charity organizations, first to Animal Resources Inc. in order to rescue animals from death row and now the National Alliance on Mental Illness to fund mental health advocacy,” Colbert said in an interview last year.

“My charitable focus shifted when I was diagnosed with OCD in 2016 at age 17, when I realized that one of my key healthy coping mechanisms for my symptoms has been the therapeutic process of stringing beads,” she said. “My goal is to share my love of crafting with others and promote the value of creativity and self-care. I recently started teaching people how I make necklaces in order to share that passion for creating” — and to calm an unsettled mind.

Colbert has had symptoms of OCD since age 4, she said, but in her early childhood, she had no label for it. “At age 11, I wasn’t fully aware of what it was about me” that was different, she said, but learning a craft set her on her path to self-discovery. Her real journey didn’t begin for another six years, with her OCD diagnosis on the threshold of adulthood. It led to some difficult years, including a false start at college.

After a year and a half at UC Santa Barbara, Colbert said, “unfortunately, I went through some mental health challenges and had to take a leave of absence.”

During that leave, she pivoted her plan from living in a dorm and studying biology at UCSB to the individualized degree plan she was able to create at Cal Lutheran, which also allowed her to move back home to the comfort of her family.

“I’m really glad I made that decision,” she said. “Not that there was anything wrong with UCSB. I had great advisers there, but I just got lost in the larger campus, especially going through mental health challenges. Cal Lutheran was able to give me more of a hands-on experience.”

Finding Her Place

With the help of plenty of therapy and a strong family bond, Colbert enters her adulthood with gratitude. Peppered into every reference to her battle with OCD is her basic thankfulness for the support she’s had around her through her college journey, including from her several mentors at Cal Lutheran, who have guided her through her unique, handpicked coursework that has no official title but which she calls “Psychology for Writing and Communicating.”

“My experience at Cal Lutheran has meant everything,” Colbert said.

As a mentee, she particularly praises Jacqueline Lyons, PhD, a Cal Lutheran English professor and mentor who helped Colbert create and self-publish her first book, which also is her capstone project for her major. “Dr. Lyons has been really important during my senior year and with my book,” Colbert said. “I’m just so grateful for her help and guidance.”

Lyons gives praise back. “Jazzy has such a strong sense of her interests and passions and has found a way to combine and pursue those,” Lyons said. 

When asked what she sees as the core of Colbert’s life story, Lyons, who has taught at Cal Lutheran for 13 years, thought for a moment. “There are a lot of ways to go when writing about Jazzy,” she said. “In my experience, she is simply unique. … It’s the combination of English, the creative writing aspect, where I’ve helped, and then there’s the psychology and the communications and marketing. She’s just so broadly gifted.”

Learning and Thriving

Colbert and Kurt Schreiber de la Torre ’24

With her education thriving and the help of continuing therapy, Colbert has kept on a busy, productive and positive trajectory. 

Even as she prepares to graduate, Colbert is using her creative writing and psychology skills as she promotes “Spiral Bound.” She still dabbles in Jazzories. And she’s working at Hub101, a Cal Lutheran-sponsored coworking space for startups and entrepreneurs, trying to hone her marketing skills.

Three years ago, she reconnected with an old friend, Kurt Schreiber de la Torre, and they fell in love. A fellow senior at Cal Lutheran who also has struggled with mental health issues, Schreiber de la Torre now lives happily with Colbert in an extended-family household that includes Colbert’s parents and an aunt and uncle.

“I feel really grateful that my family has been so supportive and understanding, especially when I had to come home,” she said. “I’ve been really grateful for a lot lately.”

Colbert’s first book, “Spiral Bound: Diving Into the Doubting Disorder,” will be published on May 7. Learn more about it on Instagram (@spiralboundbook).