2019 Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Cotillion

Twenty-one young ladies were presented into society at the 10th biennial Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Scholarship Cotillion last Saturday night. Pictured are Miss Debutante 2019 Natalie Yvonne Fort and her handsome escort Emanuel Rouson.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Sponsored by the Youth Development Foundation of Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the 10th biennial Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Scholarship Cotillion got underway March 16 at the historic Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg.

Fill with family and friends, the ballroom seemed to come to a complete stop when the 21 beautiful young ladies gracefully glided down the aisle dressed in all-white and being escorted by their loved ones.

Initially, debutantes were young women of marrying age being put on display for eligible bachelors and their families to view with marriage in mind. Today’s debutantes aren’t looking for a husband to secure their futures; no, these gorgeous pearls will make names for themselves in fields such as pediatric oncology, the world of high finance, psychology and obstetrics.

The purpose of Saturday night’s affair was to highlight achievements, social grace and provide scholarship opportunities to Pinellas County junior and senior high school girls. These young ladies were recognized for their academic performances, church, community and civic involvements.

To prepare for the cotillion, the young ladies participated in various workshops such as Health and Wellness, Building Self-esteem, Career Development, How to Deliver a Powerful Elevator Speech, Social Media: Keeping It Classy and Dining Etiquette. The belles of the ball also attended the Debutante Tea, celebrating the Harlem Renaissance.

Some 575 people attended the social event of the season emceed by Gwendolyn Fields and Lawrence Hamilton, who presented his daughter at the 2011 cotillion. The night saw waltzing, a father-daughter dance and the presentation of scholarships. Six of the 21 participants received more than $15,000 in scholarship awards.

President of Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Lisa Brody ended the evening by thanking the sponsors, sorors and the parents of the debutantes for making the evening a success.

“We thank you for sharing your daughters with us for the past six months. Although many times interesting, it has never been boring, and we have thoroughly enjoyed working with you, and we thank you for helping us to make this happen,” Brody said.

She also thanked the brothers of the Theta Eta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity for their assistance in planning the event, as wells as their assistance with the escorts in their etiquette workshop.

Nyah Sherell Acoff

Presented by her parents, Jarrod Acoff and Marcina Dowell-Williams, Nyah Sherell Acoff is a senior at Northeast High School and is a member of the Culinary Arts Program. She is the team captain of the basketball cheerleaders, a member of YGG Crew, a member of the Girlfriends of Pinellas County program and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Nyah plans to attend Tallahassee Community College then on to Florida A&M University. Presently she is debating on a major and a career goal. Her hobbies and interests include shopping, spending time with family and friends and watching television.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Jalen White, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Akilah Aquil

Presented by her parents, Iman Askia Muhammad Aquil and Nicky Owens, Akilah Aquil is a senior at St. Petersburg High School where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Art Honor Society and the English Honor Society. She is also a member of the International Baccalaureate Program, Rho Kappa, Rojan of Interact Service Club, the varsity track and field team and is president of the Multicultural Club.

After graduation, Akilah plans to attend Florida State or Howard University and major in pre-law. Her career goal is to become a civil attorney. Her hobbies and activities include participating in track and field, spending special time with her sisters, family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was James Abaka, a senior at Lakewood High School Center for Advanced Technologies Program.

Giovanna Sanaa Capehart

Presented by her parents, Esper T. Capehart and Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, Giovanna Sanaa Capehart is a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School where she is a student ambassador, senior class president after serving as the junior class president, a member of the National Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa, the Multicultural Club and the National Achievers Society.

Giovanna is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Delta Gems program, a member of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Usher Board and the Pinellas County School Board College Prep Program.

After graduation, she plans to attend the University of North Florida and major in accounting and international business. Her career goal is to become a chief financial officer for a major corporation. Her hobbies and favorite activities include photography, interior design and being a natural hair enthusiast.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Isaiah Samuel Millstein, a senior at Northeast High School.

