CLEARWATER — Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Community EFX, Inc. honored eight African-American male scholars and future leaders Sun., Aug. 2 at Banquet Masters in Clearwater.
The graduating seniors recently completed their mentorship under the watchful eyes of LaShante Keys in Kappa’s League Male Leadership Institute. The men are now about to embark on the path of putting their indelible marks of excellence on the 21st century.
“I’m celebrating my boys because they are worthy to be celebrated,” said Keys proudly.
As the young men strolled proudly past parents, friends, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters and community leaders in the main ballroom, they exuded class and stature in their white tuxedos and shirts, black bow ties and red and black silk handkerchiefs.
Michael Isaiah Carter, Ger’Vontez Eva, Armand Assantez Johnson, Lonnie Charles Lee, Demetrius Lowe, Ashley Pickens II, LeZaire Reese, and Christian Robinson are men who know the humility of struggle, of growing up in a single-parent household and of people telling them that they weren’t going to amount to much. However, their ears heeded the words of wisdom and guidance from Keys.
“He was the father that I did not have,” “I could talk to him, reach him any time,” “He refused to give up on me in my lowest moments,” were all sentiments spoken to Keys by his mentees.
Keys’ compassion and resourcefulness held these young men together despite the obstacles they faced, such as Lonnie Charles Lee whose situation at home flipped the script on a single parent household.
“My dad was always there for me, but my mother was in and out whenever,” said Lee. When Lee was supposed to escort his mother to the center of the ballroom, he walked to the center of the room with a village of eight beautiful and powerful black women who nurtured him, as his mother should have. Eight women replacing one absentee mother speaks volumes to substantiate the role one mother plays in rearing a child.
On the flip side of Lee’s experience is the no show/no support father. Several of the young scholars there could attest to the challenges of that equation. Demetrius Lowe sobbed as he stood proudly and appreciatively with his mother.
“I couldn’t have done this without my mother,” said Lowe proudly as he looked out at her from the podium. Lowe is the one and only African-American male to graduate from St. Petersburg’s Collegiate IB Program with top honors this year. He will be attending FAMU in the fall. As the only black man to complete such a prestigious program, he found himself isolated by a stifling double standard that he felt was unfair.
“The black kids didn’t like me because I wasn’t black enough, and the white kids didn’t like me because they thought I wasn’t good enough,” said Lowe shaking his head. But when his mother caught his eye, a smile stretched across his face.
Carter’s orientation visit to the University of Florida (UF) mirrored Lowe’s experience.
“When I looked around the place and counted only 20 of us out of hundreds of white and foreign students, it shook me up,” said Carter. “I was warned by former black UF students to stay away because African-American students were left to struggle without much help. But that’s why I chose UF. I will be the one to graduate and motivate other brothers and sisters to do the same. Go Gators!”
Even former Rattler graduates had to applaud Carter’s bodacious spirit.
Ashley Pickens II was an honors student who almost derailed everything he had worked to achieve.
“One day I came to school and decided that I was over it,” said Pickens II. Whatever flipped his switch, Keys was there to hit the reverse button. “He just wouldn’t give up on me. He just wasn’t havin’ it!”
Pickens II got back on the right track, and according to Keys, he had no other alternative.
Every graduating class has its inspirational spokesman, and this group of gentlemen was no different. LeZaire Reese brought down the house with his rendition of “To God Be The Glory.” The ordained minister will embark on his college career in the fall at Clark Atlanta University.
Michael Clarke, Polemarch of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, commended all the young men for their hard work and dedication during their mentorship under Keys. Clarke also thanked Keys for his endless flow of compassion; tough love and resourcefulness in helping each of the young men achieve success during and beyond high school.
The objective of this program is to encourage the elements of achievement, leadership, service and scholarship for our young men as they transition into the next phase of the life after high school. During the Male Leadership Institute program, the participants are required to attend workshops on topics such as: etiquette, fiscal responsibility, men’s health, financial aid, career preparation and public speaking. In addition, over the years the students have attended social and cultural events as well as performed community service projects.
