The AKA AKAdemy graduated 33 seniors, the largest class to date, last Friday, May 26 at the historic Coliseum.
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 Friday at the historic Coliseum. Proud parents had their cellphones in hand capturing every moment of this spectacular event.
“Our purpose is to enhance the quality of life for targeted youth and families in Pinellas County, which focuses on education and scholarships, health, the arts, the family unit as well as foster economic and community development,” said sorority and YDF President Cassandra Williams.
The AKA AKAdemy is structured to focus on the developmental needs of adolescent teen girls— Exquisite Gems—under the direction of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and teen boys—Pathfinders— under the direction of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity beginning in sixth grade and following them through high school graduation.
Mentors work with them promoting high academic achievement and healthy lifestyles that will bring economic security to their future families.
Twenty-two years ago, the end of the year showcase was not as extravagant with only 25 girls and five graduating seniors. Over 1,700 students later, Friday night saw 275 academy members with 33 graduates, the largest class to date.
AKAdemy Program Director Manitia Moultrie reported that year’s seniors traveled to Tallahassee to visit the Florida A&M University campus for college preview week, and in the spring the 9th, 10th and 11th graders headed to Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University and Ave Maria University.
Throughout the year, the academy provided 275 hours of homework tutorial assistance to 18 children and much-needed ACT prep, where 14 students increased their scores by six or more points.
Moultrie was also proud to inform that this year the AKAdemy piloted a successful reading intervention program for middle school students.
The AKAdemy celebrated the conclusion of the program year by showcasing fashion, dance and step focused on encouraging the students and community youth to focus on “Winning and Shining,” the theme of this year’s program.
This year’s showcase ended with the annual fierce but “friendly” competitive step-off between the Exquisite Gems and Pathfinders.
As predicted in jest by Williams at the top of the program, the girls “mopped the floor” with the boys.
The Gems left it all on the stage and claimed bragging rights, an accolade the Pathfinders held for the last two years.
The Youth Development Foundation 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.
2017 YDF Merit Scholars
$1,400 Angelika Morris
$1,200 Katlyn Crandall
$1,000 Therese Monte
$1,000 Jenella Arscott
$900 Alexis Peterson
$800 Myiah Moody
$700 Nathan Brinkley Jr.
$250 Timothy Johnson
President’s Council/Merit Scholars
$500 Maya DeJesus
$250 Jakiya Acoff
$250 Eriana Redix
Randolph Lewis “Bridge Builder” Scholars
$500 Nicole Richardson
$500 Cierra Lynch
$500 Tierra White
$500 Aaliyah Buchanan
AKAdemy Alumni Pathfinder Scholar
$250 Ryian Freeman
JWB/AKA AKAdemy Book Scholars
(Each will receive $250 Book Scholarship)
Jenna Leigh Smith Azure Brown
Ericka Still Marissa Stubbs
Trajan Trueblood Tiara Trueblood
Janae Ledbetter Kofi Fort
Dr. David T. Welch Scholars
$500 Azure Brown
$500 Timothy Johnson
Pauline Besselli Endowment for the Arts Scholars
$400 Aaliyah Buchanan
$400 Myiah Moody
SPC Mary O’Neal Brown Scholars
$500 Lydia Woods
$500 Shayna Johnson
$500 Micayla Southerland
Madame Vivian Rouson Scholars
$83 Cierra Lynch
$83 Kofi Fort
$83 Ericka Still
$83 Timothy Johnson
$83 Aaliyah Buchanan
$83 Ryian Freeman
For more information regarding the AKA AKAdemy please visit the website at www.zuochapter.org.
The daughter of Jarrod Acoff and Marcina Williams, Jakiya is a graduate of Northeast High School and held leadership positions in the Hi-Y and Psychology Clubs.
She is certified in Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint and Excel and plans to pursue a double major in business administration and accounting at the Florida A & M School of Business and Industry.
Her words to live by: “Laughter is the best medicine.”
The daughter of Garth and Leonora Arscott, Jenella is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School and was a member of the National Honor Society, Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and the Girlfriends Program.
She plans to attend Florida State University and major in pre-health and pre-med.
Daughter of Shannon Dolly, Taylor graduated from Disston Academy. She is an accomplished dancer and has attended the Alvin Ailey summer camp and Idlewild Dance Academy. Taylor would like to continue pursuing her dance talent and perform professionally.
The daughter of Albert and Angela Bridges, Alexis is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School where she was a member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society, Girlfriends, Junior ROTC, Health Occupation Students of America and Executive Internship Program.
Alexis plans to attend Florida A & M University and become a pediatric surgeon.
Nathan Brinkley, Jr.
The son of Vonet Lassiter, Nathan is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School where he received awards for honor roll and perfect attendance. He graduated with a 3.8 GPA and plans to attend the University of South Florida and pursue a degree in computer science.
