Point of Pride: Son of Haitian-born parents, Reynaldo Sylla excelled at Boston College

Boston College Carroll School of Management senior Reynaldo Sylla was honored this month for his exceptional leadership and service. He is the 2012 recipient of the University’s Dr. Donald Brown Award, which honors a senior for his or her extraordinary contributions to the greater AHANA (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American) community.

Named for the BC’s inaugural director of AHANA Student Programs, it was presented to Sylla during Black Family Weekend in April.

Sylla began volunteering in his sophomore year at the West End Boys and Girls Club. At the time, he acknowledges that he had no idea of the impact it would have—not only on the youths he worked with, but on his own personal growth.

Children in the club get used to student volunteers coming and going, says Sylla, but find it difficult to form and maintain genuine relationships because of the continual changeover from one semester to the next. Sylla decided he had a responsibility to be there as much as possible, and has continued his volunteer work there ever since.

“I was working part-time, working summers, just whenever I could,” he explains. “I was working an internship and then going from 6-10, 6-11 p.m., just to show that I am there to stay. I’m there to show them that I came from a similar situation and that college is not a stretch, getting a job is not a stretch, and that you can succeed at anything that you set your mind to.”

Sylla grew up in the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan. His Haitian-born parents brought him and his two siblings to Boston to give their children better educational opportunities, and Sylla made the most of his. Despite diversity issues, academic setbacks and the challenges of living in a low-income area, Sylla graduated from Boston College High School and was accepted to Boston College.

He made his presence known on campus in his freshman year, joining clubs such as the Haitian Association, the Multi-Cultural Leadership Experience and the Dedicated Intellectuals of the People.

The intellectual, personal and spiritual growth from this participation would lead him to volunteer at the West End Boys and Girls Club the following year, and to undergo what he calls “a tremendous learning experience, for both the kids and myself.”

He also took part in a service trip to Mississippi, which he has done three times, most recently as the trip leader.

“It’s easy to get caught in the BC bubble, and just get involved with extracurricular things on campus,” Sylla says. “But when we left Massachusetts, and left that Boston bubble, you could see how much work needs to be done in other places even within the United States.”

Although service has been an ongoing part of his BC life, Sylla says he didn’t realize the extent until the award presentation ceremony.

“When I was given the Dr. Brown award, they gave me a certificate that had a list of everything that I have done,” he says, “and it wasn’t until I sat back and read it that I realized that I’ve been through so much here. BC just taught me to aspire not to be great, but to do great things.”

Sylla plans on continuing his work within the community, with the goal of merging his passion for business and urban education. This fall, he will begin as a full-time business risk advisor at Deloitte & Touche LLP, as well as join the board of directors of Smith Leadership Academy, a city charter school.