The YWCA of Tampa Bay honored several Tampa Bay area leaders at its "Pearls of Wisdom" fundraising luncheon, held in the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, which focuses on the organization's key initiatives: eliminating racism and empowering women.
Gems of the Community awards went to St. Petersburg Free Clinic executive director Beth Houghton, who was presented by St. Petersburg deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin; National Council of Negro Women president Angela Rouson, presented by African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg president Gwendolyn Reese; State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, presented by St. Petersburg urban affairs director Nikki Gaskin-Capehart; and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce visitor experience manager Kristina Alspaw, presented by chamber president and CEO Chris Steinocher.
Attendees bid on silent-auction items, including a number of items contributed from HSN for the "Purses & Passion" segment. The crowd of around 300 heard from Lenice Emanuel, YMCA president and CEO, Dion Lim, mistress of ceremonies; and Shameka Jones, Pearls of Wisdom chairwoman. Roslyn Graham is chairwoman of the board of directors.
Event planner Laura Fage was in charge of producing the event, helped by committee members Michelle Bond, Sharon Castellano, Vonda Colquitt, Michelle Harris, Nancy Howe, Jean Levi, Christine Sabo and Yvonne Ulmer.
Students at Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg attend school 11 hours a day, six days a week and 11 months of the year.
The rigorous schedule and discipline pay off for the middle schoolers; for the past eight years, officials say, all graduates of the program have graduated from high school on time, 75 percent have gone on to postsecondary education; and another 8 percent serve in the U.S. military.
Attendees at the school's annual Breakfast for Scholars heard those statistics and more. And they saw impressive film footage showing youngsters' stating their aspirations while at Academy Prep, then showing them as accomplished young adults.
Academy Prep alumnus Jordan Houston was named to receive the 2015 Ben Fisher Mentoring Award, an honor named for the man who has devoted many hours to the school since its inception.
Houston, who went on to graduate from Lakewood High School and the University of North Florida, has worked in the corporate offices of Bradenton's Champ Sports. At present, he is studying for a master's degree in sports product management at the University of Oregon Portland.
The event took place in the grand ballroom at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort, with presentations from current students, mistress of ceremonies Dion Lim, head of school Gina Tanase Burkett, academic dean Deborah Kurelik, Pinellas County Urban League president Watson Haynes and board chairman Chuck Stamey.
Time for nominations
The Queen's Court, which raises money for charities and civic organizations through its Queen of Hearts Ball, is accepting nominations of outstanding female volunteers who have lived and volunteered five years or more in Pinellas County. The 2016 nomination packets are available by calling (727) 822-7571, and the deadline for submissions is Jan. 5. Nominees must be sponsored by guilds, auxiliaries or other nonprofit organizations.