Bryant Youth Association

Suzanne Passmore’s journey from a challenging upbringing to the chief executive officer of the Bryant Youth Association is a testament to her resilience, faith, and unwavering commitment to making a difference in the lives of others, especially children.

Born into a tumultuous environment marked by her father’s alcoholism and domestic strife, Suzanne found refuge and inspiration in her grandparents, major hero figures in her life. “On the day I was born in Memphis, my mom called home to see when my dad and brothers would come to the hospital,” she shares. “My brother said he and my other brother were cooking eggs because they were hungry. When my mom asked where our father was, they said he had sold some furniture and left. He left us for alcohol.”

Suzanne’s mom then moved the family to Elaine, Ark., to get help from her grandparents. Raised with a strong sense of drive and determination, Suzanne faced further adversity when her mom remarried an abusive stepfather and the family moved to Saline County. Despite the turmoil at home and the emotional scars it left, Suzanne refused to succumb to despair. 

With a teacher’s belief in her and involvement in church, she went on to become a successful student, and was even crowned homecoming queen as a freshman and then later as a senior. She graduated from Bryant High School in 1981, and ever since, she’s channeled her experiences into a desire to break the cycle of abuse and negativity.

Despite her scholastic and extracurricular accomplishments, Suzanne longed for a family member cheering her on in the stands. As a mentor now, it’s not uncommon to find her at students’ concerts or special school events. “That hurts when you’re a child and you look up and can’t find your family.” 

Her journey took an unexpected turn 20 years ago when she embarked on a Bible study called the Purpose Driven Life at New Life Baptist Church, where she found purpose and direction. It was during this transformative period that Suzanne felt a calling to serve her community, despite having no prior experience in the nonprofit sector. This newfound sense of purpose led her to embrace the opportunity to lead the Bryant Youth Association, leaving behind a lucrative corporate job.

Drawing from her own experiences of overcoming adversity, Suzanne is deeply committed to supporting children and staff with varied backgrounds. Her goal is to relieve them of the hurt and baggage they might be experiencing. For Suzanne, the Bryant Youth Association is more than just a job; it’s a calling to provide a safe haven where young people can thrive and find refuge from life’s challenges.

“I’ve been that kid at school in turmoil,” Suzanne says. “I’ve been that girl with stomach pains because of what’s going on in the home. The kid who doesn’t get a good night’s sleep because of all the fighting.”

Under Suzanne’s leadership, the Bryant Youth Association has refocused its efforts on core values of mentorship, support, and community engagement. For most of its existence, the organization operated as an affiliate of the Boys and Girls Club. In April, the club went back to its roots and changed its name to the original identity. 

In a statement, Suzanne says, “We are excited and pleased to announce that we are returning to our roots as Bryant Youth Association and disaffiliating with Boys and Girls of America. We want this Club to align with the values and high standards that are reflective in our community.  We are appreciative of the value that BGCA has provided over the years but believe now is the time to make a change and do what’s right in our eyes for our children. We believe that embracing our roots will help us rediscover the passion and community spirit that fueled the establishment of this organization.  The Bryant Youth Association will continue to be a beacon of hope for the youth of our community, just as it was when it first began.” 

By meeting children where they are and addressing their needs holistically, the association serves as a beacon of hope for over 1,000 kids each year. Whether it’s offering anti-bullying programs or free swim lessons, facilitating family connections, or providing resources for those experiencing neglect or abuse, Suzanne ensures that every child who walks through the doors feels valued and supported.

One of her favorite confirmations about having a positive impact, is when former kids and staff members come by to see her, invite her to graduations and weddings, or just to give and get a hug. ” It really is the best feeling.”   I have been so blessed with having the absolute best staff members serve alongside me over the years and I love having a front row seat as they embark upon their adult lives as teachers, business leaders and parents.

Suzanne’s journey from a troubled past to a silver lining in her community is a powerful reminder that adversity can be overcome, and wounds can be transformed into sources of strength. Through her tireless dedication and steadfast belief in the potential of every child, Suzanne continues to make a profound difference in the lives of those she serves, leaving a lasting legacy of hope, resilience, and compassion.

“Remember, a hundred years from now, it won’t matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were  important in the life of a child.”