The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee voted to advance HB 1381 today, which YSRP hopes will usher in a more humane era of support and care for youth involved in the criminal legal system.
After a rigorous and exhaustive national search led by YSRP’s Board of Directors and supported by Monday Morning Consultants, YSRP is thrilled to announce Bianca van Heydoorn as the new Executive Director. Bianca has served as the Interim Executive Director since February 2022.
Bianca van Heydoorn
Bianca was introduced to the organization by YSRP Co-Founder Joanna Visser Adjoian. Joanna shares her excitement for Bianca’s new role:
YSRP has and will continue to benefit from the clear-eyed vision, national expertise, and brilliant heart that Bianca brings to her leadership. I cannot imagine a better steward of the values and legacy we co-created with the organization’s team and client-partners, and I am beyond excited to cheer the organization on as it writes its next chapter with Bianca as its Executive Director.
During Bianca’s time as the Interim Executive Director, YSRP experienced record-breaking revenue generation, significant programmatic successes, and continued staff growth. Intending to
serve as an effective steward of a strong and stable organization, she thought of herself as a servant leader, shepherding the strong vision, values, and culture that already existed at YSRP.
And, when Bianca accepted the Interim position, she absolutely knew that she did not want to be YSRP’s next Executive Director. After two decades of reentry experience, Bianca was psychologically exhausted and emotionally spent. Having just celebrated five years cancer-free, she was looking for a place for healing and rejuvenation. And, she was sure, it wasn’t the work of justice reform.
However, at YSRP, something special happened. She discovered an organization that was truly client-partner-centered. Values actually drove decisions. Both lives and systems were being challenged and changed. Bianca soon experienced YSRP as a healing space, a place where she might be able to play the role she had always envisioned. What started as a wondering soon felt like a calling, and Bianca found herself applying for the position she was once certain she would never want.
This is not the first time a job offer dramatically changed Bianca’s life course. At 16, a friend helped Bianca get a job at a research library at Lincoln Center, across the street from her high school. Already an active participant in the underground economy in her Queens, NY neighborhood, Bianca was eager for an opportunity to earn money without the risk of incarceration – an outcome common amongst her friends and family.
Having attended the first funeral of a peer in 6th grade, Bianca was early engaged in the street life of her neighborhood. Addiction was all around her. Incarceration was a norm. Fighting was familiar. All of these things touched Bianca’s life. But, she also had the opportunity to discover new experiences – a community theater group, a selective arts high school. And, as Bianca explains, one thing more powerful than all the potential challenges: “There was always an adult close by who saw me, who saw something in me.”
Then, there was that job at the library – the opportunity to take a different path. She found herself at that library, then on stage at LaGuardia High School, and then at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she graduated magna cum laude. But she never forgot where she started, or the love and sense of community she experienced while growing up there. While trying to be helpful to people from communities like hers, Bianca discovered the ways that systems – even well-intentioned ones – othered those who encountered the criminal and juvenile legal systems. In a world too happy to separate people into us and them, Bianca always felt like one of them.
Now two decades into a decorated career working to support people who have experienced incarceration, Bianca is prepared for this moment. She has deep roots and expertise in reentry work, including at Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and the Vera Institute of Justice. Additionally, Bianca worked to increase access to college for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students as the Director of Educational Initiatives at the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Nearly five years ago, Bianca moved to Philadelphia to tackle housing and food insecurity at Temple’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Prior to joining YSRP, Bianca strove to reimagine the City’s approach to reentry as the founding Senior Director of the Office of Reentry Partnerships in the Managing Director’s Office. Bianca’s leadership experience is both varied and significant.
At the same time, Bianca remembers she hasn’t always been a service provider. She has been a visitor, a penpal, and a loved one on the other side of those relationships. And, it’s the esteemed position that YSRP holds for its client-partners and their loved ones that made clear to Bianca that this was the right place for her. At YSRP, there is no “us” and “them”. It’s “we”.
Bianca is prepared to lead YSRP into its exciting next chapter. As stated by YSRP Board Chair and Search Committee Chair, Rukiya Ross,
We are thrilled to have Bianca step into leadership as YSRP’s new Executive Director and guide the organization into a new era. Bianca has significantly contributed to the growth and impact of YSRP over the past year, and she will continue to lead the critical work of partnering with young people to heal and live full lives with dignity; growing our policy work to end the prosecution of children as adults; and deepening our learning in the field of holistic representation. With Bianca at the helm, YSRP, and our client-partners, are poised for great things.
While she will continue to serve as a steward of the incredible, values-driven organization built over the last eight years, Bianca will bring her own experiences as well. In our client-partners, she’ll see her father, her step-father, her uncles, and beloved friends. And, in some, she’ll see herself:
My childhood experiences so closely mirror those of client-partners, that I feel compelled to serve and pay forward what was given to me. I want to model for client-partners that none of our lives are a foregone conclusion. I want them to see that the life I live now is not because I escaped my neighborhood or circumstances, but because those experiences inform how I lead and show up in the world. I’ve had access to resources, opportunities and guidance from caring individuals that brought me to a place where I get to be a conduit of healing for others. To quote ‘the talented Mr. Trotter’ (Black Thought) of The Roots, this feels like the definition of ‘tragedy turned triumph.’
Bianca’s deep understanding of what, for her, could have been leaves her uniquely qualified to imagine and envision, for YSRP, what could be.
YSRP Co-Founder Lauren Fine knows the organization is in good hands:
In Bianca, YSRP has found an exceptionally capable, insightful, strategic, and dynamic new leader. But more importantly, in Bianca, YSRP has found an exceptional embodiment of each one of the organization’s core values. I am so grateful that Bianca has felt called to YSRP and brings the energy, experience, perspective, and, perhaps most importantly, heart needed for the organization’s next chapter.
With gratitude to YSRP’s Board and Monday Morning Consultants for leading a thorough search process, we hope the entire community will join us in welcoming Bianca van Heydoorn as YSRP’s new Executive Director.
Under her leadership, there is no limit to what we can do.