Kennedy Gray was crowned Miss Debutante 2021 last month
ST. PETERSBURG — Last month, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter, in partnership with the Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, Inc., hosted their 11th Biennial Essence of Ebony Pearls Debutante Cotillion. Six beautiful young ladies were virtually presented into society.
The purpose of the cotillion is to promote the achievements of young ladies, inspiring educational and cultural growth, encourage personal development, and promote community service. The cotillion was the culminating activity for the 2020-21 Essence of Ebony Pearls Scholarship Program.
Even though this season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the young ladies quickly pivoted to adapt to online activities. The debutantes participated in various virtual workshops, beginning last fall. Lessons were taught in mental health and wellness, fashion and beauty, professional networking, etiquette, and leadership and advocacy.
The young ladies also planned and implemented a community service project where they hosted a virtual read-a-loud for elementary school-aged students. Other activities included a mother-daughter tea, which celebrated women of the Harlem Renaissance, and a virtual painting party.
The debutantes were recognized for their academic achievements, church, community, and civic involvement. City Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders played the role of mistress of ceremony, and as the immediate past chairwoman of the cotillion, she narrated the memorable evening as the debutantes dressed impeccably in all white graced the stage and waltzed with their fathers.
Cassandra Williams and Madge Cooks served as the chairwoman and co-chair of the event. More than $13,000 in scholarships were awarded.
The following outstanding debutantes were recognized for their achievements:
Miss Debutante 2021 – Miss Kennedy Gray
First Attendant 2021 – Miss Serena Vazquez
Second Attendant 2021 – Miss Richelle Still
Third Attendant 2021 – Miss Janae Terrell
Miss Supreme Spirit – Miss Kennedy Gray
Miss Community Service – Miss Kennedy Gray
Miss Congeniality – Miss Richelle Still
About Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®
Founded in 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African-American women. Sorority members are committed to cultivating and encouraging high scholastic and ethical standards, promoting unity and friendship, alleviating social issues that affect girls and women, maintaining a progressive interest in college life, and serving all humankind.
The Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter was chartered on December 15, 1955, where Lisa Brody presides as chapter president today.
About Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, Inc.
The Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, Inc. is the 501(c) 3 nonprofit designated entity. Established in 1998, the purpose of the Foundation is to enhance the quality of life for targeted youth and families in Pinellas County by securing funds to provide program activities and services, which focus on education and scholarships, health, the arts, the family unit as well as foster economic and community development within our community.
To learn more about Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter, visit www.zuochapter.org.
Debutante Kennedy Gray
Kennedy Gray is a rising senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she was a member of Pirates Debate Club, Color Guard Co-Captain, the Fundamental Program, the St. Pete Aquatics Swim Team, the NAACP Youth Council, Black Girls Lead, Black Girls Venture, Community Youth Literacy Advocates and a member of the AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program.
After graduation, she plans to attend Bethune-Cookman University and Howard University School of Law and major in Communications and Pre-Law. Her career goal is to practice family law and become a judge.
She enjoys reading, writing poetry and cooking with her grandmother. Debutante Kennedy Gray was introduced to society by her parents, Kendrick and Donnebra Gray.
Debutante London Starks
London Starks is a rising senior at Lakewood High School and in the St. Petersburg College Early Learning Program. She was the captain of the Girls Varsity Soccer Team, member of the Girls Varsity Swimming Team, Girls Varsity Track team and Strictly Soccer Futball Club.
Her other activities and honors include being a Campus Ambassador and Volunteer with Feeding Tampa Bay, Assistant Nursery Leader at Pinellas Community Church, Spelman College Prep Institute, AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program and she received the Dr. Mac J. Williams Academic Excellence Award. After graduation, London plans to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to major in Physics & Astronomy.
Her career goal is to earn her Ph.D. and become a NASA researcher. Her hobbies and interests include art, soccer, swimming and reading. Debutante London Starks was presented to society by her parents, Patrick Tyler and Oneika Tyler.
Debutante Richelle Still
Richelle Still was a senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she was involved in various programs and activities. She was a member of the Center for Wellness & Medical Professions, the National Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society, Recycling Club, Youth in Government, President of Rho Kappa Honor Society, and the Health Occupations Students of America.
Her awards include the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, Vyrle Davis Award, and the Dr. Mac J. Williams Award. She was also a Woodson Warrior Scholarship Recipient and a member of the AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program. After graduation, Miss Still plans to attend the University of Miami to major in International Studies. Her career goal is to become a political advocate & travel the world.
Her hobbies include reading, creating art, being in nature, working with children, traveling and spending time with friends & family. Debutante Richelle Still was presented to society by her parents, Clifford and Arilee Still.
Debutante Janae Terrell
Janae Terrell was a senior at The Boca Ciega High School where she is the Senior Class Vice-President and is in the Top 20 percent of the senior class. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Rho Kappa Spanish Honor Society and the Varsity Softball Team. She is also a member of the AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program.
Miss Terrell was a recipient of the Terri Murph Scholarship and a Woodson Warrior Scholarship Recipient. After graduation, she plans to attend Tennessee State University to major in Biology or Physical Therapy. Her career goal is to become a General Dentist or a Physical Therapist.
Her hobbies and interests include softball, cleaning, watching Netflix, hanging out with friends, swimming, going to the beach and traveling. Debutante Janae Terrell was presented to society by her parents, Grady and Debbie Terrell.
Debutante Serena Vazquez
Serena Vazquez was a junior at Admiral Farragut Academy High School where she was the Girls Varsity Track & Field Captain, Girls Varsity Soccer Captain, a member of the Diversity Club, and a member of the Drama Club. Miss Vazquez is a member of the AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program and volunteers with Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA).
After graduation, she plans to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to major in Sports Medicine. Her career goal is to become an athletic trainer. Her interests and hobbies include running track, playing soccer, spending time with family & friends and cooking. Debutante Serena Vazquez was presented to society by her parents, Francisco and Sandra Vazquez.
Debutante Bree Wilson
Bree Wilson was a senior at St. Petersburg High School where she was the National Honor Society Secretary, the Girls Varsity Basketball Team Captain, she had a 4.0 weighted GPA, and was on the Principal’s List during 2020-21 school year.
Miss Wilson is a member of the Greater Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church where she serves as an officer of the Young Peoples Division (YPD), she was a Woodson Warrior Scholarship Recipient and a member of AKA AKAdemy Exquisite Gems program.
After graduation, she plans to attend the University of North Florida where she plans to major in Marine Biology. Her career goal is to become a Marine Biologist and discover unknown parts of the ocean.
Her hobbies and interests include playing basketball, watching CoryxKenshin on YouTube, hanging out with friends, and baking desserts. Debutante Bree Wilson was presented to society by her parents, Darryl and Cherita Wilson.