2017 Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Cotillion

Miss Debutante 2017 Miss Alexis Peterson with escort Rylan C. Freeman

 

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBERG – A hush came over the room as 25 beautiful young ladies dressed in all white entered into the historic Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg last Saturday, March 18.

The occasion?

Why, the Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Cotillion presented by the ladies of Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., of course.

In partnership with the Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, the sorority featured 25 lovely and multi-talented ladies including their escorts.

This social affair of the season is the culmination of a six-month development program where junior and senior girls engage in leadership development, etiquette, health and wellness, poise workshops, community service projects and social activities. Some of the program highlights included the fashionable Debutante Tea where the young ladies received words of wisdom from several distinguished women in the community.

The program was also honored to have the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Theta Eta Chapter assist with the escorts and ushers.

Originally, 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 medicine, engineering and journalism.

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 achievement, church, community and civic involvements.

The evening’s Master of Ceremony duties were handled by the husband and wife duo of County Commissioner Ken Welch and his stunning wife Donna. The night saw waltzing, a father-daughter dance and the presentation of scholarships. Four of the 25 participants received over $14, 000 in scholarship awards.

Jenella Arscott

Jenella Arscott is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School, and is a member of the National Honor Society, Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Girlfriends Program and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Exquisite Gems Program.

In addition, she is a member of the Health Occupation Students of American, and in her spare time, she plays soccer, volleyball and participates in the Student Athletic Trainers’ Club.

After graduation from high school, Jenella plans to attend Florida State University and major in pre-health and pre-med. Her career goal is to become a neonatal pediatrician.

Her hobbies include playing soccer, playing volleyball, shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Jenella was introduced into society by her parents Garth and Leonora Arscott, and her handsome escort for the evening was Timothy A. Johnson, a senior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Alec’a LaKae Ash

Alec’a LaKae Ash is a junior at The Boca Ciega High School where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Thespian Society, Tri-Music Society, Drama Club, The Rolling Tones, CROP and serves as vice-president of the Choral Ensemble.

She is in the Medical Magnet Program, a Junior Medical Ambassador and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Students Program.

After graduation from high school, she plans to attend the University of Florida and major in biology. Her career goal is to become a pediatrician.

Her hobbies and activities include participating in her church and singing solos and participating in the singing group Konnected 2 Christ.

Alec’a LaKae was introduced into society by her parents Keith and April Ash, and her handsome escort for the evening was Jordan Tyler Bolds, a sophomore at Northside Christian High School.

Romari Anna Golden Black

Romari Anna Golden Black is a senior at Admiral Farragut Academy, where she is a member of the Prom Committee and a member of the National Junior ROTC.

She is the captain of the Cheerleading Club, a member of track and field team, a member of the Multiculture Club and in her spare time she volunteers at Starling Day Care.

After graduation from high school, Romari plans to attend a HBCU to major in business administration. Her career goal is to become a manager and CEO of a top company and to start her own business.

Her hobbies and activities include shopping, going to the beach and hanging out with friends and family.

Romari was introduced into society by parents, Robert Anthony and Jennifer Howard-Black, and her handsome escort for the evening was Oshon D. Allen, a senior at Admiral Farragut Academy.

Alexis Kiara Bridges

 

Alexis Kiara Bridges is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society and Rho Kappa Honor Society.

She is also a member of the Girlfriends Program, Junior ROTC, Health Occupation Students of America, Executive Internship Program, Youth Advisory Committee and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Alexis plans to attend college to study biology, attend medical school and complete residency to become a pediatric surgeon.

Her hobbies and favorite activities include cheerleading, track and field, working and watching Netflix.

Alexis is the daughter of Albert and Angela Bridges, and was introduced into society by her father and Godmother, Crystal Pruitt. Her handsome escort for the evening was Kendrick Maxwell Gray, Jr., a senior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Azure Je’Neva Brown

Azure Je’Neva Brown is a senior at Lakewood Senior High School, and some of her activities include serving as vice-president for the Girl Service League, a participating member of the Key Club and serves as treasurer for the Students Government Association.

In addition, she is a cheerleader, a member of the Peer to Peer Mentoring Program, Women In the Making Program, serves as a Junior Usher Program, a member of Mu Alpha Theta Society, CROP, Varsity Club, Oceanography Camp for Girls and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Azure plans to attend college to major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a successful neonatal nurse.

Her hobbies and activities include baking and cheerleading, and spending time with family.

Azure was introduced into society by her parents Larry and Beverly Brown, and her handsome escort for the evening was Maurice Dean Brown, a sophomore at Tallahassee Community College.

Aaliyah Antonette Buchanan

Aaliyah Antonette Buchanan is a senior at Gibbs High School where she is a member of Pinellas County Center for the Arts Dance Program. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the National Honor Society for High School Scholars and the Family Blessing Production Senior Company.

