An elementary school  teacher once said to Allycia, “The older you get, the less people will care about you.” And now she’s here to say, “I’m proving her wrong.”

For more than 40 years, the Lussier Community Education Center has promoted educational achievement, health and wellness, arts and culture, and leadership and service for people of all ages and backgrounds, but particularly for youth from kindergarten through 12th grade in our afterschool and summer programs. Youth like Allycia Thomas, who started coming to the Center as a kindergartener, and has remained connected throughout her childhood and now as a young adult in her junior year of high school.

Allycia has been steadily rising as one of Lussier’s youth leaders. I’m amazed at getting to be a part of this. Watching her grow, watching her confidence grow. – Lisbeth Solano, Buffett Scholar and High School Program Coordinator.

Like many students this past academic year, Allycia struggled with virtual learning. “It’s so different,” she says. “The school schedule is even different. It’s harder because you get more distracted because you’re not actually in school.” Despite this, Allycia touts her grades as one of her greatest accomplishments this year, sharing, “I’m passing! I feel good because before… I would keep my hopes up but never really look at my grades. Now I look forward to checking on them.”

In addition to her improved grades, this determined young woman also was selected for the Jane Burrows Buffett Scholars program, the LCEC’s college and career readiness program supporting promising high school students in their aspirations for the future. Students are selected based on their compassion for others, determination to overcome hardships, and demonstrated potential. The LCEC selection committee was pleased to see her application, and welcomed the chance to bring her into the program.

Her story really spoke to us, and her long-standing connection to the Center —  particularly as a dedicated participant in SOUL, Youth Action, and BOSS — has made Allycia an ideal choice for Buffett Scholars. All I knew was that watching Allycia grow and find her confidence would be really special to witness.” -Lisbeth Solano, nominator

For the last two summers, ever-busy Allycia participated as a Youth Action Summer Intern, engaging in skills building and community service. She tells us, “In YASI I get to experience new things. We did team building and the service project, and did work on nationalities and ethnicities. I really appreciate being able to ask questions in a safe space.” This past summer, Allycia also took part in the Black Girlhood Mural Project developed by The Bubbler, Dear Diary, and artist Shiloah Coley, contributing her artistic talents to a large painting that travels school-to-school throughout Madison. Through LCEC’s Art a la Carte program, Allycia had the opportunity to use her mural making skills in the Evjue Youth Room, creating a more inviting and engaging space for high school students.  

As the end of her high school career draws nearer, we asked Allycia to reflect on what she gets out of the Center. She replied, We get opportunities because the Center invests in us. We also get the opportunity to give back… School taught me some skills, but the Center taught me how to communicate with people. I do have people that care about me at Lussier. If you think you can’t find any help when you feel like you’re at your lowest, find somebody to talk to. It’s not bad to look for help.”

Allycia has just started her junior year, and is already considering what comes next for her. Be it college or starting her own business, we are confident the skills and confidence Allycia has shared with us since she was five years old are going to take her far. We look forward to seeing what life has to offer her in the future.