Senior year in BRYC is a grind. For twelve months starting the June after 11th-grade year, Senior Fellows spend hundreds of hours prepping for the ACT, researching and visiting colleges, writing essays, securing recommendation letters, applying for scholarships, and completing the many other parts of the college application process. For their hard work, our Seniors deserved a celebration!
So that’s what we gave them. On June 7, 2016, BRYC hosted its inaugural Fellowship Banquet at The Club at LSU Union Square (formerly the LSU Faculty Club) to recognize our Seniors’ and their families’ achievements, acknowledge our incredible College Mentors’ hard work, and thank profusely our Fellowship Campaign sponsors – the individuals, corporations, and foundations that made generous financial contributions to support the members of the Class of 2016.
BRYC is proud of how the Fellowship Banquet went, especially considering it was our first. More than 150 people attended – a healthy combination of Fellows, family members, College Mentors, donors, and staff and board members. S’Marrionne Jackson, who just began her freshman year at Sam Houston State University, drove five hours back from her college orientation in Huntsville, TX so she could make the event and collect the plaque for being the “Most Dependable” Senior Fellow.
The 45-minute program included remarks from Craig Gehring, the founder and president of the banquet’s presenting sponsor, Mastery Prep. Ms. LaShawn, BRYC’s Director of Senior Programs, also graced the stage to present a number of special senior awards as she fought back tears of joy and pride.
Most notable, though, were the Senior Fellow speeches by Khaliah Knighten, Chedra Joseph, and Dewayne Williams. Dewayne’s speech was particularly moving since, not long ago, he was unwilling to speak in a small group setting much less in front of a large crowd. On this night, he received a standing ovation for his thoughtful comments and bravery. Dewayne definitely felt the love.
“Speaking at the senior banquet was a great honor,” he said. “It was a little nerve-wracking in the beginning, but walking up there I tried to remember that everyone was there to support me. When it was all over I felt wonderful for having the courage to speak in front of a crowd who came to hear my story and the obstacles I had to overcome to get to where I am today.”
To close out the evening, Ms. LaShawn presented each Senior Fellow with a shirt from his/her college and a personalized mug from Mastery Prep, and we cheesed for photos before saying goodnight. Ephraim Robinson, who started at University of Louisiana Lafayette this fall, said the event “felt like a family reunion.”
As we speak, the 38 members of the Class of 2016 are beginning the next phase of their lives. Thirty-five of them (92%) are off to four-year colleges; one will begin at Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) with plans to transfer to Morehouse College, where he has already been admitted; one will complete an emergency medical technician (EMT) program at BRCC; and one will join the U.S. Navy. These incredible young people earned more than $3 million in collective gift aid offers and were admitted to more than 60 four-year colleges. They also saw an average composite ACT score of 23 (compared to a 21 national average and 19 state average) and an average growth of 3 composite points. This success was thanks to the support of Mastery Prep and the tireless efforts of Ms. Lauren, BRYC’s ACT instructor.
We are so proud of our Senior Fellows for their hard work and sacrifice, and we are confident they will continue to reach great heights. We will be here for them as they navigate their next chapters at colleges across the city, state, and nation. BRYC is thankful to the parents and guardians who supported these students unwaveringly, to our College Mentors for the many hours they have invested in coaching our Fellows, and to our Fellowship sponsors, without whom our work would be impossible.