The LB was birthed out of our co-founders experiences as first-generation college students at Grambling State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Our co-founder Jonathan Allen was Student Body President and co-founder Derrick Young Jr. was Director of SGA Student Relations. The two of them spearheaded transformative initiatives to increase student engagement around critical issues. They led a vote campaign that registered over 900 students to vote, mobilized campus coalitions to tackle tobacco on campus, and even built a student resource center and computer lab in the student union! The two started to get attention from other young leaders, and were compelled to start provide leadership trainings to help them optimize their impact on their campuses and within their community.
By 2016, our founders had partnered with Student Affairs Offices and student groups at public and private colleges, HBCUs, and community colleges to assist with yearly strategic planning and execution, team building, constitution revisions, and organizational transitions. The experience was transformative and expanding their understanding of college students' needs, particularly the most vulnerable.
Both our co-founders understood to access leadership roles in the workforce, obtaining postgraduate degrees would help them achieve their goals. However, upon entering their respective competitive graduate programs, the racial inequities in education vividly revealed themselves. They were one of the very few Black students enrolled. Jonathan earned his Master of Theological Studies, concentrating on political and liberation theologies, and, afterward, he earned his Juris Doctors. Derrick earned his Masters of Public Health, concentrating in health services management and policy, and later attending law school. Derrick then self-eliminated himself from law school after being one of two Black men to enter his class of 250+ in 2017. Jonathan and Derrick knew they must create a solution to increase access for minoritized students in competitive postgraduate programs.
Leadership Brainery was established as a certified Massachusetts non-profit organization. The Marion Institute became Leadership Brainery's fiscal sponsor, which made all donations 501(c)(3) tax deductible.
Leadership Brainery Ambassador Fellowship was launched as a long-term development pipeline program equipping extraordinary first-generation and diverse college student leaders with the skills and resources to prepare for postgraduate education, build inclusive networks, and gain access to impactful and high-wage careers. Our first cohort (LBA 1) attended their first meet-up in Boston, and we hosted our Inaugural National Impact Summit at Harvard Law School.
In March 2020, we enacted our Student Relief Fund as an immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak. Underserved students encounter disproportionate hardships that impact their ability to live, learn, graduate and succeed. Through our Student Relief Fund, we were able to aid over 100 diverse , low-income, and LGBTQ+ college students with mini-grants to help them secure safe and stable housing, food, internet connection, medication, books, and more.
The pandemic also made us shift our LBA ASSEMBLE Meetings and 2020 National Impact Summit to fully virtual. In the midst of the transformations, LB officially became 501(c)(3) tax-exempt and launched applications for our second LBA cohort.