BRYC allowed me to not only understand the importance of my future but set real goals for it. - Markayla

BRYC Overview


The Baton Rouge Youth Coalition prepares high-achieving, under-resourced high school students to enter, excel in, and graduate from college so they can become full participants in society.


BRYC will offer its Fellows individualized academic, personal, leadership and college support services that are equal or superior to the services available to their most resourced peers.


BRYC was founded in 2009 when Daniel Kahn, then a high school teacher, recognized that even his highest-achieving students lacked the resources they needed to realize college success.


The Baton Rouge Youth Coalition promotes intellectual and emotional exploration and risk-taking by offering programs that allow students to think and express themselves freely. Our primary aims are cultivating Fellows’ intellectual curiosities, guiding them toward greater self-awareness and self-acceptance, and fostering a space in which we all can develop a critical consciousness. Success in the college application process is crucial, and to that end, Fellows are asked to perform at a high level in a variety of ways. But BRYC’s main goal is to help students become critical and creative thinkers, and thoughtful, resilient, engaged citizens.

The BRYC Model is Built On:

Core Programs

Weekly, grade-specific programs focused on where Fellows are in their personal and academic development.

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Support Programs

Non-grade-specific scholastic, non-academic, and community-building opportunities open to all Fellows.

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Support Services

Specialized services BRYC offers to all Fellows to ensure they can be academically and personally successful.

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Lucas Spielfogel, Executive Director of BRYC

Lucas Spielfogel, Executive Director

Lucas joined BRYC in July 2012 as Director of Academics and Programs and the future Executive Director of BRYC. Immediately prior to joining BRYC, Lucas taught 7th grade Social Studies at Baker Middle School—with Teach for America—and was named Teacher of the Year in each of his two years. Originally from New York City and raised in South Florida, Lucas graduated with a B.A. in History from Yale University in May 2010, earning All-Ivy Academic Honors. He was a varsity rower all four years and captained the team his senior year. At Baker Middle, Lucas was not only an effective teacher but also coached the boys’ basketball team, launched a community service club, and raised more than $10,000 to send a group of his students to Washington, D.C. Lucas officially became BRYC’s Executive Director on January 1, 2013. In his time as leader, he has raised almost two million dollars, quadrupled the number of students BRYC serves, and set an aggressive course for expansion within and beyond Baton Rouge.

LaShawn Robertson, Managing Director of College Programs

LaShawn Robertson, Managing Director of College Programs

LaShawn joined BRYC in September 2014 as the Director of Upperclassmen Programs and became the Managing Director of College Programs on June 1, 2017. In this role, LaShawn is responsible for supporting BRYC’s 100 Senior Fellows through the college application process. She also oversees BRYC Layers, BRYC’s young women’s club. LaShawn holds a bachelor’s from the
 University of Louisiana Lafayette (ULL) in 
Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology and is currently working on her master’s
from ULL in Management with a concentration
in Organizational Leadership. In the six years prior to joining
 BRYC, LaShawn worked in ULL’s Office of
 Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, where she 
guided thousands of students and their families through ULL’s admissions and financial aid processes. During this time, LaShawn also served as the advisor for ULL’s Black Women’s Leadership Association. Prior to working in higher education, LaShawn served in the United State Army for ten years, focusing primarily on human resources.

Lauren Robinson, Managing Director of Academic Programs

Lauren Robinson, Managing Director of Academic Programs

Lauren joined BRYC in June of 2015 as the Director of Junior Programs and became Managing Director of Academic Programs in June 2017. In this role, she is responsible for supporting all of BRYC’s academic programming with a special focus on ACT preparation. Lauren also oversees BRYC’s data collection and analysis efforts and coordinates the BRYC Book Club. Lauren earned the prestigious Dean’s Honor Scholarship to attend Tulane University, where she taught English as a Second Language to immigrants, worked as a research assistant, and graduated cum laude in Economics, Spanish, and Italian. After Tulane, Lauren served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Mendocino, California before pursuing her master’s in Economics at Texas A&M University. Lauren has presented her research on education and economics nationally, and in November 2015 she published a paper in the Journal of Extension on financial literacy and the difficulties of evaluating data in complex situations. Lauren’s passion for literacy, research, and data informs her holistic approach to ACT preparation and readying BRYC Fellows for the academic rigors of college.

Laura Hawkes, Director of Operations and Recruitment

Laura joins the BRYC Community as our new Director of Operations and Recruitment. In this role, she will ensure that BRYC’s facilities and IT infrastructure support program delivery and drive student and volunteer recruitment and admissions.

Originally from the Chicagoland area, Laura attended Washington University in St. Louis as a John B. Ervin Scholar where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in psychology. After completing her degree, Laura served in the Teach For America South Louisiana Corps where she taught sixth-grade science for two years. After her corps commitment, Laura worked in several roles at Bethany Church in Baton Rouge ranging from Operations Coordinator for its youth internship program to the Dean of Student Life at Bethany College, Bethany’s first bible college to offer higher education degrees.

Laura’s experience ranges from education to nonprofit operations. Recently she earned her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill . She is excited to be a part of the BRYC Team!

