The Winston Lake Family YMCA Black Achievers program celebrated the successes of their graduating high school seniors and accomplishments of local community leaders last Thursday evening at its annual awards gala held at Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center.
Black Achievers is a long running enrichment program offered at Winston Lake and other YMCAs around the country. The program helps high schoolers set their sights on college and future careers by offering college tours, one-on-one interactions with black professionals and various workshops and seminars.
“I believe the Black Achievers program is just the extra support … some kids do get it at home but, then again, some kids may not get at home,” said Program Director Andrea Hicks. “A lot of the kids we run into may be first generation graduates.”
The program has achieved astounding success. All of its participants have graduated form high school and 98 percent of them have gone on to pursue higher education. Nine graduating seniors were honored during the program for the Black Achievers scholarships they earned. The scholarships, funded by donations from local companies and individuals, ranged from $1,000 to $3,000.
Tiffani Jones, 18, received a $1,500 scholarship made possible by Food Lion. It is one of many scholarships that the East Forsyth High senior has received. She’ll be attending Virginia State University, where she will major in business and minor in Spanish.
Jones, who hopes to become a corporate lawyer, said the Black Achievers’ career clusters, which allow Achievers to interact with professionals working in the fields that they’re interested in, helped her decide to pursue a career in law. She said that all she learned in the program helped her land the treasure trove of scholarships, enough to cover her entire freshman year at the Petersburg-based school.
“I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from the program,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be the same person without it. It’s made me a better person. It’s taught me about the profession I want to go in and has prepared me for college.”
Carver High Senior Devaughn Nance, 17, earned the Achievers’ $1,750 BB&T Scholarship, one of many that will help him attend N.C. A&T State University in the fall. Nance, who will major in civil engineering, said activities like the college tours he took part in as an Achiever showed him the many possibilities open to him.
“It’s amazing; it’s an eye opening experience,” said Nance. “It’s about your choice, more or less, and they show you what African American people can do if they break a lot of the stigmas.”
Achievers Alex Bohannon, Jordan Brown, J’Keyah Higgins, Pharoah Hargrove, Breyinn Loftin, Jazmine Michaux and LaCoya Robinson also received scholarships.
The Achievers, and the hundreds of others who attended the gala, heard from Valaida Fullwood, author of “Giving Back: Blacks in Philanthropy,” who told the crowd that one does not have to be a millionaire to engage in philanthropy.
It’s important to not overlook the smaller charitable endeavors in the African American community, she said. Fullwood, who lives in Charlotte, said that African Americans give a higher percentage of their disposable income to charitable causes than any other racial group.
“I think it’s important for more African Americans to recognize the power of our giving and to claim the word ‘philanthropy’ and not attribute it to people outside our community or people with great wealth,” said Fullwood, who encouraged attendees to find a cause they’re passionate about to give to or volunteer with.
Minority-owned businesses were recognized as well. Honors went to the owners of CB’s Class Act Hair Design, Envisions Hair Studio, Kingz Downtown Market and The Popcorn Fanatic. Distinguished Service Awards were presented to Pastor Darryl Aarron of First Baptist Church-Highland Avenue, District Court Judge Camille Banks-Payne, WSSU Head Football Coach Connell Maynor, Pastor Prince Raney Rivers of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, Dentist Dr. Eric Sadler and Rev. Jeremiah Shipp, a young, popular local man of God.
The Acheivers Lifetime Achievement award went to Florence Corpening, who is retiring as the the CEO of the local YWCA after 17 years. Adult Achievers and community members who volunteer with the program were also recognized. They included James Anderson II, Shona Britton, Tapria Foust, Tamara Grayson, Tiffany Hamlin and Deandria Hairston of PepsiCo Food Services; Tanya Dobbins, Tamika Greene, Traci Grace and Shannon Scales of BB&T; Marcus Huitt, Kristen Tally, Robin Ingram and Daryl Wright of Food Lion; and Tony Burton and James Rowdy Jr., who were sponsored by Reynolds American, Inc.
Celebration of Achievement