Nichole Cooper

Presented by her parents, Aaron and Marquese Cooper, Nichole Cooper is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School, where she is active in the Student Government Association, a member of the Multicultural Club and is an AP Capstone Scholar. She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Nichole plans to attend Hampton University to pursue a degree in psychology. Her career goal is to become a school psychologist for children living on military bases overseas, and her hobbies and favorite activities include shopping, watching Netflix and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Jermaine Phillips, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Charnecia Cummings

Presented by her parents, Kelsey and Jere Deshazior, Charnecia Cummings is a senior at St. Petersburg High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Students Working Against Tobacco Club, AVID, the Girlfriends Club and the African American Achievers Organization. She is also an active member of the basketball cheerleading team and football training program.

After graduation, Charnecia plans to attend Santa Fe Community College for two years then transfer to a four-year university. Her career goal is to complete medical school and become an obstetrician/gynecologist. Her hobbies include cooking, babysitting, cheerleading, working as a football trainer and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Jordon Bolds, a senior at Northside Christian High School.

Leah Dudley

Presented by her parents, Earl Dudley and Tamara Felton-Howard, Leah Dudley is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School and has been an honor roll student throughout her whole educational career. Additional honors and activities include being on the Dean’s List, working as a 2018 page for the Florida Senate, receiving the Senior Salute to Academic Excellence Award and membership in the Medical Magnet Program.

She was a member of Westlake Fashion Club, received the Dr. Mac J. Williams Award, received the Senior Salute to Academic Excellence Award and is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Leah plans to attend Florida A&M University to major in public relations. Her career goal is to become a public relations specialist, model and designer. Her hobbies and activities include modeling, designing, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Jared Alexander Rouson, a junior at Lakewood High School.

JaNabre Alexandra Flowers

Presented by her parents, Major and Denese Flowers, JaNabre Alexandra Flowers is a senior at Gibbs High School, and her activities and honors include the Pinellas County Center for the Arts Vocal Program, captain of the Gibbs High School Step Team and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, JaNabre plans to attend Pinellas Technical College to pursue a career in cosmetology. Her career goal is to obtain a business management degree and own her own hair salon. Her hobbies and favorite activities include dancing, singing, acting, participating in arts and crafts and enjoying church activities.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Daniel Edward Sanders, a senior at Gibbs High School.

Natalie Yvonne Fort

Presented by her parents, Dr. Kenyon Fort and Dr. Nathalia Jeffrey-Fort, Natalie Yvonne Fort is a senior at Shorecrest Preparatory High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and the International Thespian Society.  She is an executive board member of the Pre-Med Club, president of Black Student Union and member of Guardian Ad Litem Club.

After graduation, Natalie plans to attend Howard University to major in biology. Her career goal is to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Her favorite activities include dancing, watching Netflix, reading and spending time with friends and family.

Her handsome escort was Emanuel Rouson, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Mikaylal Fudge

Presented by her parents, Destry Fudge Sr. and Dr. Marilyn Fudge, Mikaylal Fudge is a junior at Admiral Farragut Academy, and her activities and honors include the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and the Headmaster’s List and honor roll. Her Ribbons awarded include community service, academics, exemplary personal appearance, exemplary conduct, participation and distinguished unit, Junior State of America, Community Service Club, varsity volleyball and softball.

Mikaylal’s honors continue through her involvement in the Pinellas Heat Volleyball Club, Bethel Community Baptist Church Youth Usher Ministry and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems program.

After graduation, she plans to study psychology or computer science at a Historically Black College and University. Her career goal is to become a forensic or cyber-psychologist. Her hobbies and activities include playing volleyball, cooking, reading and spending time with her siblings and family. She is excited to travel to Spain this summer and participate in a Spanish immersion program.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Clayton Brody, a senior at Admiral Farragut Academy.

