STUDENT SPOTLIGHT ARCHIVE
Questioning the Weather/ Advocating for Climate Change
Kayonia Sowell, a 2019 learn and earn intern with the Allegheny Front, had the privilege of exploring environmental justice issues alongside talented radio broadcast journalists. During her internship Kayonia researched climate change which altered her perspective on the world around her. As she gained more insight, she learned of the stark reality of climate change and its impact. Kayonia began questioning why she has not learned such critical information during her time as a middle and high school Pittsburgh Public School student. Her authentic and honest statements were featured in an article by the Allegheny Front; “One Teen Grapples With Her Questions About Climate Change,” and revealed her journey toward climate change discovery through her internship.
Learning about climate change ignited a fire within Kayonia to gain more from other individuals. She asked her parents and they were surprised that Kayonia was not learning about global environmental issues. Her mom stated, “I think it’s beneficial later in life for kids to understand what’s going on [on] the earth, as well as off the earth.” Her father shared similar disappointment in the Pittsburgh Public Curriculum saying, “I think it’s deplorable that they would rather teach you how to text than to teach about climate change.” He wonders why an emphasis is not taken to teach students about the importance of protecting the world around them.
We are proud to have a student like Kayonia seeking further understanding about the world we call home and most certainly how to protect it. The earth is not only our home but also a resource and we look forward to more of Kayonia’s future discoveries.
Jonell Arrington Epperson, a Conqueror and Graduate
From teen mother to high school graduate, Jonell Arrington-Epperson made it. She persisted through every obstacle and conquered every odd stacked against her. With her daughter by her side, she walked across the stage with a smile and swagger that communicated: “I did it.” As much excitement as the day brought, Jonell did not fail to acknowledge those who helped and supported her along the way. She noted, “I did it; I made it, but not alone. Y.E.S. was with me every step of the way and so were many others. Teachers, education liaisons, court advocates, babysitters, and family members selflessly gave of their time, resources, money, and love to see me cross the finish line, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Jonell is the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She is paving the way for her younger siblings and is setting the standard for her three year old daughter, Lamera. Jonell’s finishing is a true testament to her perseverance and hardwork. She is a conqueror and continues to be a strong young woman and role model. We are very excited about the triumphs Jonell has won and we look forward to the future with hope and optimism as she pursues cosmetology and business in the Fall.
Ashanti Richardson Races to the Top
One of our top YES scholars competed in the City League Track Championship last week. Representing Westinghouse as a junior runner, Ashanti raced with confidence and led the pack of girls against whom she was competing for most of the competition. Although she outran her opponents for most of the race, she fell short of first place by just a tenth of a second. Despite this, she still performed amazingly, demonstrated grit and perseverance, and received second place for the Girls' 400 Meter Race.
Ashanti's future is bright as she received college offers and has been invited to race in invitationals around the city. Not only is she a stellar athlete, but she is also a student who excels in the classroom. We are very proud of her for all her hard work during this race and for pushing herself to be the best on the track and in the classroom.
Reclaiming Balance: Khamille’s Journey to Recovery
This year has been an enigma for Khamille. A fierce athlete and a courageous leader, Khamille finds strength in balance. She enjoys the challenge of multi-tasking and she is exceptionally good at it. Unfortunately, just as a one-sided scale has no balance, neither did Khamile when she found out she would miss her entire junior season due to an ACL injury.
When UPMC Doctors determined that Khamille would miss one of her most important basketball seasons, she lost focus and hope. She has always excelled at athletics and academics and has never done one without the other.
Although this was a challenge and setback for her, Khamille has shown great strength and tenacity during her recovery and is finally cleared to play the sport she loves again, after eight grueling months of recovery.
Khamille recalibrated because it mattered to her. She navigated her new paradigm by making resources available to her and by facilitating her natural inclination to excellence. Some students need direction, others just need revelation and reassurance that it’s in them; they just need to own it. Khamille has done just that. Khamille has reclaimed her balance and has realigned her performance with her above average standard.
