BRYC Offers Formal Mental Health Services to its Fellows

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Story by Sincere Harris, Class of 2019

Just before the 2017-2018 school year began, BRYC brought on some new helping hands for its Fellows. BRYC introduced free group and individual counseling services to all Fellows. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Vanessa Egerton and Master’s in School and Mental Health Counseling Candidate Bree Quinn are providing these services at BRYC. I sat down with Egerton for an in-depth interview about BRYC’s newly-offered mental health services.

What is the most rewarding thing that comes from being a licensed clinical social worker?

“Moments like this. I genuinely enjoy working with young people. I think there are times when it’s really hard, and you hear stories that you feel helpless to change. A lot of you, because you’re young people, can’t change your living circumstances. I sometimes feel like I can’t do anything, but then I also have moments where I’m able to get a peek at what the future holds for this person. So, being able to not just experience the sad, the stressful, the anxious, and the negative feelings of life with other people but also the positive experiences as well.”

Do you feel like you’ve impacted some of the Fellows who come to you?

“I would like to think so, but you don’t know until further down the road. There are moments when I feel like, ‘I feel really good about this session.’ Ultimately it is about learning skills that you can apply when you’re facing difficulties in the future. Then there’s other times where I don’t know if I was helpful enough or impactful, but then down the road you might hear a Fellow or advisor say, ‘Oh yeah. So and so said they really enjoy meeting with you,’ or ‘They’ve been applying those skills that y’all worked on.’ So in those moments, I know that I’m making a difference or being helpful in some way.”

What’s the difference between individual and group therapy?

“In group therapy, you will usually be with three to five other Fellows addressing the same topics. You’re offering support, sharing similar experiences, receiving skills, and interacting with other Fellows who are dealing with similar challenges. In one-on-one or individual therapy, it’s just you and the therapist or counselor addressing the concerns you have. It’s a little more intimate when its one-on-one.”

BRYC Fellows have similarly favorable opinions of the new mental health services being offered. One Fellow said, “I feel that BRYC did everyone a favor when they got a social worker. Ms. Vanessa makes it so easy to talk to her. She is always welcoming and has a warm smile on her face. I feel like I can talk to her about anything, and her feedback is so real.”

BRYC Fellows interested in making group or individual counseling appointments should visit

BRYC College Fellow to Join Peace Corps in Rwanda

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Story by Emily Nichols, Class of 2019

“I love challenges. If it doesn’t kill me, it makes me stronger,” Tyneeka Dyson explained. A BRYC College Fellow and University of Virginia senior, Dyson knows all about breaking barriers. Coming from a low-income family, Dyson never imagined she would be in the shoes she is in today. She has already set a precedent for her sisters and family and hopes to continue the trend by serving in the Peace Corps in Rwanda following graduation from a top university.

At the beginning of her college application process, Dyson did not know which college she wanted to attend, but her sights were set on going out-of-state. Her College Mentor, BRYC Executive Director Lucas Spielfogel, mentioned University of Virginia. Dyson knew very little about such a prestigious university, but Spielfogel advised it could be a good move because of the generous financial aid it typically grants to low-income students. From there, the rest was history, as Dyson packed her bags and moved nearly 900 miles away from Louisiana!

In her first semester at UVA, Dyson faced a lot of adversity. Not only were the academics demanding, but there were cultural and social barriers surrounding the campus. Many students came from privileged backgrounds and were prepared for the rigorous coursework offered. However, Dyson was not.  “After my first semester, I was placed on academic probation,” she revealed. “My friends were like ‘Let’s hang out,’ but I had to tell them ‘no’ because I had to work and study.” Although slightly discouraged, she knew she could not let her supporters down. Refusing to let a little misfortune defeat her, Dyson began to discover her true passions and excel.

Dyson posing in UVA gear at the BRYC House

After re-evaluating her major in engineering, Dyson soon realized she had a different calling: anthropology. While studying African Americans, humanity, and topics that inspired her, Dyson began to see a tremendous improvement in her grades. She began to think about her family back home, and she knew she could not let them down. Defying the odds, Dyson is now a senior at the University of Virginia, poised to teach English in Rwanda.

“I’ve always liked helping people. My motto is ‘If I can, I will,’” Dyson declared. Originating from her desire to carry her family through tough times, she knew the Peace Corps would be a profound way to exercise her motto. While living in a small Rwandan village, she will interact with students and train them to speak English. Through debates, athletics, and exposure to academic texts, Dyson will instruct 200 Rwandan students. She will engage with the Rwandan community and faculty to find ways to advance academics within the country. Dyson will also work with students and teachers to increase usage of the internet and technology in educational settings. While she carries lots of responsibilities, Dyson remains thrilled to make such impact.