Lauryn Janae Latimer

Presented by her parents, Craig Latimer and Laquinda Cubby-Latimer, Lauryn Janae Latimer is a senior at the Center for Advanced Technologies and Athletic Lifestyle Management Academy at Lakewood High School. Her honors, program and activities include the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Key Club, Girlfriends Program of Pinellas, vice president of Take Stock in Children and a member of the Health Squad.

Lauryn is also an athletic trainer, vice president of competitions for the Future Business Leaders of America, senior class president, captain of the cheerleader team and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, she plans to attend the University of South Florida or Florida State University to obtain a degree in communication sciences and disorders. Her career goal is to become a speech-language pathologist and work with children in a hospital setting. Her hobbies and favorite activities include praise dancing, singing, cheerleading and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was James-David Merck, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Janay McClendon

Presented by her parents, JC and Stephanie McClendon, Janay McClendon is a senior at Northside Christian High School, and her honors and activities include the National Honor Society, the track and field team, varsity cheerleading team and the Pep Club. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Janay plans to attend college and aim for a doctorate in psychology. Her career goal is to become a child psychologist and one day manage her own counseling practice. Her hobbies and activities include dancing, singing, spending time with family and friends and just enjoying life.

Her handsome escort for the evening was La’Bron Burgess, a junior at Gibbs High School.

Karin Alexa McMillon

Presented by her parents Grant and Kimberly McMillon, Karin Alexa McMillon is a junior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society, the Interact Club and the Health and Wellness Club.

Her honors include vice president of the Suncoast Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Osceola Fundamental Academic Achievement for two years and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Karin plans to major in pharmacy at Florida A&M University. Her career goal is to practice hospital pharmacy specializing in oncology pharmacy. Her hobbies include going to the beach, playing soccer, enjoying life by spending time with family and friends and watching Netflix.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Miles Jared Richardson, a senior at The Boca Ciego High School.

Chase Ayanna Drew Moore

Presented by her parents, Vincent and the Honorable Judge Patrice Moore, Chase Ayanna Drew Moore is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School and is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society and the Multicultural Club.

Chase is also a member of the school’s softball team and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems. After graduation, she plans to major in pre-law at Florida A&M University or Bethune Cookman University.  Her career goal is to become a defense attorney.

Her hobbies and activities include dancing, playing softball and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Trevion Howard, a junior at The Boca Ciega Center for Wellness High School.

Kaila Priester

Presented by Larry Nero Priester and Kathryn Reed, Kaila Priester is a senior at Northeast High School, where she is a member of the Girlfriends Program of Pinellas, Future Business Leaders of America and a member of the cheerleading team.

Additional honors and activities include her membership in Jack and Jill of America and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated GEMS program.

After graduation, Kaila plans to attend Florida A&M University to pursue a degree in journalism. Her career goal is to become a broadcast journalist. Her favorite hobbies and activities include cooking, spending time with family and friends and Christian dancing for her church.

Her handsome escort for the evening was KeyShawn Devon Allen, a senior at Northeast High School.

Shenyah Aaliyah Ruth

Presented by her parents, John and Stephanie Ruth, Shenyah Aaliyah Ruth is a senior at Northeast High School and is a member of the National Honor Society, past president of the Spanish Honor Society, a member of the Key Club and past district vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America.

Shenyah was the Student Government Association freshmen class president and is a member of the Peer to Peer Mentoring Program. Her honor and activities include Black Pearls president of the National Council of Negro Women and president of SPC’s National Achiever’s Society.

After graduating from high school, she plans to attend Florida A&M University to pursue a major in business with a minor in African America Studies. Her career goal is to work in a marketing department for a large corporation and eventually become CEO of her own company.

Her hobbies and favorite activities include playing volleyball and sports, playing the piano and volunteering within the community to make a difference in people’s lives.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Zie-Quon Cason, a junior at Gibbs High School.