She is the 2016 winner of Friends of the James Weldon Johnson Martin Luther King Essay Contest, the 2017 recipient of the Brittany Bria Gordon Excellence in Achievement Award, a member of Moore’s Chapel AME Church where she participates in the Youth Church Program and a 10-year-member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Aaliyah plans to attend Florida International University to major in engineering. Her career goal is to become an engineer and to create her own dance technique and program.

Her hobbies and activities include creating new things, cooking, writing, boxing, yoga, drawing and doing research.

Aaliyah was introduced into society by her parents Allen and Lynette Buchanan, and her handsome escort for the evening was Brandon Alexander Barco, a senior at Gibbs High School.

Maya DeJesus

Maya DeJesus is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she is a member of the National Honor Society and the Science Honor Society. She is a student athletic trainer at The Boca Ceiga High School and is a member of the school’s softball team.

After graduation from high school, Maya plans to attend University of Central Florida to major in biological science and pre-med. After completing medical school her career goal is to become a successful pediatrician.

Her hobbies and favorite activities include participating in various sports, watching movies, shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Maya was introduced into society by Alfred Styles and Roslynn Smith, and her handsome escort for the evening was Deven Aexander Foster, a junior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Ajea Shania Edwards

Ajea Shania Edwards is a senior at Gibbs High School where she is involved in the Business, Economic, Technology Academy Program, Students Against Drunk Drivers Club, Student Government Association, the National Honor Society and the Executive Internship Program.

After graduation from high school, she plans to attend Alabama State University to complete her degree, followed by joining the Air Force or Navy. Her career goal is to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Her favorite activities include dancing, enjoying what life has to offer and spending time with family and friends.

Ajea was introduced into society by her parents John’Ta and Karen Edwards, and her handsome escort for the evening was John’Ta Lamar Edwards, II, a sophomore at St. Petersburg College.

Shantana Adriana Headley

Shantana Adriana Headley is a junior at The Boca Ciega High School. Her special school program and activities include her membership in the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars. She is a recipient of the Dr. Mac J. Williams, Sr. Scholars and the recipient of the Academic Excellence Award.

In addition, she is a member of the AVID Program, the varsity basketball team and is certified in CPR and first aid.

After graduation from high school, Shantana plans to study biology or pediatric nursing. Her career goal is to become a physical therapist or a pediatric nurse.

Her hobbies and activities include playing basketball, participating in track and field, spending time with family, listening to music and dancing.

Shantana was introduced into society by Avril and Maxine Headley, and her handsome escort for the evening was Dalon Michael Wilson, a junior at Lakewood High School.

Maya Elise Hughes

Maya Elise Hughes is a junior at The Boca Ciega High School Fundamental Program. She is enrolled in rigorous St. Petersburg College Dual Enrollment Courses and takes advanced placement and honors courses.

She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, AVID, the National Society of High School Scholars, is the secretary for St. Petersburg College Center of Excellence National Achiever’s Society and a proud member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

Maya serves on the Homecoming Committee, the Student Advisory Committee and Pirate to Pirate mentoring and completed 100 hours of community service at Clothes2Kids.

After graduation from high school, she plans to attend Florida A&M University to major in English education and administration, with a minor in African-American Studies. She plans to continue her education and obtain a master’s and doctorate degree in higher education at Howard University. Her career goal is to become a higher education administrator and eventually become president of a Historical Black College or University.

Her activities and hobbies include shopping, dining at new local restaurants, hanging out with friends and family, traveling and attending her brother’s lacrosse and football games.

Maya was introduced into society by her parents Michael and Stacey Hughes, and her handsome escort for the evening was Timothy Von’Eric Garner, a junior at Gibbs High School PCCA Program.

J’Kaelen Aunjunay Lang

J’Kaelen Aunjunay Lang is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School and participates in the Girl Friends Program, Peer Mentoring Program and is on the track and field team. In addition, she is an All Star Cheerleader, a member of the Top Teens of America and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, J’Kaelen plans to attend Florida A&M University to major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a neonatal nurse.

Her hobbies and activities include cheerleading, dancing, shopping, spending time with family, volunteering and participating in track.

J’Kaelen was introduced into society by her parents Pete and Jackie Lang, and her handsome escort for the evening was Jabril Muhammad, a junior at Clearwater Academy.

Janae Jaccarri Ledbetter

Janae Jaccarri Ledbetter is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School and is a member of the Principal Advisory Club and the Girl Friends Program.

After graduation from high school, Janae plans to attend Florida A&M University and plans to major in mass communication. Her career goal is to become a journalist and activist and to inspire young girls to make a difference in the world.

