By Leslie D. Rose
18-year-old LSU freshman Misty Ezejiofo plans to become a mental health professional. The biology pre-med major intends to complete her medical studies in other parts of Louisiana, but she will return to Baton Rouge to open her practice, not only because she is from the Capital City, but also because of the influence left upon her from Baton Rouge Youth Coalition (BRYC).
Founded in 2008 by Dan Kahn, then a high school teacher, BRYC has gone from a program of 12 students meeting after school at the local teen center to what is proclaimed as the most comprehensive college readiness program in Louisiana.
And the main goal is simple—to help students become critical and creative thinkers and thoughtful, resilient people.
As a fellow of BRYC, Ezejiofo said she received so many core values that will help her even beyond college, but more importantly, she said she has learned to persevere through troubled times.
“The process is well worth the outcome,” she said. “I have learned that hard work pays off, that volunteering is essential, but most of all, that I want to help others the way that BRYC has helped me. BRYC has opened my eyes to an entire new way of approaching the world. I can confidently say that I am capable of achieving anything, the strongest core value BRYC has instilled in me.”
A graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Ezejiofo said it means a great deal to her to attend LSU.
“Attending LSU means that you are eager for education and diversity,” she said.
Through BRYC she had toured around the country looking at a variety schools, but what felt most like home to her was the school whose fight song could be heard throughout the streets of her neighborhood.
Many other fellows find their college homes out-of-state, and either return to the Baton Rouge area to pay it forward, or move on to corporate careers elsewhere. Of notable fellows who have done the former or latter are Myeshia Carter and Dominique Ricks. Ricks relocated to Louisiana after graduating through the First Wave Program at University of Wisconsin—Madison. He was a featured speaker at the 2014 TEDxLSU with a talk titled “The Push to Mediocrity”. Carter graduated from Howard University and took a job at PepsiCo in Dallas, but she returns home often as a poster child for BRYC.
And as BRYC’s success rate rises, more openings become available for the next generation of hardworking students looking for the keys to college. Any Baton Rouge student who will be in a high school grade next year with at least a 3.3 unweighted cumulative GPA are invited to apply to BRYC at thebryc.org/applynow.
BRYC executive director Lucas Spielfogel said that BRYC is a place where teens challenge and support one another.
“It’s a group of motivated young people who are serious about their goals but have fun accomplishing them,” Spielfogel said.
“To the Fellow who thinks college is not for him/her, I would say that BRYC has proven year after year that one’s background does not have to determine one’s future. I would urge this student to let BRYC prove him/her wrong.”
Ezejiofo would agree.
“Your upbringing and/or background have nothing to do with college,” she said. “College is about expanding your horizons and becoming a better person in every way, regardless of where you come from. College is for people who want to further educate themselves, network, and gain skills to help succeed in the world. If you fall into one of those categories, college is for you!”
Through its program focuses of academics, college, critical thinking, leadership, and self (personal growth), BRYC serves 103 high school fellows, supports 97 BRYC graduates, or college fellows.
There are also various volunteer opportunities available for current college students and graduates to help the upcoming generation on their roads to success.