Sybil Mimy Johnson (top photo, left) is the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area and is overseeing their upcoming 13th Annual Beach Ball fundraiser on Saturday June 18th. Sybil serves as the President of Suffolk County Alumnae Chapter of the public service Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also a proud mother of a teenage son and twin three-year-old girls.
Sybil’s background is in management and the administration of programs in higher education and non-profit settings. She received her BA in History and Communication and an MS in Administration and is presently pursuing a Doctorate in Literacy Studies at Hofstra University. Previous roles include Director of Community Engagement and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at Farmingdale State College. While at Hofstra University, Sybil worked as Executive Director of NOAH, Summer Institute Coordinator, Assistant Dean at the School of Communications, Acting Chair of the Speech Department, Adjunct Professor in History and Rhetorical Studies and Assistant Dean at the Office of Student Affairs. She has served as the Executive Director of Project Grad LI.
Her areas of strength, to name a few, include fund raising, grant development, program development, multicultural programs, civic/community engagement and STEM/STEAM programs.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
When I was nineteen years old, my mentor said I had a gift for motivating youth to strive for their dreams. He said “the world needed more change agents.” Hearing him say that made me realize that I truly found my calling to help transform young lives for the better.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I find it very rewarding to help others achieve their full potential in and outside of the classroom. For example, this year when I found out when our youth of the year, who did not like public speaking, was a New York State top finalist and she wowed the judges with her presentation I was so proud. I realized our team effort made a difference.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I began my educational journey with internships and a full scholarship to Hofstra University. Some of the key skills you need in this career including leadership ability, effective communication, passion for public service, youth program training and experience with youth advocacy, were definitely developed during this time.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
In high school my guidance counselor discouraged me in applying to any private institutions, because I think she thought that there was no way my family could afford the tuition. However, I was blessed to have the support of my family mentors that helped me pursue my academic dreams, and actually I am so glad I didn’t listen to that counselor because I could have been discouraged and not pursue my educational goals.
Sybil Mimi Johnson, Cameron Trent, Christina Coles
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
No. I knew I found my purpose. I knew the moment I had my first thank you card from student who was labeled at risk and not college material, who ended up graduating college cum laude. Balancing children and a career can be difficult – but for me, I knew this was what I wanted to do, and this career actually helps me be a great parent. Serving in my role, keeps me very informed on youth development and my kids are important to me.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
My career reached a tipping point when I pursued a position at my alma mater to serves as an assistant dean to work with “at risk students.” This is been my biggest challenge and my biggest reward in so many ways. My colleagues and students would challenge me because I was so young, however, I earned their respect and accolades from my students and colleagues when they saw the positive outcomes from my work.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
My biggest challenge was not letting my fear of failure get in the way of taking smart risk. I think a little bit of fear can be very helpful to you; you never want to not be afraid of failure and approach a situation from a place of overconfidence, but it is important to not let that fear dominate you so you stop trying.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
My ability to be diplomatic and tactful in situations that are very difficult. I find that a measured tone of voice is helpful whether you are in the boardroom or the classroom. I also try and be dependable – when you work with at-need youth, you become a focal point in their lives and being steady is important. At the Boys and Girls Club of Bellport, we try and be consistent with our rules and responses so kids learn what works and what won’t work! I think this is a useful skill for many other professions as well.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Becoming a college dean at 21 years old at the college my guidance counselor said I would never be awarded a scholarship to attend! This was such a powerful moment for me. When I was younger, I had support from my family and there were a few teachers who really helped, but some were so dismissive. My mentors made such a difference for me.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Make sure you are passionate in serving our community and youth. Internships and volunteering are a great way to get going and show you care. You can look at websites and poster boards in your hometown to find out where and how you can help. If you have a talent or gift, it really can be impactful to share it with our youth. This will encourage our youth to tap into their potential. It’s actually one of the most rewarding things you can do for your community.
Top photo: Sybil Mimi Johnson, Amy Pollinger, Alexandra Lebenthal
Both photos at the Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area Beach Ball Launch Party, May 4, 2016,
Photo – Sean Zanni/PMC