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BRQ: At the Centre of COVID

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Many College Fellows are navigating on-campus life amidst the pandemic. Since Kenya Carney (Liberty ‘20) arrived at Centre College in August, she’s experienced regular COVID-19 testing, severely limited peer interaction, and strict dorm protocols. To achieve smaller, physically-distant classes, Centre students are taking two six-week courses in each half of the fall semester. Centre’s rigor would be a tough adjustment in a normal year. Kenya is weathering the accelerated academic pace while sacrificing much of what makes college special. But she’s resolved to persist, sticking to the time management and study skills developed in BRYC and building relationships however possible. – Candace Daymond

Juneteenth: the fierce urgency of now

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Happy Freedom Day!

I’m Candace Daymond, and I’m excited to introduce myself as BRYC’s new Community Relations Manager. This will be the first of many opportunities to connect with you, and I’m overjoyed to begin with a discussion of one of my favorite holidays—Juneteenth!

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that slaves in Confederate States “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Unfortunately, the proclamation could not be implemented in areas still under Confederate control. In Texas, the westernmost Confederate state, freedom finally came on June 19, 1865 — a full two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — when 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and enforced the decree. The 250,000 newly-freed Texans dubbed the day “Juneteenth,” recognizing the liberation of African Americans.

The 155th anniversary of Juneteenth began thirty minutes after the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board unanimously voted to change the name of Lee High School, eliminating its dedication to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. During the discussion that led to the vote, community members noted that a strong push to change the name happened in 2016. Among its leaders were BRYC College Fellow Tyari Heard, now a rising senior at the University of Chicago, and our Director of Community, Josh Howard. Their and others’ efforts were derailed, leaving students and community members to wait a full four years for the justice and healing they sought. “Finally,” many exclaimed, citing the name’s 63-year tenure and long fight to change it. As the clock struck midnight, I immediately thought of the historical significance of Juneteenth, the pain of waiting, and the action required for transformative change.

Juneteenth reminds us that words and proclamations set precedents for progress, but action drives real social change. Fighting for justice often meets delays that force marginalized groups to continue waiting for basic rights already long overdue. Juneteenth spotlights the “fierce urgency of now,” which has never rung more clearly than in our current moment. Right now, freedom fighters across the country and world continue to dismantle oppressive systems, invigorated by the hope that people of color will have a different experience in this nation. How long must we wait? We must resist attempts to delay progress in our struggle for liberation. The time for change is now.

Let us march on ‘til victory is won,

Candace Daymond

Letter to the Community: George Floyd

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Dear Friends,

We at BRYC, like you, are sad and angry over the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd; the dangerous and absurd accusations made of Christian Cooper in Central Park; and the other, seemingly daily reminders that it is not safe to be Black in America. These grisly violences are the results of systemic racism.

If we, white people, purport to care about Black Americans’ physical, psychological, and economic safety, we must graduate from the notion that White Supremacy is a burning cross. No. It’s hiring practices; school-based “discipline”; discriminatory lending; victim-blaming; property tax siphoning; racist sports mascots; “colorblindness”; silence at family dinner tables; and more. Where do you fit in?

Many of us, white people, are not bad people. But we benefit from advantages so baked into our privileged experience that we are blind to them, thus we can’t help but deepen these advantages, further marginalizing Black people, even friends and colleagues. This unconsciousness is a choice. If we make it — if we don’t do something different personally — we are, in fact, bad people, and on our worst days, we are accomplices to murder. That, to me, is more uncomfortable than confronting a relative over an insensitive comment. Do you agree?

BRYC is committed to being a safe haven for its predominantly Black students. We will continue to name injustice because we value our Fellows’ lives and experiences. We will continue to create spaces for our Fellows to critically examine these issues in ways that do not re-traumatize them. Our non-Black staff and volunteers will become bolder, more thoughtful allies. And as an organization, we will dismantle systems that perpetuate college access and completion disparities along racial lines.

As a straight, white, cisgender man, I have to grow a lot. I hope you will join me. Here are a few simple action steps to start:

In community,

Lucas

 

A Letter from Mr. Josh: Ahmaud Arbery

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Ahmaud Arbery

When the stay-at-home order went into effect, I began regularly running around the Capitol, and occasionally there were others doing the same. Every time I ran by someone, I’d go out of my way to distance myself for the health of both parties.

One day, after seeing a familiar, wary look on a woman’s face as I approached, it hit me: I’ve been socially and physically distancing my entire adult life. Sidestepping to appear less threatening is nothing new; Black people could give a Ted Talk on it. At the time, I laughed, shook my head, and kept moving. This woman (and most “concerned” passersby on any given day) don’t know my diverse family and friend network, that I own my home and two businesses, or that I help to lead a thriving organization — not that they need to know anything about me to justify that I am drawing breath. They don’t see me. They just see a Black man, a trigger to be concerned.

