ST. PETERSBURG – This 2015-16 program year of the Delta Academy, sponsored by the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., culminated with a celebration for 21 beaming young ladies Saturday, May 21 at St. Mathews Episcopal Church.
The program, under Academy Director Rosalyn Connelly’s direction, focuses on building self-esteem and fostering leadership qualities among girls in grades five through eight.
“My experience with the Delta Academy taught me how to always put God first; how to believe in myself and how to care for others…” said Danyelle Brown, who is in her fourth and final year. “I wish I didn’t have to leave.”
The academic component of the program is designed to pique the interest of young girls in subject areas and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program goals are achieved through the participant’s involvement in workshops, field trips, community service projects, bonding activities and strong parental support.
The academy runs in conjunction with the academic calendar of the public school system in an effort to support the young ladies as they navigate through this very critical social and developmental phrase of life .
While challenging the youth to push towards success, the Delta Academy focuses on the total well being of its participants while promoting personal, academic and social excellence.
“Mrs. Connelly has taught me how to be a wise woman and how to treat myself like a respectable person,” said Mikayla Brown, who is also in her fourth and final year of the program. “She taught me how to go through life; she showed me what’s wrong and right…she’s an amazing woman.”
Delta Academy is committed to young women who demonstrate the willingness to succeed, but may need a support system in place in order to reach their highest potential. One of the goals of the academy is to introduce participants to experiences they may not receive in their own neighborhoods.
With over 20 events scheduled throughout the eight-month calendar, the girls gain exposure to activities such as tree climbing, scrapbooking, horseback riding, and special art classes. Program participants are also expected to take part in community events.
Each girl is assigned a mentor for the year. These mentors, made up of retirees, social workers and teachers, guide their protégés through overcoming obstacles they may encounter throughout the year.
Mentors meet with the girls at least once a month, but aim for two to three times, sometimes meeting with school officials and parents in an attempt to curb any academic or behavior issues they may be dealing with.
Eighth grader Destiny Perkins, who has been with the academy for four years, said she didn’t know what to expect from the program until her grades started slipping. Once her mentor encouraged her and helped her figure out ways to get those grades back up, she knew she was in the right program.
“She [Mrs. McCloud] kept encouraging me and pushing me on and on…They kept up with my grades and would congratulate me when I got honor roll or principal’s list or anything good in my life,” said Destiny.
Although Danyelle, Mikayla and Destiny will be attending high school next year, they needn’t worry. The Deltas have a sister program called the Delta GEMS, which is offered to girls in grades 9-12. The GEMS participate in workshops consisting of etiquette classes, STD awareness, dating, dressing for success, as well as applying to colleges and scholarship information.
The success rate for the young ladies that complete the program is astounding; with over 90 percent of participants becoming college bound.
The Delta’s success with the girls is not accomplished alone. Parent involvement is the key to the rise of these young stars and an expectation of the academy. Parents and participants are expected to be punctual, communicate with academy staff and be involved in field trips and events.
After the girls received gift bags full of goodies, President Ruby Griffin thanked Connelly for 10 years of heading up the program by taking each letter in her first name and making a verse.
“Rosalyn is responsible; she’s one of a kind; she a strong disciplinarian, always abounding in love and is amazing. She is loyal to God; she is youth oriented and is never deterred from her mission.”
Destiny summed up the afternoon with these heartfelt words to the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority: “Thank you so much for wanting us to be the best young ladies we can be.”