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People of Point Park: Lance Harrell, '14, builds himself, and his community, up again

Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 PPP HarrellAlumni Spotlight

Occupation: Project Manager
Employer: BNY Mellon
Degree Earned: B.S. in Business 
Class Year: 2014
Current Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
High School: Pittsburgh Brashear High School
Hobbies/Interests: Traveling, architecture, economics

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Lance Harrell, '14 originally enrolled at Point Park in 1991 on a basketball scholarship, but his time here was very short. He left after just one year and enrolled in a community college. He may not have known it then, but Lance’s Point Park story was far from complete. It would just take a couple of decades to finish writing.

Ever since childhood, real estate has been a passion for Lance. Childhood memories of his mother’s friend, an exceptionally successful real estate agent later inspired Lance to launch his own business, LJH Development in 1994. His company facilitated more than $2.5 million in real estate projects in some of Pittsburgh's most distressed areas.

From applying for loans to flipping houses, Lance knew "everything from A-Z" dealing with properties, rehabbing them and dealing with the finances. His dreams of becoming a real estate developer crumbled in 2008 when the real estate market took a turn for the worst.

"I was about 40 at the time, lost everything, had to file for bankruptcy and realized that without an education, without an undergrad degree, the chance of having a comfortable lifestyle was going to be extremely hard."

At the age of 42, Lance enrolled back at Point Park in the accelerated business program.

"When you're an older adult and you go back to school, everything makes more sense. You value your education more than when you're younger."

Lance's friends would describe him as being strong-willed and determined for that very reason.

"You can teach students and adults anything, but one thing you can’t teach is the drive, and I have that drive. There aren’t too many adults in their mid-40s that can say they are thinking about going back to school to reinvent themselves."

How Do You Become Something You Have Never Seen?

For nine years, Lance was a mentor to a young male in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. In this role, Lance had the opportunity to provide a positive, male example to a young person coming into his own.

"In the African-American community, there is a growing need for a positive male presence."

Someone once told Lance that it is hard to be something you have never seen and that message resonated with him. He realized that the only times his mentee would be around other male figures would be when Lance took him out to events or to meet his friends. Through his relationship with Lance, his mentee was able to expand his horizons.

"Now, he was actually able to see men. It gives them someone they can actually identify with, and it's all about exposure."

Lance believes that this exposure to positive examples will not only impact the young person's ability to make good choices today, but will also positively influence his life in the long run. 

"Being able to influence and mold someone's life in a positive manner was the biggest takeaway."

Lance taught the young man he mentored simple things such as how to paint, how to cut the grass, but also taught him important life lessons such as how to be a good neighbor to those around him. Lance is currently in the process of re-enrolling in the program in order to mentor again and hopes to be back at it by the end of March 2016.

Rebuilding the Future

For Lance, Point Park was the beginning of his "second time around." After earning his degree, more opportunities opened up to him, including his current position as a project manager at BNY Mellon. Right now, he's working on a significant project for Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. But looking ahead, Lance is developing plans for the future.

"By the summer, I hope to have my project management certification, and this is just the beginning."

One of Lance’s goals is to attend a conference hosted by the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) in Florida this July.

"I always wanted to get into the real estate business and this will be a place to seek knowledge and possibly become a hotel owner. So with that, there’s going to be a lot of opportunities."

Photo by Victoria A. Mikula, junior mass communication major

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