Having a heart full of gratitude has propelled Latoya through many opportunities, internships, and experiences. And she’s only just getting started!
“I didn’t have to worry about my mom stressing or about my environment as I did in the projects. Boys Hope Girls Hope gave me stability and security like I’d never had.”
Growing up the youngest of four siblings, Latoya Holmes was rarely lonely. But life was not easy in her home in the projects of Harlem, with her mom doing the job of two parents while working long hours to take care of Latoya, her sisters, her brother, and her young niece. Her mom worked hard to provide Latoya and her siblings with the resources to strive.
When Latoya’s oldest sister missed the chance to graduate high school due to the birth of her niece, Latoya’s mom worked overtime to assist her. Latoya’s mom found a private middle school in East Harlem for the rest of her children that focused on disadvantaged youth. That moment began Latoya’s journey to discovering her authentic self.
“My sister Teanna found out about Boys Hope Girls Hope from The East Harlem School” says Latoya. “I watched my sister, who is five years older than me, go through the program. She loved it, so I decided to see if I could make it, too.”
Going from living with six people to 40 girls at Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York was an adjustment for Latoya, but she could not have asked for a better experience. “It was the first time I had a room to myself,” she says. “I didn’t have to worry about my mom stressing or about my environment as I did in the projects. Boys Hope Girls Hope gave me stability and security like I’d never had.”
Her Boys Hope Girls Hope counselors worked hard to keep Latoya focused on school and sports. “They were strong women who looked like me,” she says. “They fought for us. They wanted us to be strong, independent young women. I could relate closely to them – one of my counselors, Daniella Portillo, was even an alumna of the Boys Hope Girls Hope affiliate in New Orleans. I sure looked up to all of them.”
of her Boys Hope Girls Hope counselors—“They were strong women who looked like me. They fought for us. They wanted us to be strong, independent young women. I sure looked up to all of them.”
One of Latoya’s hardest things about growing up was her father’s absence. “He really didn’t provide support in any way, and being denied by a parent hurts so much when you’re young,” Latoya says. “But Boys Hope Girls Hope and my Mom taught me to love myself. My mom was so thankful that we found Boys Hope Girls Hope.”
Teanna was the first in their family to go to and graduate from college. This piqued Latoya’s curiosity, but she wasn’t sure if college was for her or if she could make it. “Boys Hope Girls Hope taught me that I could!” she says. “Every year, we visited colleges during Spring Break. At the time, we scholars were slightly annoyed that we couldn’t take a break like other kids. But looking back, it was a great chance to meet college students who looked like me, speak with people like me, and get the sense I could do this.”
Today, Latoya is a senior at Hofstra University studying business management. She entered through the New Opportunities at Hofstra program, which helps disadvantaged youth graduate in four years. Before other students arrived for the fall semester, Latoya and others in the program built the foundation of a support system by spending six weeks on campus earning some credits, meeting professors, and getting to know other Black and brown students. “I can’t stress enough how much this program helped me get my foot in the door,” she says.
Latoya was off and running, literally, as part of the women’s track and field team at Hofstra, where she was named to the Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll for the Spring 2021 semester with a grade point average above 3.0. As a Boys Hope Girls Hope World Wide Technology Scholar – which supports scholars pursuing STEAM and business careers – Latoya has access to scholarship funds, professional development and mentoring, industry conferences, and opportunities for internships.
“I’m the first person in my family to get a driver’s license, and I hope to buy a car. Most importantly, I want to take care of my mom so she can retire soon.”
“During college, I have learned so much working closely with World Wide Technology teams during summer and fall internships in their Adoption Services and Global Services departments,” Latoya says. “Also, as a World Wide Technology Scholar, I had the chance to go to Detroit last fall for the Women of Color STEM Conference. This spring, I’ll attend the BEYA (Black Engineer of the Year Awards) STEM Conference in Washington, DC. Adrienne Sommerville, a presenter we met at the Detroit conference, plans to host us for a visit to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River to experience a day in the life while we’re there.”
“Being a World Wide Technology Scholar has also kept me in close touch with the Boys Hope Girls Hope Network,” Latoya says. “It’s allowed me to meet people and board members from other affiliates, plus provided access to activities that enrich me as a person. For example, I loved participating in the Network-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Book Club reading and discussion of Caste.”
“I help plan and try to go to the Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York alumni events every year,” she adds. “This past summer, I was so happy to help with the scholars there. I can’t wait to go back next summer! I’m always reaching out to the counselors to assure them I’m close by when they need me.”
Teanna has also stayed close to Boys Hope Girls Hope. After earning her bachelor’s degrees from Mount Holyoke College in history and pre-med and Cleveland State University’s accelerated nursing program, she came to St. Louis in 2022 to serve as a Legacy Leader during Boys Hope Girls Hope’s Collegiate Prep week for our high school graduates transitioning to post-secondary education. When she spoke at the event’s Legacy Dinner, Teanna said, “Thank you, Boys Hope Girls Hope, for providing a family and educational experience that is unmatched.”
Noel Schiber is the Grants and Stewardship Manager.
CO-AUTHOR & INTERVIEWER
Kristin Ostby is the President & CEO of the organization.
Today, Teanna is working as a nurse in New York. Latoya plans to work immediately after her upcoming graduation in spring 2023 and is focused on deciding her career path.
“I’ve gained a passion for education,” she says. “While I don’t think teaching is for me, I’m excited about education administration. Ten years from now, I hope to serve kids from communities like the one I grew up in through Boys Hope Girls Hope and Hofstra.”
“I also hope to have a big family!” she adds. “I want six kids and a house after living in apartments my whole life. I’m the first person in my family to get a driver’s license, and I hope to buy a car. Most importantly, I want to take care of my mom so she can retire soon.”
For future Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars, Latoya gushes about how much the program offers that will help them reach college. “My advice is to take their time and continue learning all they can from Boys Hope Girls Hope. Soak in all the information and guidance you can from the staff, the counselors, and your peers!”
She also thanks donors and volunteers for being in the corner for her and every Boys Hope Girls Hope scholar and collegian. “Without your support, I couldn’t have gone to Boys Hope Girls Hope…and I would not be who I am now,” Latoya says.