All of us understandably have heightened fears about our well-being during this uncertain time. If I’m being generous, maybe that’s what was behind the woman’s fear-filled eyes that day. But what about all the other days? And certainly nothing justifies the disgusting murder of Ahmaud Arbery or the seemingly weekly, unaccounted-for violences against persons of color.

My family regularly gave me and my cousins “the talk” growing up and, to this day, I’m extra concerned about everything when I leave my home:

“I wonder if I’ll be on Nextdoor today because some ignorant neighbor doesn’t know I live here.”

“I can’t wear a bandanna outside lest someone assume I’m in a gang.”

“Make sure you wave at neighbors so you appear approachable.”

I am constantly code-switching and shape-shifting; I’m good at it because my life depends on it. I tell myself it’s necessary, but really, I’m making excuses for others’ racism and fragility. Even when we are perfect, we are hunted. Even when we are hunted, we are ignored. While I’m choosing not to live in perpetual fear, I’d be lying if I said I will proceed normally. I will once again change my exercise regimen. These are the taken-for-granted life routines that we as Black people must plan for, and even then there are no guarantees. I will be even more cautious than I already am. I’ll continue to love near and far and help my students navigate and change this unjust world. And I will continue to run. Not from the truth, though.

Today and every day, the BRYC Community sends love to Ahmaud Arbery, his family and friends, and all those who are suffering by extension from this heinous, maddening act. We stand with you: in love, in agonizing pain, in wrathful anger, and in action.

 

Five Days, Eight Schools: BRYC Takes Florida

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Story by Nyla Gayle, Class of 2022

Each year BRYC takes its Fellows on college tours both in and out of state to help expose us to schools we would not normally have the opportunity to visit. Over this year’s Mardi Gras break, from February 28 to March 4, a group of 29 Fellows and five BRYC team members traveled through Florida visiting eight colleges and universities: Eckerd College, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Rollins College, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of South Florida, and University of Tampa.

Days 1-2

We kicked off the Florida College Tour with the 10-hour bus ride from BRYC to Tampa. After a day full of traveling, we turned in early to prepare for our first day of school visits. That Friday we visited the University of South Florida, then my personal favorite, the University of Tampa, and lastly, Eckerd College.

Sophomore Fellow Roshad Charles’ favorite school on the trip was also the University of Tampa because our tour guide, Nick, explained how easy it is for freshmen to get involved on campus.

Zion Guerin (Baker ’19) and Josephine Adeola (Lee ’19)

Eckerd College also stood out because its students are not required to wear shoes on campus, except, of course, in science labs and dining establishments. All the schools we saw on this first day of campus visits were predominately white institutions, or PWIs, but representatives at each campus mentioned their school’s commitment to diversifying their student bodies. At Eckerd we were able to talk with a panel of students in the Afro-American Society who explained some of the struggles they faced as students of color at PWIs. Roshad said he could see himself joining an organization similar to the Afro-American Society once he gets to college.

Day 3

On day three we traveled to Rollins College and the University of Central Florida. These schools are also PWIs, and Rollins is a private institution. The University of Central Florida seemed like the biggest institution we saw on the trip. Once again we got the opportunity to speak to a panel of students and ask them about their experiences. The chaperones allowed us to be 100 percent honest with our questions by leaving the room while we got down to business. Senior Fellow Josephine Adeola said, “I feel like the panel did help me to see an African-American’s experience at a PWI.” Following the panel, those same students took us on a campus tour. After our campus tours, we left Tampa and went up to Orlando, where we checked into our second hotel. Later that day, we relaxed at Disney Springs, which is a large area with multiple restaurants and ample shopping; it was also an extremely pretty venue.

Day 4

Jayla Burrell (West Feliciana ’22) visiting the University of Florida

Day four started by bussing to Gainesville, where we visited the University of Florida. We had a great campus tour and even got to visit The Swamp, UF’s famous football stadium. After finishing the tour, we checked into our third hotel and then went bowling, where we were disappointingly defeated by the adults.

Day 5

On the fifth and final day, we first attended Florida State University, where we got the chance to go to their Center for Leadership and Social Change. There we did activities to explore different aspects of our identities, such as race, ethnicity, and sexuality and discover our tendencies to associate certain demographics with particular professions. For example, when they asked us about race in medicine, most of us revealed that we think of doctors as being African-American or white. We were also able to talk with and ask questions of some of the students involved with the center.