Her hobbies include writing, shopping, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Janae is the daughter of La’Rona Morehead and the late Jermaine Ledbetter. She was introduced into society by Lincoln and La’Rona Morehead, and her handsome escort for the evening was Joshua Alan Williams, a junior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Peyton Javone Lockley

Peyton Javone Lockley is a junior at Gibbs Senior High School where she is involved in the BETA Program, a dancer with Kali Kali Dance Company, varsity football and basketball.

In addition, she is a cheerleader, a member of Gibbs track team, a team member at Publix, a continuous honor roll student and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Peyton plans to attend Howard University and obtain a degree in clinical psychology. Her career goal is to become a clinical psychologist.

Her hobbies and activities include dancing, reading, playing around with hair and makeup and spending time with family and friends.

Peyton was introduced into society by her parents Ryan and Ottesha Williams, and her handsome escort for the evening was Antario DaSan Washington, a junior at Gibbs High School.

Cierra Nikole Lynch

Cierra Nikole Lynch is a senior a Lakewood Senior High School where she is a member of AVID, the College Reach Out Program, Florida Business Leaders of American and Lakewood Health Squad.

She is also a member of the Florida Business Leaders of America, Women in the Making Program and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Cierra plans to attend St. Petersburg College and major in business management. Her career goal is to own a cooking business or working in customer service.

Her favorite hobbies and activities include working with others to make a difference, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Cierra was introduced into society by her parents Nicholas and Claire Lynch, and her handsome escort for the evening was Malachi D. Walker, Jr., who is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Ja’Lissa Jeannette Lyons

Ja’Lissa Jeannette Lyons is a junior at Lakewood High School where she is a member of the National High School Scholars Society, the National Achievers Society and Journalism Quill and Scroll.

In addition, she is a Youth Ambassador, a team member winner of the 2017 Brain Bowl Math Competition, a member of Christ Gospel Church Praise Team Ministry, a member of the Teen Setting Mentoring Program and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduating from high school, Ja’Lissa plans to attend college and study criminal justice. Her career goal is to become a police officer in the Federal Government Home Security Department.

Her hobbies and favorite activities include singing at home and church, dancing, drawing and playing sports.

Ja’Lissa was introduced into society by her parents George and Jeannette Lyons, and her handsome escort for the evening was Anthony Harrel, a junior at Gibbs High School.

Taylor Brennae McDonald

Taylor Brennae McDonald is a senior at Lakewood High School and participates in the FBLA Program, College Prep 101 Program and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduating from high school, Taylor plans to attend Florida A&M University. After completing her degree, her career goal is to become a prominent realtor.

Her hobbies and activities include striving to become a professional makeup artist, shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Taylor was introduced into society by her parents Donald and Ondra McDonald, and her escort for the evening was Bryan Quincy Ray, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Alexis Simone Peterson

Alexis Simone Peterson is a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, where she serves as president of Top Teens of America, is a member of the National Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Interact Club.

She is also vice president of the Suncoast Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, a member of the United Way Women’s Leadership Program, Barnes Scholarship semi-finalist, a member of the Junior Florida Morticians Association, a member of the Vivean Coe Richards Leadership Academy, a two time recipient of the Dr. Mac J. Williams Award for Academic Excellence and founder of C.O.L.O.R.S. Camp for girls.

After graduation from high school, Alexis plans to attend Spelman College to major in biology and minor in women’s studies. Her career goal is to become an anesthesiologist and open her own women and children medical facility.

Her hobbies and favorite activities include horseback riding, traveling, participating in community service projects and mentoring.

Alexis was introduced into society by her parents Benjamin and Stephanie Lawson, and her handsome escort for the evening was Rylan C. Freeman, who is a senior at Lakewood High School.

Desurae Vanessa Pittman

Desurae Vanessa Pittman is a junior at Gibbs High School, where her activities include membership in the National Honor Society, first chair of second violins in the orchestra, varsity cheerleading, a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions and the book club.

After graduation from high school, Desurae plans to attend the University of Central Florida to major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a nurse and to help people in need.

Her hobbies include playing basketball, playing the drums, singing, and spending time with family and friends.

Desurae was introduced into society by Willie Webb and Gwendolyn Webb, and her handsome escort for the evening was David James Merck, a sophomore at Lakewood High School.

Nicole Cherise Richardson

Nicole Cherise Richardson is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she is a member of the Science National Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and the National Society of High School Scholars.

She is also a member of the Girlfriends of Pinellas County Program, President of the Suncoast Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, a Suncoast Hospice Volunteer and a honored member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from college, Nicole plans to attend Hampton or Xavier University to major in biology. Her career goal is to become a dermatologist.

Her activities include lots of shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Nicole was introduced into society by her parents John and Athena Richardson, and her handsome escort for the evening is Bernard K. Jackson, II, a senior at Lakewood High School.

