Once I was a year into Boys Hope Girls Hope, I knew I wanted to graduate from high school and be prepared for college. I don’t know who I’d be today without the program.

This month, Amanda Bolden launched her pre-med college career at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  When she joined Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans prior to her first year of high school, Amanda wasn’t as clear as she is today on why she was there or where she was headed.  “Once I was a year into Boys Hope Girls Hope, I knew I wanted to graduate from high school and be prepared for college,” Amanda said.  “I don’t know who I’d be today without the program.”

Amanda’s mother works as a pastry chef in New Orleans and lost her job due to the recent economic downturn.  At home, Amanda had a lot of family responsibilities that pulled her from studying.  Boys Hope Girls Hope gave Amanda a place where she could focus.  She developed an interest in becoming a biology-chemistry major and a bio-ethicist.  Amanda said she first started thinking about medical related careers from watching the show Grey’s Anatomy. She also realized she had a natural gift in the sciences.

During high school, Boys Hope Girls Hope connected her with the John Hopkins’ Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE), which “seeks to develop exceptional high school students from low-income and diverse backgrounds, by introducing them to biomedical research.”  Amanda participated in the program twice; once in person in Baltimore and another summer virtually from New Orleans.

While in Baltimore, Amanda was invited to stay with the scholars at the girls’ home of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore during the week.  Amanda spent weekends with the family of Douglas Robinson, SARE’s founder.  Douglas started SARE after volunteering at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore and realized the talent and motivation of the scholars.

Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans Executive Director, Chuck Roth, said, “Amanda came into the program very determined.  She took advantage of the many and varied opportunities offered by BHGH New Orleans and positioned herself extremely well for her transition to college.  I see Amanda working in the science field whether it be as a physician or research scientist or possibly a veterinarian.  She can do whatever she wants to with her education and profession!”

In addition to the academic and life direction, Amanda said Boys Hope Girls Hope, “opened so many opportunities that have shaped my morals and values and helped me to have an open mind to everything.”  Amanda shares that prior to joining the program, she wasn’t very aware of social issues impacting her communities.

Through the older scholars, who Amanda described as more “socially woke” and people like Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans Board Member, Judge Janis van Meerveld, Amanda has had great exposure to issues like combating racism and sexism in the work place.  Amanda hopes to continue to educate herself on important issues and be a role model and advocate for girls and women.

In the future, Amanda dreams of exploring the world, especially Greece and Italy, knowing her beloved New Orleans will always be there.  When asked what advice she would give to younger girls joining the program today, Amanda replied, “I’d tell them that they’re in there for a reason.  Even though there may be some tough days, you’re always moving forward.  I’d tell them to say yes to everything.  No matter if it’s something like an opportunity or trying a new food, it helps you to expand your horizons.”

Blog written by Boys Hope Girls Hope President and CEO, Kristin Ostby.