Nicole Quinn, Operations and Recruitment Coordinator for Baton Rouge Coalition

Nicole Quinn, Operations and Recruitment Coordinator

Nicole joined the BRYC team in September 2016 as a member of the Louisiana Delta Service Corps, an AmeriCorps program that pairs community-minded individuals with partner organizations for eleven months of service. At BRYC, Nicole will serve as the Operations and Recruitment Coordinator, supporting the organization’s day-to-day operations, engaging with Fellows, and actively work to recruit new Fellows and volunteers. She will also coach the BRYC’s poetry club. Nicole is a proud Baton Rouge native and graduate of McKinley High School. She has shown her love and dedication to her city in numerous ways throughout the years. While at McKinley, Nicole was in an after-school program called Teen 360 (now known as Forward Arts), which enriched her with a sense of community and artistic expression, and helped her define values. It was at that point that Nicole dedicated her life to serving young people, providing them with the support that they need to achieve even their wildest dreams! Nicole worked as a program instructor at Boys and Girls Club for three years, serving the elementary population. She has also given countless hours to an elementary dance troop that not only focuses on dance technique but providing a value-driven experience for her students. Most recently, she served with City Year of Baton Rouge at Melrose Elementary tutoring fifth grade in English Language Arts. We are so pumped to have Nicole on board!

chelsea werner, Associate Director of College Programs, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition

Chelsea Werner: Associate Director of College Programs

Chelsea works with Ms. LaShawn to support a cohort of 100 Senior Fellows as they navigate the college application process. Originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, Chelsea attended the University of Miami where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Marine Affairs and Policy with minors in Biology, Sociology, and Economics. After earning her degree, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA and led community service initiatives in the Little Havana, Liberty City, and Overtown neighborhoods of greater Miami. During this time, she also began mentoring young men involved in the criminal justice system through a program called Empowered Youth and developed a strong interest in how our justice system functions. Chelsea returned to the University of Miami a year later to earn her Master of Science in Marine Affairs and Policy with a focus on youth environmental education programs. She also spent time as a Resident Scientist in a local middle school through a National Science Foundation fellowship and tutored in the athletic department at U-Miami in her spare time. After completing her thesis, Chelsea joined Teach for America South Louisiana and moved to Baton Rouge to teach middle school science. Over the past two years, she has also served as a College Mentor to two wonderful BRYC Fellows and is extremely excited to support Senior Fellows full-time moving forward.

Josh W. Howard, Director of College and Alumni Affairs

Josh W. Howard, Director of College and Alumni Affairs

Josh joins the BRYC Community as our Director of College and Alumni Affairs and the first person in BRYC’s history to focus exclusively on assisting Fellows after they leave for college. In this position, Josh helps College Fellows navigate new demands, supports our Alumni in connecting with post-college opportunities, and builds BRYC’s College Fellow and Alumni network.

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Josh graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication with a concentration in public relations and minor in Spanish from Louisiana State University. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in strategic communication.

His accolades include having graduated from both the Leadership Baton Rouge and Leadership Louisiana programs, being voted the city’s most eligible bachelor, being named one of 2016’s Top Forty Under 40 by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, and being nominated for multiple awards for his excellence with social media. His biggest personal accomplishment is losing over 260 pounds. Josh also serves as the student life director and pastor at HeartsEase Family Life Church.

When you see Josh around, make sure to welcome him to the BRYC Community!

leigh phillips, baton rouge youth coalition

Leigh Phillips, Director of Development and Communication

Leigh joins the BRYC Community as our first Director of Development and Communication! In this role, she will provide critical fundraising support and manage all of BRYC’s internal and external communications.

Leigh is a Sulphur, Louisiana native and first-generation college graduate of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. She was a 2013 Teach For America-South Louisiana corps member who taught fifth grade English language arts and social studies in Ascension Parish and at Baton Rouge College Prep Charter School. Her passions include her rescue dogs, Pippa and Gertrude, and all things LSU. Leigh has volunteered with BRYC as both a Freshman and College Mentor and is thrilled to become a full-time member of the BRYC team!

Aaron Randolph, Director of Sophomore Programs, BRYC

Aaron Randolph, Special Projects

Aaron joined BRYC in July 2015 as the Director of Sophomore Programs. Originally from Lake City, Florida, Aaron attended Cornell University, where he graduated with a B.A. in American Studies. After completing his degree, he joined City Year, an AmeriCorps program that enlists recent graduates to serve as tutors and mentors in high-need schools. Aaron worked at Belaire High School and for his outstanding service was named “Mr. City Year” by his peers. He then returned to school to earn an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he was named a Donald Oliver Fellow. After one year in Cambridge, Aaron came back to Baton Rouge to teach 11th-and 12th-grade Social Studies at Career Academy Charter High School and before joining BRYC taught 8th-grade Social Studies at McKinley Middle Magnet. As a teacher, Aaron not only helped his students make major academic gains but he also ran the school’s golf program. He even took some of his students to a PGA Tour event in New Orleans. Aaron has relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina but will continue to work with BRYC on special projects.

Board Members

Lani L. Gholston, Chairwoman

  • Senior Operations Associate, AARP Louisiana State Office
  • Lani’s term on the board began 1/16 and shall continue until January 2019.

Sarah Kracke

  • Owner & President, Kracke Consulting
  • Sarah’s term on the board began 10/15 and shall continue until October 2018.

John B. (Jay) Noland

  • Owner, Noland Development, LLC
  • Jay’s term on the board began 2/16 and shall continue until February 2019

Kevin Smith

  • Assistant Director, Louisiana Automobile Theft & Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority
  • Kevin’s term on the board began 5/15 and shall continue until May 2018.

Christopher J. Tyson, Chairman Emeritus

  • Assistant professor, LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center
  • Christopher’s term on the board began 11/16 and shall continue until November 2019.

Sonia K. Wagner

  • CEO / Consultant, SK Wagner & Associates College Financial Aid Consulting
  • Sonia’s term on the board began 1/17 and shall continue until January 2020.

Corporate & Foundation Sponsors