He says, “I am leaving high school more mature, outgoing and confident and ready to begin my next journey.”
The daughter of Larry and Beverly Brown, Azure is a graduate of Lakewood High School. She has participated in several community organizations including Student Government, the Women In the Making program, CROP and the USF Oceanography Camp for Girls.
Azure plans to attend St Petersburg College and major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a successful neonatal nurse.
Her advice to others: “Set goals and share them with someone that will hold you responsible for meeting them.”
The daughter of Allen and Lynette Buchanan, Aaliyah is a graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts program at Gibbs High School. She is the 2017 recipient of the Brittany Bria Gordon Excellence in Achievement Award and the placed second in the 2017 Omega Psi Phi Talent Hunt.
Aaliyah plans to attend Florida International University and major in engineering. Her career goal is to become an engineer and create her own dance technique and program. She notes: “I leave high school with not only a strong sense of self but an idea of how I would like to live my life.”
The daughter of Alfred Styles and Roslynn Smith, Maya is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of The Boca Ciega High School. She was in the talented top 20 percent of her class and is a member of the National Honor Society and the Science Honor Society.
Maya plans to attend the University of Central Florida to major in biological science and pre-med. Her career goal is to become a successful pediatrician. She thanks her mother and others for “making her be great.”
The daughter of John’Ta and Karen Edwards, Ajae is a graduate of Gibbs High School. She was involved in the BETA Program, Student Government Association, the National Honor Society, the Executive Internship Program and a member of the Kali Kali Dance Company.
Ajae plans to attend Alabama State University and pursue a career as a neonatal nurse practitioner.
The son of Drs. Kenyon and Nathalia Fort, Kofi graduated from Shorecrest Preparatory School with honors and plans to attend Howard University and pursue a degree in computer science.
Kofi has been involved in Jack and Jill of America, the Interact Club and was named Mr. Beautilion 2015-16. His passion is to “develop technologies to help those that are less fortunate in other countries.”
A proud graduate of Lakewood High School, Ryian has been active in several community organizations including the 5000 Role Models where he learned the value in volunteerism and being a mentor.
Ryan excelled academically as well as in track and football. He will attend Stetson University on a Deans Academic Merit scholarship with plans to play football and enter the U.S. Air Force.
The daughter of Henry and Alathea Gent, Taylor is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High. She was a member of the JR-ROTC program and received several awards including the Outstanding Cadet Award. Taylor is planning to attend Florida A & M University.
Her words of wisdom “to anyone who may be struggling or thinking about quitting in whatever you do, keep going. Pray about it and always strive for greatness.”
The daughter of Anthony Givens and Dr. Rongette Levy, Alexandria is a graduate of Gibbs High School. Her list of community service, academic and JR-ROTC ribbons and awards is extensive. She plans to attend Florida A & M University and pursue a career in computer intelligence in the U. S. Armed Forces Intelligence Division.
Alexandria has turned a challenge into a success. After being bullied during her sophomore year, she relied on the words of Oscar Wilde: “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” She worked with her mentor to develop a series of bully prevention forums and a support group called Flawless Petals.
Kendrick Gray Jr.
The son of Kendrick Gray Sr. and Donnebra McClendon-Gray, Kendrick is an accomplished student-athlete and a member of the National Honor Society. He has been involved in several community organizations and plans to attend St. Leo University and pursue a career in Orthopedic Medicine.
Kendrick’s words to live by: “We are the change that we seek.”
The son of Aldric Griifin Sr. and Monica Davis-Griffin, Aldric ranked number six in his graduating class and graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Boca Ciega High School with an extensive list of athletic and academic honors and achievements.
He plans to attend the University of South Florida and major in computer science. His long-term plan is to advance up the ladder in Microsoft until he reaches the CEO level.
The daughter of Preston and Lyvonne Hicks, Melissa is a graduate of Gibbs High School. She was the captain of the dance team and acknowledges that she had a minor setback during her senior year that set her up for a major comeback.
Melissa plans to attend St Petersburg College and the University of South Florida and major in business. Her career aspiration is to own a fashion empire.
Timothy Johnson II
The son of Timothy and Nicole Johnson, Timothy was a successful student-athlete and a member of Professional Opportunities Program for Students. He plans to attend Florida State College in Jacksonville, major in fire science and become a fire chief.
Timothy is blessed with wit and humor and wants to use his knowledge, profession and resources to help other young men in the community.
The daughter of Pete and Jackie Lang, J’Kaelen is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School. She plans to attend Florida A&M University to major in nursing and pursue a career as a neonatal nurse.
The daughter La’Rona Morehead and the late Jermaine Ledbetter, Janae is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School and was a member of the Principal Advisory Club and the Girl Friends Program. Janae has had to deal with a personal loss and instead of asking “why me?” she started saying “why not me?” Through her pain, she focused on changing her mindset to blossom and succeed.
