First Emerging Young Leaders class graduates

A Pensacola chapter of a sorority graduated on Sunday, August 26 its first class of Emerging Young Leaders Sunday, which is a program for middle school girls that encourages leadership and educational achievement.

Emerging Young Leaders (EYL) is a 2010-2014 global signature program of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Iota Omega Chapter of Pensacola. The sorority launched its EYL program during the summer of 2011. According to president of the chapter Gloria Clay, more than 8,000 young women participate in the EYL program.

Dressed in pink caps and gowns, the graduates accepted their diplomas and made speeches about their achievements in the Washington High School cafeteria. The program consists of 27 girls, seven of which graduated the program because they completed the eighth grade.

Charmere Gatson and Sheree Triplett-Roberts, co-chairs of the EYL program, presented the girls with their diplomas and special awards including “most spirited” and honor roll achievements.

“Sheree and I are a team working hard together to reach the lives of these young ladies and to inspire and motivate them to reach for the stars,” Gatson said. “I am proud to instill the knowledge and teach the skills to these girls at such a young age. EYL is just the launching pad for what’s to come.”

LaKirstan Hooks, EYL graduate and 9th grader at West Florida High School, said that EYL is a great experience because you get exposed to people that really care about you.

“EYL is a program that is something all young ladies should be a part of,” she said. “It helps and teaches the meaning of what it takes to mature into being the best young lady that you can possibly be through guidance and mentoring.”

During the fall of 2011, girls in the EYL program participated in workshops which focused on health, public speaking and communications, self-esteem and good study skills. The girls had an opportunity to spend time with their sorority mentors, while others engaged in after-school tutoring with the sorority members who specialize in a particular subject matter.

Volunteering is also a key part of the program. The members volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and participated in local walks together, including the 2011 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Mall Walk and 2012 Relay for Life. The girls also participated in a “Leadership Day” in downtown Pensacola. They heard speeches from leaders in the community and toured the Blue Wahoos stadium.

Kendall Boyce, 7th grader at Pensacola Christian Academy, said that giving back to the community and being active around Pensacola is an important part of the EYL program.

“It makes me feel good to be with a group that helps others,” she said.

The program consists of four academies that are designed to extend the vision of the sorority by cultivating and encouraging high scholastic achievement. These academies are: Leadership development, educational enrichment, civic engagement and character building.

China Dixon, 9th grader at Pensacola High School and winner of the program’s “Journalist Award”, explained the importance of the EYL program in her speech at the graduation.

“Today is a momentous occasion to be remembered for a lifetime,“ she said. “As we take what we learn in EYL and put it in to practice, hopefully we can inspire our future EYL members to continue to grow and learn.”