Story by Emily Nichols, Class of 2019
A former basketball star and 2014 Capitol High School graduate, BRYC College Fellow Jaala Boyd knows all about the game. Growing up in Baton Rouge, Jaala’s mother placed her in dance. Jaala instantly knew she was not connected to the art. She had first picked up a basketball at age four; the rest was history.
Jaala earned many accolades playing high school basketball, including being named to 2013 Second Team All-District and 2014 Class 2A All-Academic Team. From the court to the classroom, Jaala learned to find balance between athletics and academics. She stated, “I am an organized person, and I like to plan things. I like to utilize the tools around me like phones, calendars, and emails. My coach understood that school was first so, before games, if you had homework, you would do that. Less practice opened the window to get more things done during the day.”
With that mindset and drive in tow, Jaala moved 10 minutes across town to Louisiana State University in the fall of 2014. She desired to carry her love of basketball to the women’s varsity team, but after putting forth a valiant effort was unable to secure one of those highly coveted spots. She revealed, “My passion for basketball made me feel like I had somewhere I belonged. It was kind of hard to get used to college, and it was a mini-struggle because I didn’t have it (basketball).” Undeterred, Jaala went on to play intramural basketball for LSU in addition to becoming a sports administration major.
One day, while looking over numerous internships sent by the sports administration department, Jaala came across an opportunity with the New York Mets. Fingers crossed, she applied and got accepted for the position. For Jaala, New York City was a big shock. Its bustling streets and towering skyscrapers were a stark change from Baton Rouge. BRYC did its best to make Jaala’s transition easier, helping her secure a rent-free apartment generously offered by local BRYC supporters. There was nothing easy about the internship, though. Inside the Mets organization, Jaala was thrown right into the storm, supporting with office administration.
Coming from a humble background, Jaala understands the value of hard work: “I didn’t face adversity, but I felt it. Many got into their positions because they knew someone. I was the only person who didn’t have connections.” As one of just two Black interns, Jaala found it challenging to integrate herself in the predominantly white office. “Being one of the only Black people, I didn’t have much to talk to them about if it wasn’t sports-related. I don’t mingle much, and it really made me want to stay to myself even more.”
Although uncomfortable, Jaala did not falter. She found inspiration and support in a coworker named Chris. “Chris started out as a mascot for a year or two before he started doing other things around the minor league. He eventually worked his way up to the office of the New York Mets. It was inspiring to be around him.” Curveballs and all, Jaala’s internship affirmed her goals to work at the intersection of philanthropy and sports, in community relations within professional sports franchises.
Jaala’s giving nature can best be seen in her character. She is giving back to BRYC this year by serving our ninth-graders as a Freshmen Mentor, but she has but she has a piece of advice for all Fellows: “Everyone’s journey is different. Everybody’s process is different. But remember to be patient. Be humble. Have faith.“