This article was written in December 2012 when Brandy was an intern at PSESD. For a more updated profile on Brandy, please check out Firesteel’s blog here.
From the age of 14 to 19, Brandy Sincyr, her mother and sister became homeless after escaping an abusive stepfather. During that time, she and her family lived at the YWCA, Helping Hands, and other transitional housing. Brandy eventually lived on her own staying with friends, “couch surfing,” and seeking a safe place to sleep.
“School has always been a place of stability,” commented Brandy. “I was fortunate to attend Tacoma School for the Arts, had access to a metro bus pass, and a small circle of trusted friends. The other constant for me was a goal to attend a four-year college.”
In September 2009, with her high school diploma in hand and the help of friends who worked there, Brandy applied and was accepted into Seattle Pacific University. Through financial aid and school loans, she once again found that school provided her with her most stable living situation and dependable meal schedule in years. And, if she could rise above the adversity of her teen years, there was no reason to doubt she could succeed at SPU.
That prediction has certainly come true. In the fall of 2010, Brandy applied for and was awarded a scholarship through the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY). She was one of 15 scholars who were flown to Houston, Texas for their national convention in November, where she shared her story with 400 conference attendees (providers, politicians, donors) to thank them for the scholarship and to give a personal face to those they are serving.
At that time, she also met people from Columbia Legal Services, a non-profit law firm that protects and defends the legal and human rights of low-income people including homeless and foster youth. Since then, Brandy has been actively involved with their efforts including helping them organize an event for providers in Pierce County and participating in Youth Advocacy Day in Olympia in 2012 meeting with state legislators to give the youth perspective on homelessness.
This fall, Brandy served as an intern with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction promoting the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in King and Snohomish County schools. Brandy is passionate about getting the word out about the McKinney-Vento Act, a significant source of assistance to homeless youth to help them stay in school. Through the relationships Brandy developed with staff members in U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s office and a personal conversation with Senator Murray, Brandy was offered an internship in Senator Murray’s office for the winter quarter 2013 in Washington, D.C.
While her success has been hard earned and much of it self-made, Brandy encourages other homeless youth to take advantage of the many services available to them. She also reminds service providers and educators not to overlook and judge students.
“I looked like a slacker student to some because I was often tired and doing enough to get by,” said Brandy. “However, don’t write off kids, invest in all of them because they deserve it.”