Janae is planning to attend Bethune-Cookman University and major in mass communications. Her career goal is to become a journalist and activist and like her role model Oprah Winfrey, inspire young girls to make a difference in the world.
The daughter of Nicholas and Claire Lynch, she is a graduate of Lakewood High School where she was a member of AVID, the College Reach Out Program, Florida Business Leaders of America and Lakewood Health Squad. She plans to attend St. Petersburg College and major in business management.
Cierra leaves the following message: “Life is full of challenges; you have to be willing to face them to open up new opportunities.”
The grandson of Sandra McClendon, Tyre is a student athlete and graduate of St. Petersburg High School. He plans to enlist in the US Air Force or Navy and pursue a career in air traffic control.
Tyre extends special thanks to the AKAdemy for making him a better person in society and his grandmother “for keeping me focused, and encouraging me in life to do the right things.”
The daughter Donald and Ondria McDonald, Taylor graduated from Lakewood High School.
She participated in the FBLA and College Prep 101 programs. She is planning to attend the University of South Florida and pursue a career in real estate.
Her words of wisdom: “Keep moving forward; anything is possible.”
The daughter of Stephen and Donita Moody, Myiah is a graduate of Boca Ciega High School.
She acknowledges that life is short and turned a personal loss into a challenge; as a result, she is graduating a year early and recently served as Homecoming Princess and Student Government president.
Myiah plans to attend St. Petersburg College and the Savannah College of Art and Design and pursue a career in business and fashion management and marketing.
The daughter of Ashlea Webb and Eric Redix, Eriana is a graduate of Gibbs High School. She graduated with a 3.8 GPA and has received several academic awards and acknowledgments.
Eriana is planning to attend Florida A & M University and pursue a career in nursing.
She lives by the scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The daughter of John and Dr. Athena Richardson, Nicole is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School where she was a member of the Science National Honor Society, the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.
Nicole was also the president of the Suncoast Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated and a Suncoast Hospice volunteer. She plans to attend Hampton University to major in biology and pursue a medical career in dermatology.
Her words of wisdom: “Success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination.”
The daughter of Hendri and Cheryl D. Robinson, Cyrel is a graduate of Gibbs High School. She was in the Business, Economics, Technology Academy and a former member of Kali Kali Dance Company. She plans to attend Florida A & M University to pursue a career as a physical therapist.
Cyrel has had several personal health challenges and would like to be remembered as someone who did not give up in the face of adversity.
A graduate of St. Petersburg High School, Jenna is the daughter of Jeff and Tracey Smith. She was the captain of the Varsity Volleyball Team and won the Senior All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award and earned her Girl Scout Silver Award.
Jenna plans to attend Florida International University to study mass communications and media studies. Her career goal is to become a sports reporter at ESPN or become a BET television personality. She wants to leave her mark as a high-spirited and intellectual woman who gives back and puts others first.
The daughter of Clifford and Arilee Still, Ericka is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School Center for Wellness and Medical Profession. She was the Battalion Commander in the Army JR- ROTC Program responsible for 300 cadets.
Ericka is an accomplished dancer, cheerleader and athlete. She plans to attend Florida A&M University and pursue a career in physical therapy.
Her advice to others: “The change that you want to see in the world begins with you.”
The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marty Kennedy and Mr. and Mrs. Emanuel Stubbs, Marissa is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School, where she was a freshman tutor, a member of the volleyball team and AVID Leadership Team.
Marissa is planning to attend Florida A&M University to major in communication and journalism to pursue a career that inspires people all around the world.
Her parting words: “I am no longer afraid of failure because failure gives us a chance to change. Change gives us a chance to prosper.”
The daughter of Briana Barnes and Timothy Trueblood, Tiara is a graduate of Gibbs High School. She was a student-athlete and three-time MVP. She is proud of her service to the community and plans to pursue a career in business administration or nursing.
Tiara offers the following to others: ‘“Can’t’ should not be in your vocabulary. Everything about you should say ‘you can.’”
The son of Briana Barnes and Timothy Trueblood, Trajan is a graduate of Gibbs High School. He was a student-athlete and participated in AVID and 5000 Role Models. He plans to attend St. Augustine University and major in business and engineering.
Although he has kept quiet, Trajan is excited that he is “graduating with his twin sister Tiara.
The daughter of Robert and Aubrey Richmond-Walton, Autumn is a graduate of The Boca Ciega High School and a student athlete, having played volleyball and participated in track and field. She plans to attend Florida A & M University and pursue a career in nursing midwifery. Autumn encourages us all to “live life to the fullest.”
The daughter of Anthony White, Tameika Shedrick and Strickland Oliver, Tierra is a graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School. She participated in several organizations including Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Student Government.
Tierra’s passion is dance and she plans to attend Alabama State University and major in dance and minor in athletic training. Her message to the audience: “Take everything day by day, one step at a time.