Cyrel Robinson

Cyrel Robinson is a senior at Gibbs High School where she attends the Business, Economics, Technology Academy. She is also a member of the cheerleading squad, a former member of Kali Kali Dance Company and a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

After graduation from high school she plans to attend Florida A & M University to major in biology. Her career goal is to become a physical therapist.

Her hobbies and activities include, dancing, sleeping, shopping and spending time with family and friends.

Cyrel was introduced into society by her parents Hendri and Cheryl Robinson, and her handsome escort for the evening was Quandale Inman, a senior at Gibbs High School.

Madison Alexandria Rock

Madison Alexandria Rock is a junior at The Boca Ciega Center for Wellness and Medical Professional High School where she is a member of the Varsity Swim Team and ranked 16th in her district. She is an athletic trainer for the wrestling team, a member of Junior ROTC where she received a national award for her leadership skills.

She is a hospice volunteer and a member of the Street Ministry Team to feed the homeless. Madison is a certified lifeguard and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, she plans to continue her participation in the ROTC Program, attend Georgia Southern University and major in nursing. Her career goal is to become a nurse and Commissioned Officer in the United States Army.

She enjoys dancing, listening to music, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Madison Alexandria Rock was introduced into society by her parents David and Candace Rock, and her handsome escort for the evening was Leo Anthony Passley, Jr., a junior class member at Lakewood High School.

Jenna Leigh Smith

Jenna Leigh Smith is a senior at St. Petersburg High School where she is captain of the varsity volleyball team, president of the FAST Program, a member of the Young Democrats Club and a member of the Multicultural Club.

In addition, she is a member of the National Honor Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

Following graduation from high school, Jenna plans to attend Howard University to study mass communications and media studies. Her career goal is to become a sports reporter at ESPN or a BET Television personality.

Her hobbies and activities include playing volleyball, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Jenna was introduced into society by her parents Jeff and Tracey Smith, and her handsome escort for the evening is Tyre McClendon, a junior at St. Petersburg High School.

Ericka Voncia Still

Ericka Voncia Still is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School Center for Wellness and Medical Profession. She is a member of the Science National Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and Tri-M Music Honor Society.

In addition, Ericka is president of the Vocal Choir Program, is a battalion commander in the Army Junior ROTC Program and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, she plans to attend Florida A&M University and major in physical therapy. Her career goal is to become a physical therapist or athletic trainer for a sports team.

She enjoys dancing, signing, giving back to the community, and spending time with family and friends.

Ericka was introduced into society by her parents Clifford and Arilee Still, and her handsome escort for the evening was Timothy James Goolsby, a senior at The Boca Ciega High School.

Marissa Emani Stubbs

Marissa Emani Stubbs is a senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she is a tutor for freshmen and an active member in the Christian Club.

She is also a member of the AVID Leadership Team, a member of the Volleyball Team and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Exquisite Gems Program.

After graduation from high school, Marissa plans to attend Florida A&M University to major in communication and journalism. Her plan is to have her own television show and to inspire people all around the world.

Her hobbies and activities include serving and giving back to the community, reading books, writing and spending time with family and friends.

Marissa is the daughter of Marty Kennedy and Mr. & Mrs. Emanuel Stubbs. She was introduced into society by Marty and Felecia Kennedy, and her handsome escort for the evening was Zion Emanuel Roland, a junior at Admiral Farragut Academy.

Je’Neice Yvonne Talbert

Je’Neice Yvonne Talbert is a junior at The Boca Ciega High School, is a member in the Junior ROTC Program and is the 2016 recipient of the Dr. Mack J. Williams Academic Excellence Award.

She is a musician for Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, a member of the Daughters of Imani Program and is a volunteer at VA Bay Pines Hospital and the Next Step Pregnancy Center. In addition, Je’Neice has earned the Purple Belt in Tae Kwon Do.

After graduation from high school, she plans to attend the University of South Florida to complete requirements for the physical therapy program. Her career goal is to become a physical therapist in the United States Air Force.

Her hobbies and activities include shopping, hanging out with friends and playing the piano.

Je’Neice was introduced into society by her parents Jerome and Bridgette Talbert, and her handsome escort for the evening was Ramon Cortez Moss Jr. a senior at The Boca Ciega High.

The following debutantes were recognized for their achievements:

Miss Debutante 2017 – Miss Alexis Peterson

Miss First Attendant 2017 – Miss Nicole Richardson

Miss Second Attendant 2017 – Miss Maya Hughes

Miss Third Attendant 2015 – Miss Ja’Neice Talbert

Miss Community Service 2017 – Miss Madison Rock

Miss Congeniality 2017 – Miss Jenna Smith

Miss Supreme Spirit 2017- Miss Maya DeJesus

Deborah Figgs-Sanders and Lena Wilfalk, served as  chairs of the event. Cassandra Williams is the president of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter.

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

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