Mentor on the Move: How Alicia Wilson climbs the professional ladder with generations of Baltimore on her back

by Alexis Taylor,
AFRO News Editor

When it comes to mentoring 90 college students and young professionals, Alicia Wilson doesn’t have time—she makes it.

The respected attorney and vice president of economic development at Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System only works 24 hours a day, but somehow manages to get the job done while leading a dynamic one-woman mentoring team.

“Seeing her juggling skills expands your thinking — she’s always been an inspiration in that way,” said I’Shea Boyd, a 23-year-old data scientist at Arena Analytics. “You can have multiple projects. You can wear multiple hats. You don’t have to say, “I’m just a data scientist — you can be a data scientist and you can be an author or a philanthropist.”

“Seeing her do all the things that she’s passionate about has always been inspiring to me,” said Boyd, who first met Wilson at a 2016 luncheon for College Bound scholars. “She taught me to be strategic with my time.”

At the time Wilson met Boyd, she was giving back to a program that directly impacted her own path to success — a recurring theme as she scans the list of organizations she devotes her time to.

Wilson mentoring individuals enrolled in the Baltimore City Law Links program overseen by Maryland Youth & the Law (MYLAW) who have influenced their own legal careers. She supports students from her two alma maters, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Maryland School of Law. There are also students in the Bridges program, youth who learn about and seek out their work in the community, and young professionals who need guidance.

“Having a mentor is crucial because there are so many lessons to learn rather than live through,” Wilson said. “I’ve always said that if I get into a position where I can be what others have been to me, I will do it.”

“I know I will be busy and there will be other things that will compete for my time and attention – but the mentorship has made all the difference for me and I will not pass up the opportunity to do this for another person .”

God and a multitude of advisors are credited as the reason Wilson says she is where she is today. Though she mentions giants like Freeman Hrabowski, she said that “cheerleaders” who have trained her “in the mountains and in the glens” had an equal impact on her journey.

Wilson said that mentoring adolescents and young adults across a wide range of ages brings a variety of experiences into their lives that keep them fresh and ready to take on new challenges.

“Pouring makes me feel like I’m being poured in. It’s a one-way street,” she said.

When the coronavirus pandemic pushed her to positively impact the lives of Baltimore’s youth, Wilson turned the problem on its head and was able to expand her reach exponentially.

Before the pandemic, part of Wilson’s routine of incorporating mentoring into her schedule was meeting a young person for coffee every Monday.

When Starbucks temporarily shut down along with all other nonessential businesses in the state in March 2020, Wilson made a nice pivot.

“I started drinking virtual coffee. I could do them {every} morning and the kids didn’t have to drive anywhere,” she said. “I had more access to mentees than ever before.”

As technology evolves, so does the advice Wilson has to offer.

“I have to change my advice because they live in a completely different world,” she said.

For young Baltimoreans looking for someone to help them find their way, Wilson said, “Be bold, bold and humble in your search for mentors who can pour into you.”

“Focus on being the kind of mentee you want to mentor.”

For those considering a mentoring role, Wilson said the reward was invaluable.

“Even if the whole world doesn’t see the worth of a young person, that doesn’t mean they don’t have worth. You reap so much from giving,” she said. “You will not only make a return for yourself, but for the larger community as well.”

“If you have the ability in your power to help someone at a critical moment in their life, do it. Find the time, find the space.”

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