KNOXVILLE, TN (May 2021) – The Knoxville Area Urban League presented an “End of the Year” celebration for its 27 graduating scholars in the National Achievers Society (NAS) program.
The celebration was at Marble Hall at Lakeshore Park in Knoxville on Sunday, May 23rd. Due to the pandemic, it was the first large, in-person event NAS students have enjoyed this school year. A limited number of family members and supporters attended to celebrate the honorees.
The program followed conventional graduation protocols, with adjustments. Each graduate when called to the stage and decorated with their NAS stole, was given a moment at the mic to share their chosen career path and institution of higher learning. But the KAUL staff had more for them.
All in attendance were totally surprised when it was announced that each of the graduating scholars would be gifted with a brand new laptop courtesy of COMCAST, a NAS program sponsor.
“Our 2021 graduates have done AMAZING things!” said Janea Peterson, KAUL Director of Education & Youth Services. “From class valedictorians, ranking in the top 10%, receiving coveted school awards.”
The global pandemic made the 2020-21 school year difficult to say the least. Schools were periodically shut down as administrators considered solutions, reopened with mask and health mandates, went virtual, and offered a hybrid option while dealing with a teacher shortage.
Throughout the school year, students in the National Achievers Society program are engaged in activities and projects designed to maximize their cultural, academic and college readiness. Parent participation was included in some projects.
The KAUL Education & Youth Services team pivoted and conducted virtual sessions, and later had smaller gatherings to encourage and to keep a connection with the NAS scholars. The events included:
.A virtual college fair, November 2020: that included HBCUs. The event introduced many of the students to in-state HBCUs they had never heard of. One student decided to apply to HBCU Tennessee State University in Nashville. The applicant was granted a full scholarship.
Student emotional check-in, March 2021; that included a local specialist in violence prevention and grief counseling, to allow students to express their feelings over the violent deaths of 5 students of a local high school.
A Change Center event, May 2021; partnered with Girl Talk, Inc. and the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA provided students with a safe space, among peers and friends, to process their emotions, and hang out with friends (after 5 students from the same local high school were murdered within a few months). we hosted an event at the Change Center.
According to Peterson, this year’s class of 27 NAS graduates have collectively received over $1.2 million in college scholarships and counting.
“We could not be prouder of them! They are creative, intelligent, and motivated and we’re so excited to see the impact they will make on this world,” said Peterson.
We salute the NAS graduates who made it through a most difficult year!
KAUL 2021 National Achievers Society graduates
Austin East Magnet High School
Asia Chesney – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Chinaya Mason – Spelman College
Aaliyah Rice – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
C’Kara Winston – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Bearden High School
Nadia Burris – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Amilian Clemes – Tennessee State University
Central High School, Danna Vazquez – Workforce
Karns High School, Soraya Hunter – East Tennessee State University
Fulton High School
Dorothea Baphakurera – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Irambona Esperence – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Adrian Mota Gutierrez – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Aniiah Matthews – Bryan College
Adrian Roberson – Tennessee College of Applied Technology
Hardin Valley Academy
Shaud’liah Akinleye – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Seth Bailey – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Gloria Kapaya-Alliyo – University of Tennessee Knoxville
Maya Lewis – Middle Tennessee State University
Marla Lowery – Tennessee State University
Dominique Romain – Yale University
Bradan Sharp – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Shane Spurgeon – Middle Tennessee State University
L&N STEM Academy, Ayanna Albright – Howard University
Maryville High School, Zion Valentine-Kane – Pellissippi State Community College
Powell High School, Shaniya Herman – University of Tennessee Chattanooga
South Doyle High School, Micah Davis – Middle Tennessee State University
West High School, Cameron Carter – Tennessee State University
The Knoxville Area Urban League is currently accepting applications for the NAS program through July 8, 2021. Students entering 10th through 12th grades in the East Tennessee area are encouraged to apply. The application is electronic with eligibility requirements listed on the form. Please consider sharing the link with eligible high school students and encourage them to apply here kauleducation.wufoo.com/forms/nas/.
For information about the NAS program for eligible students in East Tennessee, contact KAUL Director of Education & Youth Services Janea Peterson; email, [email protected]; or call (865) 524-5511 ext. 242.
ABOUT: The National Achievers Society was established to encourage underserved, academically achieving, socially challenged African-American and students of color to reach advanced educational goals and career opportunities. In Knoxville, the NAS program is administered by the Knoxville Area Urban League with funding in part by Comcast, National Urban League, State Farm Foundation and the East Tennessee Foundation.
ABOUT: Phyllis Nichols is CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, which is located at 1514 E. Fifth Ave., Knoxville, 37917. Visits are by appointment following CDC guidelines. Office hours are by appointment and CDC protocols are enforced. Contact by calling 865-524-5511; website thekaul.org; or email, [email protected].