Jasmine Nicole Shedrick

Presented by her parents, Dr. Jason and Sheri Shedrick, Jasmine Nicole Shedrick is a junior at The Boca Ciega High School and is a member of the National Honor Society and the Students Working Against Tobacco Club.  Additional honors and activities include advanced placement and honors courses, volunteering to help children in the Read Aloud Program and participation in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems program.

Jasmine is a member of Maximo Presbyterian Church and enjoys working at Bayside Gymnastics. After graduation, she plans to attend Florida International University or Florida State University and will major in business. After receiving her college degree, she plans to become a prominent and successful businesswoman.

Her hobbies and activities include playing volleyball, shopping, going to the beach and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Daniel Jerome Baker, a junior at The Boca Ciega High School.

TyAzjah Shivers

Presented by her parents, Tyrone and Nikita Shivers, TyAzjah Shivers is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School, and her activities and honors include varsity cheerleading, AVID tutoring and is an All-Star Cheerleader. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

TyAzjah plans to attend Santa Fe College in Gainesville to pursue a degree in nursing. Her career goal is to become a neonatal nurse. Her hobbies and favorite activities include cheerleading, enjoying life and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was AnTrez Jerard Smith, a senior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Carleigh Smith

Presented by her parents, Jeffery and Tracey Smith, Carleigh Smith is a junior at St. Petersburg High School, and her activities and honors include the National Honor Society, the Spectrum Club, which celebrates diversity, and the varsity volleyball team. She also enjoys volunteering through the Leadership Experience Organizational Club and her membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems program.

After graduation, Carleigh plans to attend Florida Atlantic University to major in music. Her career goal is to become an established musician or manager of an artist in the music business. Her hobbies and activities include playing volleyball, traveling, singing and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Akhe McMichael, a senior at St. Petersburg High School.

Alana Terrell

Presented by her parents, Grady and Debbie Terrell, Alana Terrell is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School, where she is a member of the Science National Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society, the Multicultural Club and the National Honor Society. She also received the Dr. Mac J. Williams, Sr. Academic Excellence Award and the Take Stock Scholarship Award. She is a member of Mt. Zion College Prep 101 Program and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Exquisite Gems program.

After graduation, Alana plans to attend Tennessee State University and major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a pediatric nurse. Her hobbies and activities include varsity cheerleading and spending quality time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Marcus Odajuste a senior at Northeast High School.

Shaniya Weldon

Presented by John and Terry Copeland, Shaniya Weldon is a junior at Northside Christian High School and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society, International Justice Society, the basketball team and track and field teams. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems.

After graduation, Shaniya plans to attend Florida A & M University to major in education. Her career goal is to become a teacher or guidance counselor. Her hobbies and activities include shopping, cooking, drawing and spending time with family and friends.

Her handsome escort for the evening was Jarvis Kellogg, a freshman at Bethune Cookman University.

Toni Willie

Presented by Antawann Jackson and Barbara Brown, Toni Willie is a senior at St. Petersburg High School and her activities and honors include the English Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society and the National Honor Society. She is also the president of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Top Teens of America, the fourth vice president of the Progressive M & E Baptist State Youth Convention and president of South Florida Baptist Youth Association.

After graduation, Toni plans to attend Florida Atlantic University to major in pre-med. Her career goal is to become a pediatric oncologist. Her hobbies and activities include cheerleading, listening to music, shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Her escort for the evening was Jeremiah Hunter Vangas.

The following debutantes were recognized for their achievements:

  • Miss Supreme Spirit — Karin Alexa McMillon
  • Miss Community Service — Lauryn Janae Latimer
  • Miss Congeniality — Alana Terrell
  • Miss Third Attendant — Lauryn Janae Latimer
  • Miss Second Attendant — Jasmine Nicole Shedrick
  • Miss First Attendant — Chase Ayanna Drew Moore
  • Miss Debutante 2019 — Natalie Yvonne Fort

Deborah Figgs-Sanders and Lena Wilfalk served as chairs of the 2019 Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Scholarship Cotillion.

To learn more about the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, visit www.zuochapter.org.

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