As a member of the BRYC Community, Dyson is forever grateful for the opportunities afforded her. From the ACT prep to the positive community of mentors and Fellows, she feels BRYC has opened so many doors for her. Not only did BRYC provide excellent resources, but it presented her with the support to become the excelling individual she is today. A piece of advice she would like to give all BRYC Fellows is, “Take advantage of everything, because nothing can stop you. The statistics do not define us, and with BRYC, we can make it work in our favor.”

For more information about the Peace Corps, visit

BRYC Alumnus Named Executive Director of the Middleburg Institute

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Story by Kenya Carney, Class of 2020

BRYC alumnus John Queen was recently named executive director of the Middleburg Institute, an organization committed to improving the lives of low-income communities in Louisiana. Queen was born and raised in Baton Rouge, grew up in Park Forest, and attended Belaire High School. As a 2011 BRYC Senior Fellow, he earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which he used to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.

The Middleburg Institute is an organization that strengthens Louisiana residents’ “ability to maintain and preserve assets by advancing public policies and programs that build economic security” over time. The institute’s best-known program, LABEST, “influences changes in public policies that improve the lives of low income communities.” Through the program, they fight for Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, and more.

Queen’s journey to become the executive director of the Middleburg Institute was very nontraditional. During one of Queen’s internships while studying at Morehouse, he met Joyce James, founder of the Middleburg Institute. Some years later, James contacted him to join the Board of Directors for the Middleburg Institute. He served on the Board for two years before he transitioned into his current role as executive director. “I always say that it was God aligning me along my path,” Queen said.

Queen first wanted to be an engineer, but he eventually realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He changed his major three times before he discovered that he was truly passionate about business. While at Morehouse, he fell in love with real estate, enrolled in real estate school, and earned his license all while finishing his undergraduate degree.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Queen lives by this quote because his journey and success wasn’t just him. It was a village including God, family, and friends.

For more information on the Middleburg Institute, visit

Senior Fellow Earns Scholarship Worth $280,000+ to Vanderbilt University

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Story by Ashlei Smith, Class of 2020

Every year thousands of students throughout the United States apply for college through QuestBridge National College Match. Keyvon Jackson, a Senior Fellow and student at Lee Magnet High School, was recognized for being an excellent student and was selected to be an applicant “matched” through QuestBridge. Jackson matched with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. and earned a scholarship worth more than $280,000. He will be attending Vanderbilt in the fall of 2018. Finishing his senior year with experience, outstanding grades, and confidence, Jackson is looking forward to a future filled with success and happiness.

An original oil painting by Keyvon Jackson

Jackson was born and raised in Baton Rouge. He is the oldest of two children. All his life, he has he had the drive and desire to be successful. “I would say the thing that has motivated me the most, unfortunately, is knowing that, one day, because of my sexuality, I wouldn’t really have anyone in my family I could lean on, so I had to make sure I was good,” Jackson said. He has continued to strive for excellence throughout his high school years to accomplish his dreams. At Lee Magnet High School, Jackson is a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club, JROTC, and serves as the president of Lee’s Diversity Club. He is also an active participant in his art and theatre classes. To get him prepared to go to a highly-ranked university, Jackson is taking AP classes, focusing on time management, and improving his critical thinking skills. His involvement in BRYC has also opened his eyes to dozens of opportunities.

Jackson shares the same interests with lots of teens. His favorite food is chicken wings, he enjoys watching Netflix, and he considers himself an “artsy” person. But he sets himself apart from most teens by taking his love for chicken wings to becoming an employee of Raising Cane’s and later being promoted to Certified Trainer. He took watching movies and shows on Netflix to becoming actively involved in his theatre classes and producing plays at school. Lastly, he doesn’t just consider himself “artsy;” he uses art as a form of expression and dedicates most of his time to his artistic endeavors.

Jackson learned about QuestBridge through BRYC, and he said picking Vanderbilt for one of his college choices was simple because it matches all of his interests. Vanderbilt also has a “BRYC Family” connection, as Jackson will be joining College Fellow and QuestBridge Scholar Loveis Jackson on campus in the fall. Keyvon even had the opportunity to visit Loveis in Nashville over spring break to get a taste of his future home.

