BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The Youth Development Foundation (YDF) of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. held its annual AKA AKAdemy Showcase/Awards Program last Sunday, May 29. More than 1,000 family members and friends filled the historic St. Petersburg Coliseum to get a glimpse of this year’s extravaganza entitled “Purple Reign,” an homage to the late Prince Rogers Nelson, the Purple One himself.
Dr. Kevin B. Parrott served as Master of Ceremony as Cassandra Williams, president of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Ivan Tucker, president of Eta Rho Chapter or Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. welcomed the audience.
Manitia Moultrie, AKAdemy program director, discussed the “reign” of the AKAdemy and importance of showcasing their students and celebrating their successes. Revealing that they have been asked why the showcase is so over the top every year, she expressed what a “serious matter” it is to emphasize the positives.
“For those of you who watch the news or follow social media, you know that we need to celebrate the positives for our youth and our community. You know if we don’t celebrate, who will? If we don’t show them how to think over the top, how they will know how to strive for more, to think bigger and to do better,” she asked.
And over the top it was—in a positive way. The AKAdemy celebrated through fashion, dance and step with music and attire inspired by Prince. The showcase ended with a fiercely competitive step off between the Exquisite Gems and Pathfinders. Although there was no official judging, the audience showed their appreciation with cheers and screams.
The 28 graduates, after a year of workshops focused on leadership, education and community development, as well as numerous opportunities to build character, patience, self-confidence and determination, are prepared for bright futures.
The YDF receives over $109,000 annually from the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board. The program is administered by the ladies of Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in collaboration with the men of the Eta Rho Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
The night saw more than $16,000 in scholarships, and the Eta Rho Chapter of Omega Psi Phi presented more than $2,500 in scholarships as listed below:
Youth Development Foundation Merit Scholarship Award Recipients
- $1,400 – Erica McCallister
- $1,200 – Maiya Fudge
- $1,000 – Mara Brody
- $1,000 – Jermaine Robinson
- $900 – Niaya White
- $800 – Amber Seay
- $700 – Amari Morris
Randolph Lewis “Bridge Builder” Scholarship
- $500 – Shannon Vazquez
- $500 – Quincy Hicks
- $500 – Kevin Gordon
- $500 – Zion Blockson
Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
President’s Council/ Merit Scholarship
- $500 – Da’Jhai Monroe
AKAdemy Book Scholarships (funded by Pinellas County JWB Grant)
- Erica McCallister
- Niaya White
- Maiya Fudge
- Shannon Vazquez
- Mara Brody
- Quincy Hicks
- Jermaine Robinson
- Kevin Gordon
- A’Rielle Snead
- Simari Turner
- Zion Blockson
Dr. David T. Welch Academic Scholarship
- $500 – Mara Brody
- $500 – Zion Blockson
Youth Development Foundation/Pauline Besselli Endowment for the Arts Scholarship
- $300 – Aaliyah Buchanan
- $200 – Brianna Lloyd
- $150 – Ty’Asja Scott
- $150 – Janadia Fowler
Eta Rho Educational Services (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
- $750 – Mara Brody – Lew Williams Scholarship
- $750 – Maiya Fudge – Lew Williams Scholarship
- $750 – Da’Jhai Monroe – Louis O. Harper Scholarship
- $750 – Simari Turner – Louis O. Harper Scholarship
Special recognition was given to those AKAdemy students that made honor roll all year, and the AKAdemic Perfection Award was presented to those that made the dean’s list all year, which included Da’Jhai Monroe (Lakewood High School Valedictorian), Shakenya Clark, Richelle Still and Makayla Washington.
AKAdemy Program Awards were presented to several students for their participation, involvement and engagement during the 2015-16 program year:
- Angel Award – Shannon Vazquez
- Blossom Award – JaNabre Flowers
- Character Award – Mara Brody
- Spirit Award – Erica Still
- Earnest Fuller Citizenship Award – Zion Blockson
- Most Improved Pathfinder – Jatarius Bunch
- Scott Wilson Pathfinder of the Year – Kramon Long
- Randy Lewis Leadership – Jabril Mohammed