Next we attended our first historically-Black college and university, or HBCU, of the tour, which was Florida A&M University. Both Josephine and Roshad said they could see themselves applying to this university. “FAMU brought a different vibe that I can relate to,” Josephine said, adding “the environment seems more friendly.” I have to say, out of all the colleges, FAMU did have the best food, and the company wasn’t bad either, as we were able to visit with College Fellow Christian Brinson and pepper him with questions about his experience there. This visit also made clearer the differences between PWIs and HBCUs.

Roshad Charles (Madison Prep ’21) and D’Metrie King (Lee ’19)

After the last school tour, we began to make our way back over to “The Boot” or, as many say, Louisiana. This whole experience was definitely eye-opening because, before it, I didn’t know about more than half of the colleges we visited. Going on campus visits is extremely important to your college selection process in order to see what your options are. You may think you really love a school and it’s the best choice for you, not realizing how many other campuses could also be a good fit. Freshman Fellow Mya Beathley said, “What surprised me was that I actually liked PWIs even though I’m used to the HBCUs.”

This recap would not be complete without thanking the generous people who made our trip possible. To everyone who supported the Florida College Tour by contributing to BRYC on Giving Tuesday, thank you, thank you, thank you! This was an unforgettable experience, thanks to you. To Ms. Taee, BRYC’s college success coordinator, thank you for the many hours you spent planning this excellent trip. I look forward to exploring many more campuses throughout my next three years as a BRYC Fellow!

Back to School

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Dru (left) and Javian Pierson (Scotlandville ’17)

Story by Kenya Carney, Class of 2020

Almost 25 percent of BRYC’s college graduates have pursued or are pursuing careers in education. Alumna Druscilla Dyer graduated from Belaire High School in 2010 and Loyola University New Orleans in 2015. Druscilla graduated with a degree in liberal arts focused in psychology, and she is now a special education teacher at Democracy Prep, a North Baton Rouge charter school. She is also serving as a BRYC College Mentor. At Democracy Prep, Druscilla works with fifth grade students to help them bridge the gap between where the student is and should be academically. Druscilla takes the student and helps them reach grade level in math, reading, or any subject the student is struggling in.

Once Druscilla graduated high school, she started to work in retail. Over time she realized that retail was not something she enjoyed doing, but she knew that she wanted to give back to the community. Druscilla decided to pursue a career in education. Druscilla grew up attending schools in low-income communities, and she was especially energized at the thought of working in similar schools as a teacher. Now that she is doing just that, Druscilla wants to give her students more than a teacher and be someone they can count on. “I want my students to be excited to be in my class every day, Monday through Friday,” Druscilla said.

With all occupations, there are the pros and cons; with teaching the pros are making connections with the students and giving them something to be excited about other than recess and seeing their classmates. Druscilla said some of the challenges of being a teacher are receiving disrespect from children and students not seeing the amount of work you are putting in for them to be successful.

Prior to attending Loyola, Druscilla attended Baton Rouge Community College. While there she encountered a classmate who could not read, and she asked him “How did you make it past grade school without learning how to read?” After that Dyer was motivated to become a reading specialist.

Even though the school system is not perfect, there are teachers like Druscilla putting in the work to make sure the school system is the best it possibly can be. Although it is hard and stressful being a teacher, caring people like Dyer can make a huge difference in the education system.

Alumni Educators:

  • Liz Cheri-Anderson, Parkview Baptist ’12, Southeastern ’16, front desk receptionist at BASIS Baton Rouge
  • Tesia Burton, Episcopal ’12, Guilford College ’16, former teacher working community events
  • Koryne Cage, BRMHS ’13, LSU ’18, ACT coordinator at BRYC
  • Druscilla “Dru” Dyer, Belaire ’10, Loyola New Orleans ’15, reading specialist at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge
  • Jayde Encalade, BRMHS ’10, University of Houston ’16, Teach For America alumna and Tulane Law student
  • Aliyah Furqan, Capitol ’13, University of Alabama ’17, Teach For America-Alabama corps member
  • Markeisha Hill, Belaire ’11, Wesleyan University ’16, BRYC’s first QuestBridge scholar currently teaching in Oregon
  • Dominique “Dom” Ricks, Belaire ’10, University of Wisconsin-Madison ’14 (bachelor’s) and ’16 (master’s), Teach For America-South Louisiana alumus and Dean of Students at Glacier Creek Middle School in Madison
  • Jerlisa Robinson, Tara ’12, Southern ’18, teacher at Tara High School
  • Alyssia White, Scotlandville ’12, Northwestern State ’16, pursuing a Master of Arts in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Northwestern State

The Howard 5

By | 2018 Annual Report | No Comments

The name “Howard University” brings to mind images of fabulous homecomings, vibrant Greek life, and the celebration of educated Black individuals. Hearing “Howard” also conjures visions of successful alumni like Thurgood Marshall, Taraji P. Henson, and Chadwick Boseman. In fall 2018, five BRYC Fellows embarked for Howard hoping to become part of the school’s storied narrative. Affectionately dubbed “The Howard Five,” Myles Gordon, Christalyn Hill, Jeanette Jackson, Malik Johnson, and Donovan Thomas have begun their journeys of fostering change in the world at The Howard University!

