Ever notice that the one thing that makes truly remarkable people stand out is their ability to make you invested in what they’re doing?
Those remarkable people who are so passionate about their missions can draw in even the most skeptical of skeptics. Sure, some people are just really good talkers, but they never last. No, the remarkable ones are genuine and determined and see the promise that lies beyond the obstacles.
Nicole Hanrahan could easily be placed in that remarkable category. She walks her walk and talks her talk, a likely byproduct of having grown up in pre-gentrification Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Nicole’s parents were in the entertainment business – her father was an actor and her mother runs a talent agency for animals appearing in TV, movies, and commercials. The three of them lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and Nicole would often attend auditions with her father (in fact, she started her acting career at 6 months old while appearing in a Bloomingdale’s advertisement). Her mother’s talent agency has made many well-known bookings, including “Toonces the Driving Cat”, an SNL skit in the early ‘90s, the snake used in Britney Spears’s iconic photograph, and the dogs who represent Supreme Court justices on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”. It wasn’t the environment many kids get to grow up in, but aside from the interesting jobs, she was a regular kid with regular parents living in the city. Life was as unique as it was typical.
School was a turning point for Nicole, as she earned a scholarship to an all-girls private school across town. It was a place of wealth, of kids who were, for better or worse, raised in socioeconomic and cultural bubbles. Most knew nothing of struggle or the way those with less lived. It was a whole new world for Nicole to be in and, as a serious student, she put her head down to continue getting excellent grades. After high school, Nicole went to Brown University and received her Bachelor’s in public policy. After college, she spent three years with Project Renewal where she helped homeless individuals find jobs. She could’ve followed in her parents’ entertainment footsteps, but that hustle wasn’t for her. Instead, she applied to Harvard Business School, submitted her GMAT scores, and got accepted without being asked to interview. And what happened there changed her life.
Harvard opened up her professional world. Her teachers were excellent and her classmates were amazing people doing exciting things. She learned the importance of smart leadership, and even though she had never been in the business world before, the connections she made became as influential to her future as did her education. It showed her how to grow into her goals and forge her path. After business school, she her career in helping people prepare for better jobs in Boston and Chicago and then four years working for Community Wealth Ventures where she shared the business skills she developed in school with nonprofit leaders throughout the country.
All of this is probably more than Nicole would want people to know about her, as her focus is usually on promoting her work and the students she helps because they inspire her. For the last eight years, Nicole has served in senior leadership positions at the Latin American Youth Center. She is the Executive Director of the LAYC Career Academy, a school that she co-founded and opened in 2012. Every day, Nicole has the privilege of seeing firsthand the unbelievable effort her kids put into their education, work, and family responsibilities. Many of them work seven days/week in order to support their families. She, like everyone else in this country, has seen the negative way that Black Latinx kids are portrayed in the media and all she wants is for people to have the chance to get to know the kids as she does. She knows that putting human stories of struggle, faith, and love to faces would break down perceived differences and build more tolerant communities everywhere. She furiously lobbies donors for program funding and actively pursues businesses to give these kids job opportunities, for she knows they will blow away every employer who hires them. Her future is those kids, the ones who’ve gone and the ones to come. So, if you take away anything from this profile of this remarkable woman, she hopes it’s an awareness of those phenomenal kids and all that they can accomplish if we give them the right space within which to thrive.