At Vanderbilt Jackson plans on majoring in psychology with a minor in English. Jackson is undecided on the career he wants to pursue, but he feels studying psychology and English will open multiple doors for his future endeavors. Throughout the next few years, Jackson plans on prospering in college, being actively involved in clubs and organizations, and graduating at the top of his class. Studying abroad, experiencing different cultures, and engaging with minority-focused student groups are other aspects of college he would like to engage in.

College Fellow Loveis Jackson, Keyvon Jackson, and Senior Fellow Nelly Bruce at Vanderbilt over spring break

“Be free and have fun” is Jackson’s motto. This motto is exactly how he wants to live his life. The pursuit of this goal is Jackson’s driving force to excel in school and to become the best of the best.

For more information on Questbridge National College Match, visit

Former BRYC Staff Member Founds Carolina Youth Coalition

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Story by Jeanne Smith, Class of 2018

In 2014 Charlotte, N.C. ranked dead last out of our country’s 50 largest cities in terms of economic mobility. Essentially, youth born into the lowest income bracket in Charlotte have the lowest chance of making it out. However, there is a strong movement to improve the college and career opportunities for youth in Charlotte. Former BRYC staff member Aaron Randolph, with the support of longtime BRYC champion Kathryn Kissam, is looking to be a part of that change with the creation of the Carolina Youth Coalition (CYC).

CYC is a BRYC-like organization that aims to prepare high-achieving, under-resourced students to enter, excel in, and graduate from four-year colleges and universities. Randolph recently moved to Charlotte and became CYC’s founding executive director. In the 2018-2019 school year, he plans to start with 40 Fellows total, 20 seniors and 20 juniors. His hope is to have an 8th grade component built into CYC by year four. “The 8th to 9th grade transition is such a critical time in a student’s journey and can have a huge impact on their opportunities later on in the college application process. It would be great to engage parents and Fellows in preparing for that transition so they can enter high school ready to succeed on day one,” Randolph said.

Randolph plans to add two team members later this spring. “Luckily I have some very involved board members and a lot of great people I’ve been able to connect with here that are helping me along the way,” he said. Kissam, CYC’s co-founder and board chair, has been one of the project’s biggest supporters. Between contributing financially, fundraising, assisting with staff recruitment, and helping Randolph find and secure a physical space for CYC to call “home,” Kissam has played a critical role in the founding and development of CYC. “Kathryn Kissam has been a driving force behind the creation of Carolina Youth Coalition and initiated the idea to bring BRYC’s model to youth here in Charlotte. I am thrilled to be working alongside someone who has her extensive experience in philanthropy, and more importantly, a passion for education and seeing youth thrive. Without Kathryn, and her husband, Luke, this endeavor would certainly not be possible,” Randolph said.

Longtime BRYC champion and Carolina Youth Coalition co-founder and board chair Kathryn Kissam

The idea of spreading an organization like BRYC to North Carolina came about due to the experience Randolph had in Baton Rouge. He realized that more students in other places would love to be a part of the kind of community BRYC offers. Charlotte residents are familiar with students who come through programs like BRYC, and they want all students to have access to similar resources.

A lot of fundraising, networking, and meetings have gone into launching CYC. Randolph’s biggest inspiration for continuing this work is all the memories he has with BRYC Fellows and the success he’s witnessed. “I hope that the two organizations can maintain a close relationship, sharing best practices, resources, and connections. It would be awesome to do a summer retreat or college tour together,” he said. Randolph’s aspiration is that CYC can be as tight-knit, loving, and supportive as the BRYC Community, and that he can cultivate a staff just as dedicated.

“I also learned that there is a significant need here for a program like ours, and the Carolina Youth Coalition can play a role in that movement for change,” Randolph said.

Although CYC and BRYC share similar goals, they are independent organizations committed to empowering students’ dreams of attending and graduating from college.

“We are very proud to see the reach of BRYC’s programs extend to Charlotte and pleased the Charlotte community has received our model so positively. We’re even prouder that Aaron Randolph, a former BRYC staff member, will be leading the charge alongside longtime BRYC champions and supporters Kathryn and Luke Kissam. We look forward to partnering with CYC to strengthen both our programs,” BRYC Executive Director Lucas Spielfogel said.

For more information on the Carolina Youth Coalition, visit

Welcome, Vanessa Egerton!

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Vanessa joins the BRYC Community as our first Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In this part-time role, she will provide our Fellows with individual and group counseling services beginning in October.

