Boys Hope Girls Hope is excited to highlight team members whose time serving on the team has had a major impact on scholars, collegians, alumni, and colleagues. This month, we’re chatting with Lysandra Hutchinson, the Director of College Access and Collegian Support at Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York.
Lysandra has played a key role in Boys Hope Girls Hope’s current training partnership with Bottom Line—a non-profit that helps first-generation students from low-income backgrounds get to college, stay in college, and earn their degrees. Bottom Line has provided Boys Hope Girls Hope team members in college success roles with the opportunity to further develop their professional skills and support greater uniformity across the Network in how we work with scholars with college access and success. Lysandra has been instrumental in the Bottom Line training. Her opinions and suggestions have been significant, and her selection of session topics and identification of goals and outcomes for the group has been invaluable!
Patience Randle: Hi Lysandra, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Can you please us about your life prior to working to Boys Hope Girls Hope? What brought you to our New York affiliate?
Lysandra Hutchinson: I live in Brooklyn, New York. That’s where I grew up most of my life, but I’m originally from Trinidad. That’s where I was born. I lived there until I was nine and then moved to Brooklyn with my family, and I’ve been here ever since.
When I was in high school, I was a part of this program called Educational Talent Search, and it played a huge role in my life throughout middle school and high school. And so, from that experience, I always knew that I wanted to work with young people. My plan was to go into the medical field and volunteer because there’s no money in education. I thought I needed to make money, but then I got to college, and I realized the pre-med track was not for me.
I was not enjoying it, and I wasn’t good at it, so I switched gears and then everything came full circle. When I started college, I started working at a high school in Brooklyn for another nonprofit. I worked there for five years before deciding that I wanted to become a school counselor. I ended up going to graduate school and getting my master’s degree in school counseling. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue working with high school kids.
After some time in college and career access work, I didn’t really want to be in a school setting anymore. I felt like I needed somewhat of a break. As I started looking for new employment opportunities, I came across the Director of College Access and Collegian Support position at Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York.
When I read the job description, it really embodied everything that I wanted to do. I felt like it was the role for me, and that Boys Hope Girls Hope was such a unique model. It’s the only one of its kind in Brooklyn and New York City.
“When I read the job description, it really embodied everything that I wanted to do. I felt like it was the role for me, and that Boys Hope Girls Hope was such a unique model. It’s the only one of its kind in Brooklyn and New York City.”
Patience: Tell us a little bit about what your role is and what your day-to-day looks like.
Lysandra: I’m the Director of College Access and Collegian Support, which means that I work with our high school scholars to get them to college and our collegians through college. When I first started, the role was mainly focused on our 11th and 12th graders, but we expanded that because you really need to start talking about college and careers before junior year.
Overall, my role is to prepare our scholars for success beyond high school, and to do check-ins to make sure that our collegians have everything they need and that they are connecting to the resources on campus that they’re essentially paying for. We want them to know that we’re here for them, and that they’re still a part of the Boys Hope Girls Hope family while in college.
This current semester, I implemented our collegian mentorship program. Basically, we have some current collegians who are sophomores, juniors, and seniors mentoring our first-year students. The idea is that they hear from someone who has been in their shoes, who has gone through the program, and who knows some of the same people who can give them tips and advice, do’s and don’ts.
Patience: Can you think back to any of your favorite success stories while working with collegians?
Lysandra: I would have to say that my favorite moment so far was definitely our Alumni Day back in 2020, before all of this craziness with the pandemic started. It was one of the first events I planned when I started this job. We had more than 30 of our alumni show up for the event at LaSalle Hall, one of our residential dorms. And it was really amazing to see it all come together. I planned, reached out to them, and asked them to come, and that, combined with the help of the current team members who already knew our alumni, worked out great.
It was just nice to see them all come out for an event like that. It was the first one. It gave me hope, because they went through the program three to four years, and then here’s this new person coming into this role. They didn’t know me. They were not getting to see me. They were only hearing a voice over the phone. So, it was really encouraging and exciting to meet our young people face to face and to connect with current scholars.
“To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.”
Patience: I miss the pre-pandemic face-to-face events! How does it feel to be working with such a connected group of colleagues who are passionate about the mission?
Lysandra: It’s definitely amazing, because in my prior job experiences, there wasn’t such a connected team. Here we are so connected, and we collaborate and consult with each other for every single thing. One word to describe our team would be “collaborative.” It makes things so much easier. We all have support from each other.
Patience: We’re approaching two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Can you talk about how it impacted your scholars and your work, and what you’ve learned moving forward?
Lysandra: It was really difficult in the beginning. I was hopeful because I didn’t think it was going to last this long. But then as we’re in the middle of it, it’s like wow we’re still here. And our schools felt the same way. It was really draining. The zoom fatigue and the tech problems. Some of our collegians had to deal with professors that weren’t understanding from time to time, but they never gave up.
By the spring semester of 2021 though, everyone kind of adjusted and it was more so like reassessing goals and, you know, thinking about what resources are available, available to them, what do they need? Because none of us had ever dealt with something like this before. And it was also a feeling of isolation, not being able to see certain loved ones. But if I had to describe to our scholars and collegians with one word, it would be persistent. None of them gave up.
Patience: Do you have any advice for Boys Hope Girls Hope collegians or future collegians?
Lysandra: My advice would be to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and don’t be afraid to take chances.
You don’t have to know what you want to do right now. Your career is a lifelong journey. You don’t have to do one thing for the rest of your life. You can do multiple things, and you can make up your mind at a later time as long as you know that you want to be successful.
If you’re not willing to take chances or if you’re not willing to put yourself out there, then you kind of get stuck. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, to ask for what you want, and to negotiate. One of my favorite quotes is by Chester Bernard, “To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.”
Patience: I love that quote! I wanted to ask you something that I always ask team members to wrap up each interview. What does hope mean to you personally?
Lysandra: To me, hope means not giving up. Hope means to always to think positive, speak positive, live positive, and know that the universe will shoot positivity right back at you. Hope means that you should also do good to others. There’s the golden rule of treating people how you want to be treated, but the platinum rule is to treat people how they want to be treated. I think all of that goes into my definition of hope.
Patience Randle is the Communications and Media Associate at Boys Hope Girls Hope Network Headquarters.
Note: Some segments of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.