Two Senior Fellows Named Louisiana Young Heroes

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Story by Leigh Phillips

BRYC Senior Fellows Garrinecia Singleton and Kari Stephens were recently chosen as recipients of the 2018 Louisiana Young Heroes Award. In its 23rd year, the program celebrates the achievements of students who have inspired those around them and have devoted their time, talents, and energy to making their schools, churches, and communities better places.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge sponsor the program. The winners and their families will be honored April 16 with a luncheon at the Old Governor’s Mansion, a banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, and more.

Singleton is a senior at Scotlandville Magnet High School who suffered an abusive childhood at the hands of a family member. After her abuser was imprisoned, Singleton was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and severe clinical depression. She committed herself to a stringent mental health regimen, remaining a dedicated student. Singleton will be her class salutatorian and has been accepted to Rhodes College with a scholarship worth more than $200,000. She is also a Gates Scholarship Finalist. Singleton plans to become a licensed clinical social worker to support vulnerable young people and spread awareness of predatory behavior.

Stephens is a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. When their mother died of cancer, Stephens and her brother were adopted by an aunt. In addition to her mother’s terminal illness, Stephens’ childhood was made more difficult by a father in prison, an older sister who frequently ran away, and time in a homeless shelter. Stephens found that by opening herself up to people, she would be exposed to opportunities she hadn’t considered, such as Key Club. Stephens is the district secretary-treasurer and is past lieutenant governor of Key Club. As an active Key Club member, Stephens has given back to the community at several BREC family events and Our Lady of the Lake-sponsored runs. She is a regular volunteer at Lake Sherwood Village assisted living community where she plays bingo with the residents. Stephens has traveled around the country with Key Club and has been able to embrace the lessons of strength and selflessness that her mothers taught her.

“I am pretty grateful and extremely lucky to be recognized for doing what I love: helping others,” Stephens said. “I was amazed to be nominated for this award and even more so when I found out that I had so many who are there to support me. It feels so good to have a strong support system in the staff at BRYC and in my family!”

BRYC Fellows Visit Seven Atlanta-Area Schools on College Tour

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Story by Katelyn Guillory, Class of 2018

Throughout its history, BRYC has taken six college tours to Atlanta. Each year more and more Fellows are exposed and eventually matriculate to Atlanta-area schools. And each year more and more of those Atlanta College Fellows meet up with us on the tour to share their campuses with the current Fellows. This year nearly 40 BRYC Fellows and six staff members visited seven schools and five College Fellows over two days as part of the 2018 Atlanta College Tour. Fellows and chaperones also enjoyed learning about the civil rights movement at the King Center and shopping at Atlantic Station. Below is a breakdown of the seven schools we visited on the tour.

Georgia Institute of Technology

As a public school providing a technologically-based education to the new leaders of the world, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) offers more than 100 internship opportunities in and outside of Atlanta. C.M. Runnels, a current Georgia Tech student and Baton Rouge Magnet High School alumnus, was able to give our Fellows insight on the differences between Baton Rouge and Atlanta and how taking AP courses in high school prepared him for success in college. “They’re really up-to-date. It’s official. I can see myself here,” Senior Fellow Christian Riley said of Georgia Tech.

From left to right: Josh Howard, Managing Director of Community; Kyron Freeman, College Fellow at Morehouse; Arroneisha Smith, College Fellow at Clark Atlanta; and LaShawn Robertson, Managing Director of College Programs

Morehouse College

This private, liberal arts, historically black men’s college seeks to redefine the meaning of leadership. Morehouse faculty and administration encourage students to make a mark in their communities and explore global opportunities. BRYC College Fellow and Scotlandville Magnet High School alumnus Kyron Freeman joined us for the tour of his campus. Kyron is following in the footsteps of three Belaire High School and BRYC alumni, John Queen, Jonathan Scott, and Alex Watford, by pursuing an education at Morehouse. “It’s all about the brotherhood and Black excellence,” Junior Fellow Alex Lacey said of Morehouse.

Spelman College

As a private, liberal arts, historically black women’s college, Spelman is a global leader in the education of young women in leadership and change. BRYC College Fellow and Spelman senior Brittany Butler shared her perspective of her school with BRYC Fellows during the tour. Butler will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May and plans to pursue joint Master’s of Social Work and Juris Doctor degrees following graduation. She has already been accepted to New York University and Tulane’s graduate schools! Senior Fellow Heather Randolph connected with Spelman and said, “I love this. Black female empowerment and encouragement to make some change. I’m here.” Several BRYC Senior Fellows have been accepted to Spelman for the 2018-2019 school year, including Shayla Hastings, Nyah Johnson, Jennifer Ndulaka, Kari Stephens, and me.

Clark Atlanta University

College Fellow Arroneisha Smith gave a handful of Fellows a comprehensive tour of Clark Atlanta University, a private, historically-black school located in close proximity to Morehouse and Spelman. Smith showed the group classrooms, the library, and even her dorm’s bathroom so they could get a true feel for campus life at Clark Atlanta. Several Senior Fellows are considering attending Clark Atlanta in the fall and were grateful for Smith’s perspective on the university.

University of West Georgia

About an hour and a half outside of Atlanta sits University of West Georgia, home of the Wolves. Many Fellows felt at home with this public institution and the opportunities available. Senior Fellow Shayla Hastings applied right after the tour. At first sight, Hastings wondered, “Why are we even here?” After listening to the tour guide, she realized the school had amazing opportunities for her. “Their constant construction throughout the school year shows they have money, and I need money for school,” Hastings said. Financial aid will obviously be a priority for Hastings as she makes her college choice!

College Fellows Bea Kariuki and Koryne Cage at Emory

Emory University

As a top-ranked private institution, Emory University is known internationally for its involvement in the business and healthcare industries. Fellows were amazed by the many colleges and graduate and professional opportunities on campus. BRYC College Fellow and Broadmoor High School alumna Beatrice “Bea” Kariuki joined the tour, sharing about her experiences as a Gates Millennium Scholar and neuroscience and behavioral biology major at Emory. Junior Fellow Monasia Charles asked great questions about the social life and teacher-student relationships to be sure Emory is a strong candidate for her college list. Senior Fellow Ron’Janiele (Nelly) Bruce has been accepted to Emory and is considering making it her home in the fall.

Oxford College of Emory University

Oxford provides an alternative start at Emory University for students who prefer a smaller campus in their transition from high school. This two-year, residential college offers an intense focus on a liberal arts education, leadership, and community service before students transfer to the Emory University Atlanta campus. BRYC College Fellow and West Feliciana High School alumna Mika Cooper is excelling as a first-year student at Oxford. A majority of the BRYC Fellows present felt at home in the tight-knit community Oxford offers. After the tour, Fellows attended a college panel to hear about current students’ unique experiences on the smaller campus.

From left to right: LaShawn Robertson, Managing Director of College Programs; Mika Cooper, College Fellow at Oxford College; Josh Howard, Managing Director of Community

To see more pictures from the Atlanta College Tour, visit thebryc.org/fellows.

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 thebryc.org/fellows.

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 peacecorps.gov.

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 themiddleburg.org.