Vanessa is a New York City native who found her way to the South and hasn’t looked back. She was selected as a Posse Scholar and attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in educational and child studies. She later went on to pursue her master’s degree in social work from Barry University in Miami, FL. Vanessa has always had a passion for working with the next generation; since the age of five, she wanted to become an educator. Her experience working with youth ranges from working in a group home setting as a therapeutic attendant, to being a social service worker in a child placement agency, to serving as a student support counselor at a public charter school prior to relocating to Baton Rouge. She is currently the Director of Treatment at a local alternative placement school, where she provides individual and group social-emotional support to middle and high school students. When she’s not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, watching movies (everything from old black-and-white movies to current dramas), attending live music performances, and practicing photography.


Welcome, Laura Hawkes!

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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. Laura will officially begin her work with BRYC on July 31.

Laura Hawkes’ Education

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!

Technically Speaking: June 2017

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Technically Speaking” is a monthly blog series about BRYC’s partnership with Immense Networks to leverage technology in support of student achievement. The first installment is written by Executive Director Lucas Spielfogel. In the coming months, BRYC Fellows will be taking over writing this series.

Executive Director Lucas Spielfogel

When I first met Darren Kattan of Immense Networks, I was frustrated. Despite partnering with a number of IT firms over the years, BRYC’s technology infrastructure was spotty at best. Only one of our four printers worked reliably, and our student Wi-Fi couldn’t support more than ten users at a time. We had invested time and money in external support — but to no avail.

Then Darren came to BRYC and everything changed. He immediately dug in and offered to donate his time and expertise to bring BRYC into the 21st century, technically speaking. After a few Saturdays of Darren being around, everything was running smoothly. Students could use their phones and laptops, staff were able to print, and we no longer had to just hope our WiFi would work with more than 70 people drawing from it per night.

Darren’s hard work and generosity didn’t stop there. He immediately took on the daunting task of updating and integrating our student data storage and communication systems, making BRYC’s programmatic efforts more effective and increasing our staff’s productivity. Copying and pasting multiple pieces of data into system after system quickly became a thing of the past, and we were freed to focus on our most important work, supporting our Fellows.

Darren and Immense Networks have saved BRYC upwards of $12,000 in hard IT costs, but his value to our organization is immeasurable. He has saved our staff innumerable hours of futile troubleshooting and remains willing to take on whatever new venture we throw at him.  With Darren’s support, BRYC is strategically leveraging technology to streamline processes and maximize student-facing work. We are profoundly thankful to Darren and Immense Networks, and we look forward to more technological evolution in the weeks and months to come!

Meet Dr. Saundra McGuire

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 Dr. Saundra McGuire, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition

Saundra Yancy McGuire, Director Emerita of the LSU Center for Academic Success and Retired Assistant Vice Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry, is an internationally recognized chemical educator, author and lecturer who has travelled the globe promoting sure-fire strategies to help students, including those underrepresented in science and math professions, to be successful in their coursework and careers. Prior to joining LSU in 1999, McGuire spent eleven years at Cornell University, where she received the coveted Clark Distinguished Teaching Award. Her latest book, Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation, was released in October 2015 and is a Stylus Publications best seller.

The Education of Dr. Saundra McGuire

A proud native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dr. McGuire received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, magna cum laude, from Southern University, her Master’s degree from Cornell University, and her Ph.D. in chemical education from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she received the Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Promise.

Accolades For Dr. McGuire

Among Dr. McGuire’s most recent accolades are the 2017 American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students to Pursue Careers in the Chemical Sciences and Induction into LSU College of Science Hall of Distinction. In 2015 she received the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Lifetime Mentor Award and in 2014 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. She is an elected Fellow of the ACS and the AAAS. In 2007 the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring was presented to her in a White House Oval Office Ceremony. She is married to Dr. Stephen C. McGuire, a professor of physics at Southern University. They are the parents of Dr. Carla McGuire Davis and Dr. Stephanie McGuire, and the doting grandparents of Joshua, Ruth, Daniel, and Joseph Davis.


Welcome, Chelsea Werner

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Chelsea Werner, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition

Chelsea joins the BRYC Community as a College Counseling Director. In this role, she will be working with Ms. LaShawn to support what next year will be a cohort of 100 Senior Fellows as they work to navigate the college application process! Chelsea will officially begin her work with BRYC in June.

Chelsea Werner’s Education

Originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, Chelsea attended the University of Miami where she earned her BA 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 – or doesn’t, as it were. She returned to the University of Miami a year later to earn her MS 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. In her free time, she loves to read (Beach Music and Between the World and Me are her favorites), spend time outside near the water, and watch sports.