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UCLA community remembers Trey Barber for dedication, compassion for students

Barber graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2018. Ever since he was young, he had a passion for languages, his mother Katherine Luna said. (Courtesy of Barber’s family)

By Shaanth Kodialam

Aug. 27, 2022 2:07 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Alyssa Flores is a rising first-year transfer student. In fact, she is a rising third-year transfer student.

This post was updated August 31 at 6:53 p.m.

Ever since he was young, Trey Barber had a passion for studying languages, according to his mother Katherine Luna.

“That’s what he was really interested in studying,” said Alyssa Flores, Barber’s niece. “Any chance he had, he loved being in Brazil. He was happy there.”

Barber, who taught Portuguese language classes at UCLA, had just completed his master’s degree in Portuguese language and literature in July, and was planning on pursuing a PhD.

He died on August 12 at age 28 from a stray bullet that allegedly entered his friend’s apartment from a shooting between local drug dealers and vigilantes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Authorities are investigating the crime, according to UOL, a Brazilian news outlet.

Luna said Barber was an introvert from a young age and spent much of his time in his room.

“I worried about him when he was young while he was in his room,” Luna said. “But now I know what he was doing, he was studying.”

Luna said Barber was dedicated to his studies, adding that he applied for college scholarships on his own without any help.

Flores, who is a rising third-year biology transfer student, said Barber helped her write her UC application essays when she was in high school. Although Luna said Barber was a quiet person, he would open up to people as he got to know them.

Flores said she and Barber shared that quiet approach to life.

“When I think about it, we were so similar,” Flores said. “He spoke very few words, but (of) those few words that he would speak it was, like, words of intelligence.”

Joo Kyeong, a doctoral student in Spanish linguistics, said she had gotten to know Barber over the last year after sharing an office space with him. Kyeong said he was a kind soul who was often unintentionally funny, adding that his passion for Brazilian culture and Portuguese stuck out to her.

Every quarter, Kyeong said she noticed him taking 16 units on top of teaching.

“Most (of) us just take 12 credits, but Trey was really hard working and I really respect him for that,” she said.

Micaela Montes, a rising fourth-year sociology student and Barber’s former student, said in an emailed statement that Barber was a supportive teacher.

“He made coming to class fun, and his passion for Brazil and Portuguese was evident throughout our lessons,” Montes said in the statement.

Montes said Barber never gave up on shy or struggling students, adding that he was always available during and after office hours.

“During finals, he’d bring Brazilian candy for us as a gift,” she said in the statement. “He mentioned he was proud of how far we’d come since the first day of class. He was very encouraging and such a genuine person.”

Luna added that he would always make people laugh. Although she was also not a talkative person, Kyeong said Barber encouraged her to speak out more often.

Kyeong added that she remembered Barber would write poems and create artwork in his free time.

Barber also had extensive knowledge of literature along with his linguistics studies, Kyeong said. In a class the two both attended, she said she remembered Barber eagerly sharing details about his plans to visit Brazil.

“When he would send me pictures of him and his friends (in Brazil), he was so happy (and) he always had smiles on his face,” Luna said. “He loved it there … that was his dream, to go back to live in Brazil and teach English.”

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Shaanth Kodialam | Features and student life editor
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
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