Delta Academy & Delta GEMS end of year celebration

GEMS

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – More than 20 young ladies and their families gathered at St. Mathews Episcopal Church to celebrate a year of experiences, learning and togetherness.

Sun., June 8 the young ladies entered the church at 738 Pinellas Point Drive. S., knowing that their lives have been enriched by the members of the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Delta Academy.

The Delta Academy, sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, is a mentoring program for girls in the fifth through eighth grades. Its goal: to encourage its members to be their best, while challenging them to push toward success.

With a commitment to guiding girls to be fully prepared for the challenges they face in their futures, the Delta Academy attempts to focus on the “total” well-being of its participants while promoting personal, academic and social excellence.

“We mentor girls throughout the community and target at risk girls because of the changing society that we’re in and the many obstacles that are in their way,” Academy Director Rosalyn Connelly said of Delta Academy’s mission. “We just try to put programs in place and activities in place to expose them to a lot of different things.”

It is this exposure to outside events and experiences that give these girls the self-esteem and leadership skills they need, as well as the background knowledge necessary to succeed.

Each girl in the program is assigned a mentor for the year. These mentors, made up of retirees, social workers, and teachers guide their protégés through overcoming obstacles they may encounter throughout the year.

Mentors meet with the girls at least once a month, but aim for two to three times a month, sometimes meeting with school officials and parents in an attempt to curb any academic or behavior issues they may be dealing with.

Delta Academy is committed to young women who demonstrate the willingness to succeed, but may need a support system in place in order to reach their highest potential. One of the goals of the academy is to introduce participants to experiences they may not receive in their own neighborhoods.

With over 20 events scheduled throughout the eight-month program, the girls gain exposure to activities such as tree climbing, scrapbooking, horseback riding, and special art classes. However, program participants are also expected to take part in community events.

“We try to let them know they have to give back to the community. What we give to them we want them to give it back to others,” Connelly said.

Deltas become positive role models, gain cultural enrichment and graduate from the program in eighth grade with an “I can” attitude. The high standard of academic excellence and achievement for academy members continues with the Delta GEMS, which is offered to grades 9-12. These young women participate in workshops consisting of etiquette classes, STD awareness, dating, dressing for success, as well as applying to colleges and scholarship information.

The success rate for the girls that complete the program is astounding; with over 90 percent of participants becoming college bound at some of Florida’s major universities.

Delta’s success with the girls is not accomplished alone. Parent involvement is the key to the rise of these young stars and an expectation of the academy. Parents and participants are expected to be punctual, communicate with Academy staff, and be involved in field trips and events.

All interested girls are encouraged to apply for next year’s program, which begins in September. Sign up is currently underway, with a deadline of July 22 for Delta Academy and July 19 for Delta GEMS. All applications are accepted and no one is turned away.

For an application, log on to stpetedeltas.org or call Rosalyn Connelly (727) 867-3242 for help.

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