Starting freshman year, each of The Five wondered things like, “Will I have friends?…Thrive hundreds of miles away from home?…Receive the support I need for academic success?” Those fears were quelled from the moment they arrived on campus and experienced Howard’s rich learning environment and engaging instruction.

Myles complimented the university’s small classes and professors’ instructional techniques saying, “My professor asks a lot of questions, and we get to have a lot of discussions. They keep the students engaged.” He echoes the sentiments of thousands of students attending historically-Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, who appreciate the intimate and captivating environment. Many have noted that the smaller class sizes allow for dialogue that prompts students to consider a wide range of perspectives, preparing them to become impactful citizens post-college.

These College Fellows have also been moved by their peers. “Hearing what other people have accomplished pushes you to go out and try new stuff to build your character, résumé, and knowledge,” Christalyn said. “Everybody has been president of something or vice president or established their own club. It makes you feel like you’re not doing enough, but it pushes you as well.”

The Howard Five have also been inspired by two BRYC College Fellows in Howard’s Class of 2021, Armani Brown and Markelle Dunn. When asked about her experience, Armani said, “Going to an HBCU gives you the space to define and truly embody Black excellence. It’s almost like going to a cookout, but before the cookout, you have class.”

For its prestige and impressives students and faculty, Howard is compared to Ivy League schools, but there is a key difference. HBCUs – like Southern, Spelman, Bethune-Cookman, Howard, and many others – remind us that Black Americans had to fight and die for equal access to postsecondary education, and in so many ways that fight continues today. These institutions bring Black history and culture into focus and create spaces where students who are used to feeling marginalized feel valued and united. HBCUs highlight the incredible diversity between and among Black people while celebrating the intellectual and cultural power that bonds us. The Howard Five attest to being reminded of their strength as Black individualizes and have been inspired to pave the way for future students, as alumni have for them.

We look forward to seeing the impact The Howard Five will make as they join a legacy of College Fellows and Alumni who attend and have graduated from HBCUs across the country. More than that, we look for them to strengthen a tradition of Black postsecondary education that prepares students not just for professional excellence but also to become full participants in society.

All In

By | 2018 Annual Report | No Comments

by Tanielma Costa, Class of 2020

F or Alumna Beatrice “Bea” Kariuki, life is all about doing things you love to the fullest. She lives by this principle every day, and her college experience was no exception.

As a Kenyan immigrant who moved to the U.S. in 2011 during ninth grade, Bea had to quickly adjust to South Louisiana culture and a new school in Broadmoor High. She says that, from the beginning, she was determined to reach her dreams of college and understood the privilege she was given to study in the U.S. Most daunting for Bea was how uninformed she was about the American postsecondary education system. That’s where BRYC came in. “I had an idea of the things I wanted to do and where I wanted to be,” Bea said, “but BRYC was that catalyst I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. BRYC took that fear of not knowing what’s coming, and I’m very grateful for that.”

On BRYC’s 2013 Atlanta College Tour, Emory “felt like home,” and Bea decided to apply. She was accepted with a robust financial aid package but didn’t stop there, ultimately securing the highly coveted Gates Millennium Scholarship (now called the Gates Scholarship). From an applicant pool of tens of thousands nationwide, Bea was one of 300 to earn the full ride, which follows recipients to whichever colleges they choose to attend.

Bea plunged right into her four years at Emory. She graduated with a degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology, minoring in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Bea now works full-time in Atlanta as a business immigration analyst at a law f rm called Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Bea urges Fellows not just to get involved on campus but to go all in. “My passions and interests paved the way for the things I ended up being involved in. Knowing things that interest you, knowing things that you’re passionate about motivates you to be involved in those organizations.”

Indeed she was immersed in a flurry of activities. Bea saw Emory as her playground to be explored. She speaks of how exhilarating the national Gates conventions in Washington, D.C. were and how they inspired her to take on the roles of vice president, and later, president of Emory’s Gates Scholars chapter. Protesting after the death of Trayvon Martin her freshman year led to many social justice-focused activities in and outside of school, like getting people to register to vote. Bea volunteered through a national service organization, served as president and vice president of the Resident Hall Association, and was a campus ambassador, leading tours and information sessions for prospective students and families. Perhaps her most beloved activity was volunteering at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta, which led to her summer abroad at University College London prior to her senior year. There she studied healthcare delivery in the United Kingdom and U.S.

