Paving the Way for First-Generation College Students

Adrienne Boykin
Raised by her mom in a small town in upstate New York, Adrienne Boykin, BS ’09, knows the challenges that under-resourced college students face in preparing for their college journeys. She brings that personal experience, along with her background in accounting, to her role as chief financial officer of America Needs You, a nonprofit that offers mentorship and intensive career development to low-income, first-generation college students.

“This is very close to my heart because I am a first-generation college graduate,” said Boykin, who transferred to the Gabelli School in her sophomore year. “It’s work that is easy to be passionate about.”

During her time at Fordham, Boykin participated in the Alumni Mentoring Program, where she connected with a professional who worked in the accounting field. “She gave me real-life knowledge about what it was like to work in public accounting,” Boykin said. “It encouraged me to become a mentor later on in life.”

The early years of her career were spent in the for-profit sector, first at PwC and later at Balchem Corporation, where Boykin rose up the ranks to senior accountant. She also launched the accounting department’s first high school summer internship program and mentored a student from her alma mater.

Boykin’s desire to make a difference in others’ lives took her around the globe to Belize when she was selected to participate in a financial literacy project for young people led by PwC. She also spent a month in Ghana, consulting with a business owner and training local women to use computers.

Stateside, Boykin devoted two years as a volunteer mentor at Streetwise Partners, where she coached individuals to provide them with the skills and resources needed to secure and maintain employment. That experience convinced her to follow her passion and shift her focus from for-profit to nonprofit. With a résumé that now included an MBA from Mount Saint Mary College and an Executive Education Certificate from the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders, Boykin landed a job as an internship and alumni coordinator at America Needs You. She took a 14-month hiatus abroad to teach English as a Second Language in Florence, Italy, and when she returned, assumed a leadership post at the nonprofit. In 2019, she was named chief financial officer.

I’m the first in my family to graduate and now I’m able to work in leadership at an organization that serves the same population as me.
Boykin remains connected to Fordham and is becoming more involved with the University’s chapter of MOSAIC, which stands for Multicultural Organization Supporting Affinity, Inclusion, and Community, where she previously served as secretary.

“It has been nice to connect with other alumni and see how we can continue supporting current students by serving as examples of where you can take your career,” she said.

Currently a Brooklynite who enjoys Pilates, travel, and spending time with her husband, Boykin reflected on the different careers she’s had since she graduated, all of which have been an important part of her journey and led her to exactly where she is meant to be.

“I’m the first in my family to graduate, and now I’m able to work in leadership at an organization that serves the same population as me,” she said. “I’m very proud of that. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve been my authentic self and followed my heart.”

Claire Curry