Her determination is motivation to us all. Her bravery is also a reminder of the heart she possess. Now coming into her senior year, Khamille stands tall and proud as Center and Power Forward, determined to score 1000 points in her final season. We are proud of her progress and know that she is ready to put on her jersey again. We cannot wait to see Khamille step on the floor to accomplish her goals.
Selena Williams competes as a finalist in the 2018-2019 Williams SING-OFF Competition
We are proud to announce that Selena Williams, one of our YES Seniors, was selected out of 70 applicants as a Williams SING-OFF Competition finalist. The Annual Williams SING-OFF Competition provided Selena the opportunity to network and showcase her vocal talents amongst three other distinct finalists.
Selena has always had a passion for singing, but committed to perfecting her craft when she started attending Pittsburgh CAPA, Creative and Performing Arts School. As a finalist, Selena performed on New Year’s Eve, in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh. There, she shared her vocal gifts through the song Bye Bye Blackbird.
Although she did not win the final award, Selena competed among talented individuals and loved the experience and the chance to meet other creatives outside of her school.
Selena is looking forward to her upcoming school performances as well as graduation. She hopes to attend at least one of her top three schools: Berklee College of Music, Temple University, or Oberlin College.
Anesa Reed, a Learn and Earn Success Story
When you give young individuals an opportunity to hone their talents in a work environment, you get results like Anesa Reed. Anesa has always demonstrated her passion for doing and styling hair. She would even practice her craft on her friends, here in the office. She said, “Everyone is meant to have a passion or talent -- it just needs supported, cultivated, and fostered.”
Our Learn and Earn program did just that this summer, by connecting her with the Allegheny Front, a local environmental justice radio program seeking to produce an awareness campaign on the harmful effects of hair products used by women of color. It was a match made only to succeed, as Anesa was elated to accept the opportunity.
Through the Allegheny Front, Anesa looked deeper into her passion, not only as an art form, but also as a science. With her research on the toxicity of black hair care and personal interviewing, she developed a phenomenal essay, “Switching to Safer Hair Products Not So Easy,” that illustrated the challenges in practicing safe hair care management for women of color. Her project culminated as a weekend feature on their full length broadcast (click to listen here).
We are so proud of you Anesa! We are only looking forward to the next milestones as you take your steps toward graduation this school year.
Jeremiah Nash: Overcoming the Odds
Jeremiah embodies an untapped desire to succeed that is rare in his peers. As a three-year YES student, we have watched him continuously strive for excellence and engender an “unwilling to settle” attitude. He works extremely hard, invests additional hours to be the best, and makes sacrifices when necessary.
No better moment captures this than the sacrifices he made to excel in his academic coursework, athletic endeavors, and community service. Jeremiah devoted his time to be the best in the classroom, on the football field, and in his community and we are so proud of the young scholar he has become. He worked fervently, without complaints, to redefine his path. He did not let the arduous, constructive process, his environment, nor the tragedy he encountered overcome him. Instead, he worked and persevered until he found value and satisfaction in his trajectory.
Through his persistence and commitment, Jeremiah graduated top of his class and earned valedictorian status from Westinghouse. He is now attending Morehouse College on an academic scholarship and playing football as a walk-on.
We, at YES, are extremely proud of all he accomplished and cannot wait to see how he will conqueror this next phase of life.
To learn more about Jeremiah, check out these articles:
Robyn presents at Westinghouse's Honors Ceremony
Robyn Arrington-Epperson orated her original poem, Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover (click to read) at Westinghouse's honors ceremony. Her poem challenged her peers to defy stereotypes, reach for high achievement, and examine the world critically. Our YES family is proud of Robyn's creativity, critical consciousness, commitment, and heart for excellence. She is a true source of inspiration to all her peers.
Well done, Robyn!
YES Student Honored
YES student, True Magwood, was honored for his work as Master Electrician and Director of Stage Crew in Brashear High School's production of "A Night of One Act Plays." True's skills were put to the test with two plays within the same production, "This is a Test" and "Check Please," respectively. Our YES family is proud of True's commitment which serves as an inspiration to all of our students. Well done, True!