If you are interested in getting your son involved in the Kappa League of Male Leadership Institute program, Keys can be reached at L_Keys@hotmail.com or StPeteKappas@gmail.com. The next new parent orientation meeting for recruiting males in 6-12 grades will take place at 2 p.m. Sun., Aug. 30 at 3455 58th Ave. N, the building behind IHOP.
Demetrius Lowe is the son of Vonda Jones and the grandson of Gayle Jones. He is a graduate of St. Petersburg Collegiate with both a high school diploma and associates of arts degree. He received the Mac J. Williams Award and the Lawrence Williams III Scholarship.
His interest includes football, cooking and writing, and was the president of the Kappa League Male Leadership Institute for two years.
Lowe will be attending Florida A&M University majoring in criminology. He plans to become a prosecuting attorney.
His female inspiration is his mother; his male role model is LaShante Keys, and he attends Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
A’Mand Johnson is the son of Tina Johnson-Foxworth and the late Kevin Foxworth. He is a graduate of East Lake High School where he was undefeated as a defensive tackle for two years in a row.
His interests include basketball, cooking and volunteering in the community. He has been a member of Kappa League Male Leadership Institute since the seventh grade.
This fall he will be attending St. Petersburg College and majoring in business. He plans to own his own restaurant one day.
His female inspiration is his mother, his male role model is LaShante Keys, and he attends St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church
Le’Zaire Reese is the son of Marlon and LaKreisha Reese. He is a graduate of Pinellas County Center, and was national president of Top Teens of America.
His activities include being in 5000 Role Models, gospel choir, Take Stock in Children and being on the Multi-Cultural Committee.
Reese will be attending Clark Atlanta University, majoring in mass communications with a minor in religion and philosophy. He plans to be an advertising executive unless the Lord leads him into the ministry.
His male roles models are his father and grandfather, Deacon Arthur Reese. He attends Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
Ashley Pickens, Jr. is the son of Monica Landers and Ashley Pickens, Sr. He is a graduate of Lakewood High School.
He loves journalism and has interests in basketball, shoes and art. He will be attending St. Petersburg College in the fall and will major in criminal justice. He hopes to become a FBI agent in the future.
His female inspiration is his mother; his male role model is Cedric Doss, and he attends Greater Mt. Zion AME Church.
Lonnie Lee, Jr. is the son of Lonnie Lee, Sr. and the grandson of Barbara Lee. He is a graduate of Lakewood High School.
His interest includes basketball and working out. Lonnie will be attending St. Petersburg College in the fall and will major in computer science. He plans to become a software engineer for Google.
His female inspirations are all the Kappa League mothers, and his role model is his father.
Christian Grant-Robinson is the son of Nicole Robinson and grandson of Christine Powell. He is a graduate of Northeast High School where he is only one of three African-American graduates from the IT program.
He will be attending St. Petersburg College in the fall where he will major in Information Technology. He plans on being his own boss.
He loves to play football and has a special interest in cars.
His female inspiration is his mother and his male role model is Adrian Tillman.
Michael Carter is the son of Deborah York and Brian Carter. He is a graduate of The Boca Ciega’s Medical Magnet program. He was the president of the National Honor Society, vice president of Rho Kappa, vice president of HOSA and secretary of Spanish Honor Society.
Carter boasts a 28 on the ACT and 1760 on the SAT. He will be attending the University of Florida this fall and majoring in applied physiology and kinesiology. He has plans to become an orthopedic surgeon for a professional baseball team.
His interests include watching sports and playing video games. His female inspiration is his mother, and his male role model is Marvin York. He attends Bethel Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.
Ger’Vontez Eva is the son of Kesha Eva and the grandson of Cunisia Eva. He is a graduate of Northeast High School where he was able to pay all of his senior fees and expenses himself.
He will attend St. Petersburg College in the fall where he will work on a general studies degree. He plans to become a pastry chef. His interests include baking and psychology.
Eva’s female inspiration is his mother, and his male role model is Officer Marrion Guess.