College was never part of the plan. For Yasmine Bryant, joining the United States Air Force was the natural next step after graduating from high school in 2020. She was from a military family, after all, so it was a life that was familiar to her.
But her guidance counselor at Arundel High School wanted her to explore other paths before making a commitment to a specific career path.
“At that time, I was trying everything to develop a better sense of the career path that would be best for me,” said Bryant. “I knew I had a passion for helping people, and my counselor knew I had a vested interest in political relations and how the government and politics worldwide affect people. She said, ‘You know, diplomacy, it really deals with all of those things.’”
So Bryant applied for an Albrecht fellowship, which would allow her to participate in the World Trade Center Institute’s inaugural Youth Diplomats program. The program is for high school students considering a career that spans the globe, such as being a diplomat or working for a multi-national company.During the eight-month program, students examine questions about sustainability, migration, and conflict resolution on a global scale. They also meet leaders at global companies in the Mid-Atlantic, many who become their mentors.
“Once I was accepted, I was just so excited and I was all in,” Bryant said. “That was my first break into the professional world and the real world. It was my first taste into anything outside of high school or anything school related.”
It was nerve-wracking for Bryant, who wasn’t used to board rooms and discussions with professors. But it quickly became evident to her that she was exactly where she needed to be, surrounded by globally minded peers who would push her beyond her comfort zone.
“I had no idea that it was going to be so diverse. But it was so uplifting to me that there were other people of all different races that were passionate about people, passionate about the world, and passionate about making the world better.”
Bryant described one session dealing with immigration and migration as “eye opening” and connected it back to her time growing up in El Paso, Texas.
“I was young at the time, so I didn’t realize the reality that some of my classmates had faced; traveling from their home countries in search of a better life,” she said. “It really made me curious as to my role in helping people become better acclimated to have a better life.”
That’s something that she is actively doing today, drawing upon her own life experience. While a sophomore in high school, Bryant was sexually assaulted. But she refused to remain a statistic. At her high school, she founded the movement Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (S.A.S.H.A.).
Today, Yasmine attends Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. She is studying political science and is actively expanding S.A.S.H.A. into an official national organization.
She was invited to WTCI’s 2022 Maryland International Business Leadership Awards ceremony to share her story in front of the audience of 250 people and introduce the keynote speaker, Morgan State University President Dr. David Wilson. Sharing her story of sexual assault and founding S.A.S.H.A. had a profound impact on the attendees. One woman, who didn’t share her name, was overcome by emotion and cried when meeting Bryant.
“She just kept saying thank you. And she said ‘You don’t know how much this is needed.’ That was just so touching for me. I texted my co-founders of S.A.S.H.A. at Morgan and just told them that we’re really making a big difference. It was just so incredible to know that we’re impacting people on a larger scale than we thought.”
Finding ways to strengthen her community continues to be a core tenet for Bryant. She recently accepted an internship with the Baltimore City Police Department, where she is working to better the relationships between low-income communities, minority communities, and law enforcement. She points back to Youth Diplomats and then-program manager Zac Sheaffer for opening many of the doors she now finds herself walking through.
“Mr. Sheaffer, we still keep in contact now,” said Bryant. “He’s written me some great recommendation letters. I would definitely say he’s like a mentor to me. He’s helped me get into rooms that I never thought I would be in.”
With a few years of school left, Bryant is already looking for how to pay it forward to the next cohort of Youth Diplomats while looking on to her next opportunity.
“I really can’t emphasize enough how much of an impact this program has had on me,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to what I’m capable of and, quite honestly, to my worth and the worth of my work and my passions. I’m really excited to see where this program goes in the future. And I want to be a part of helping the program develop further.”
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