Brandy Wright: Why She's a Role Model

By Genesis Barraza ‘18, Office of Development Communications Posted Wed, 11/15/2017 - 09:00

As a former foster youth, the cards were stacked against Brandy Wright when it came to going to college. Only 10 percent of former foster youth attend college, she points out, and only 3 percent of them graduate.

Brandy, though, is part of that small metric of success. Not only was she the first in her family to graduate from college, she is now pursuing her master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration at USF.

The key to her success? Access, Brandy says. Ultimately, it was because of the scholarship she received that Brandy was able to enroll and thrive at USF.

“I strongly believe that education is the essential link in creating pathways for folks to rise out of poverty and build successful lives,” she says.

Brandy’s education at USF has helped her feel empowered to be a role model. As a single parent, she is proud to set an example for her family.

“I’m a role model to my children,” she says. “Showing them that through resilience, perseverance, and hard work, dreams become realities.”

Brandy also hopes to inspire others by sharing her experiences, particularly with foster youth, to help them build their own self- efficacy.  Here’s what she would like them to know: “I can do it, because she did it.”

Pushing for Policy and Access

Access has been a recurring theme for Brandy during her academic career. “Access to funding is essential for marginalized populations that generally lack access to institutions of higher education due to high costs of tuition,” she points out.

She speaks with passion as she shares that her time at USF has changed the way she looks at the world. Before, Brandy wasn’t sure about the effectiveness of policies to increase educational access for foster youth, because they seemed to be executed poorly.

Now, she feels that policy is the starting point for change. In particular, Brandy is interested in remedying gaps between policy and implementation. She spoke passionately about the need for systems accountability with regards to Katie A. Services Implementation, originally enacted to ensure access to specialty mental health services for low-income children and youth in California, which she believes, is not working as well as it could.

Living Her Dream

Brandy has her undergraduate degree in feminist studies with an emphasis in law, politics, and social change from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since then, she has worked for Family and Children Services in Santa Clara County supporting special programming for foster youth, ages 16 to 21, and she has worked as a development associate for the Silicon Valley Youth Fund.

Her education at USF, which she described as “a perfect fit,” aims to diminish the disconnect between business and nonprofit practices by combining aspects of the two. For Brandy, this combination was important, and now she lives it out through some of her favorites classes, such as Nonprofit Finance.

Brandy often reflects on the ways in which USF not only challenges her to work hard but also enables her to complete work in unique ways. For example, Brandy’s weekly commute from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, while worth the trip, can be challenging when working on group projects. She is grateful to able to collaborate with students from the nearby San Jose branch campus and build community there.

Brandy, who grew up in foster homes across the Bay Area, has a special appreciation for her schooling and the scholarship that made her graduate education possible.

“The rewards I personally experience are difficult to articulate,” she says. “It’s emotional … I’m living my dream because of the dollars generously donated by thoughtful donors who value educational equality.”

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