I was exhausted just hearing about all Bea has done, but she said, “I wouldn’t take it back.” That’s because each experience was fulfilling and meaningful, just like my interview with Bea. As an immigrant, I’m inspired by her example.

A Man of Morehouse

By | 2018 Annual Report | No Comments

by Ivori Teasette

When I hear the phrase “A Man of Morehouse,” College Fellow JaMarcus Spears’ smiling face and effervescent personality come to mind. The oldest of six siblings, he sets a great example, at home and beyond. At Central High School, JaMarcus was an athletic trainer for the football and volleyball teams and also served as a student ambassador. His junior year, he was dead set on attending Howard University, but he ultimately landed at Morehouse, a top historically Black college, where he is majoring in biology with dreams of becoming a sports medicine physician for an NFL team.

Although a departure from Howard, Morehouse fits JaMarcus well. An all-male college, Morehouse has a rich legacy and unique campus environment which JaMarcus says he feels welcomed and at home in. Adapting to campus has not been a problem, as he did plenty of research before moving in.

I learned JaMarcus won’t become a “Morehouse Man” until he graduates. “I can’t tell you what it means to be a ‘Morehouse Man’ because I am not one yet,” JaMarcus said. “I am a ‘Man of Morehouse.’ Being a ‘Man of Morehouse’ means representing yourself very well and holding yourself to high standards. We don’t settle, and we don’t give up. As a ‘Man of Morehouse’, it is our mission to become active, ethical leaders in our communities while uplifting the people around us.”

JaMarcus gives BRYC a lot of credit for his personal development despite joining in 2017 at the beginning of his senior year, later in high school than most Fellows do. That year his schedule allowed him to be fully committed to the program’s heavy demands. He said BRYC gave him a space where he could learn to be himself at all times, which came in handy when he learned he would not be progressing as a finalist for the Gates Scholarship. When he found out he would not advance, his first reaction was sadness, of course, but he later realized God had better things in store for him and that it was not the end of the world. With the BRYC Team and Fellows there to comfort him, he kept pushing forward, remembering setbacks are necessary parts of pursuing greatness.

Jermaine and Jada are the next Spearses to be Fellows, joining an organization whose value JaMarcus very much believes in. “It is very important for students to begin to get invested in programs like BRYC because that investment is an investment in your life. BRYC is here for our betterment, not just academically but physically and mentally as well. The amount of resources that BRYC offers is needed in the world today for our youth.”

BRYC has made such a strong impression on JaMarcus that he wants to launch a similar initiative one day. It’s no surprise he is one of our most engaged College Fellows, a special person I expect will accomplish big things in the future.

A Legacy of Leadership

By | 2018 Annual Report | No Comments

by Lucas Spielfogel

When I met our first official class of Freshmen Fellows in the fall of 2014, I remember thinking they were so young, that it would be an eternity before I wished them good luck in college. A blink and four years later, the group that exemplified BRYC Fellowship has matriculated to colleges across the state and nation.

This powerhouse of a cohort entered BRYC at a time when I was rethinking what the organization should mean to its young people. As we grew, that year to 100 Fellows, I wondered how we would be able to serve more and more youth while maintaining the intimate sense of community which was lauded as BRYC’s secret sauce. The answer was Fellow engagement. Our youth had to own BRYC, and these bold freshmen were fit to lead that charge.

The original members of the Class of 2018 embodied the Empowering Choice “show up for BRYC.” Programs, parties, trips, special initiatives, it didn’t matter. They were present in full force and vocal about their peers needing to do the same – to be proud of being Fellows, to contribute as least as much as you reap and leave BRYC in better shape than you found it. They did that and then some. Theirs is a legacy of leadership.

Our first four-years gave us the confidence to see BRYC as a community whose collective impact is far greater than the sum of its college-preparatory resources. Rather, its power is its people – its young people most of all. It’s fitting we would send these leaders off as we prepare to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Their tenure defined BRYC and will inform our next decade. We are grateful for them and don’t doubt what their influence will be in college and beyond.

The inaugural legacy rings given out at our annual Fellowship Banquet

Legacy Rings

At the 2018 Fellowship Banquet, BRYC introduced a new tradition, “legacy rings,” to honor our first official group of four-year Fellows. We hope these rings forever remind four-years of our appreciation for their long-term commitment to and impact on BRYC.