By: Dr. Eurydice Stanley, Co-Advisor, Pensacola NAACP Youth Council #5750
Members of the Pensacola Youth Council #5750 have been busy researching and presenting the biographies of numerous African Americans who made a difference in their own way, from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to Pilot Bessie Coleman and local hero, Four-Star General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. They are continuing on the path that led to their being awarded an unprecedented 8 National leadership titles last summer at the National NAACP Convention, to include Youth Council of the Year! They also won “Youth Council of the Year” at the state level from the Florida State Conference. “We strive for excellence in all that we do,” said Youth Council Co-Advisor Twana McDaniel.
This summer, to prevent “summer brain drain,” each student selected a Civil Rights Icon to research. They were requested to write a report about their Icon, and present their findings during monthly meetings throughout the year. The presentations provide the opportunity for the Youth to develop their speaking, writing and research skills and expand their knowledge base. On February 29th, they offered their research to the City of Pensacola at an event titled, “ICONS” in recognition of African American History Month. The event was held at Tryon library.
Cierra Moore, Destinee Brundidge, De’Shawn Brundidge, Saafir Hardin, Grace Stanley and Christian Stanley all gave presentations about African American legends and bravely answered questions from the audience. We intended to show Thomas Booker’s “Black Wall Street” video, but time ran short due to the many questions from the audience interested in our young scholars’ research. That evening, Thomas was being inducted into the National Honor Society, an understandable reason to miss the event! Our honored guest was Cheryl Allen, who was a member of the 1960’s NAACP who conducted “Sit-Ins” for 707 days to desegregate downtown Pensacola.
The Youth participating in “ICON” were given gift cards and prizes totaling more than $50 from sponsors The Transition Foundation, The Texas Roadhouse, Szotski’s Cheesecakes, Texas Roadhouse, Bealls, Barnes and Nobles and Longhorn Steakhouse. We are VERY GRATEFUL for their support and encouragement of our youth! Community members are requested to attend our events to not only inspire our youth, but also to potentially learn from their extensive research!
The “Icon” event provided yet another opportunity for the Youth Council to not only excel, but to share the research that they gathered last summer. “I learned a lot,” said Destinee Brundidge, “I was so interested that I started researching more than one Icon!” The information learned is universal history, and can be used repeatedly. For example, two members of the Youth Council, Christian and Grace Stanley, took their summer research forward to participate in the Escambia County History Fair, with fantastic results. They both won the African American Heritage Award presented by Omega Psi Phi. Grace won 2nd place overall in the Individual Performance category, and will represent Escambia County in the statewide competition May 2-3 in Tallahassee, Florida.
As the youth share history from the past, they also dream of creating history in the future. Grace Stanley, Pensacola Youth Council and Florida State Conference 2nd Vice President, won 2nd place in a statewide essay competition that encouraged participants to share how they would be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in twenty years. Grace used as a subject her non-profit organization called “Missing Petals,” created last year during the Pensacola Young Entrepreneur Academy. In her essay, Grace dreamed of reducing Human Trafficking by at least 30 percent within 20 years though her organization by making children aware of the dangers of Human Trafficking. She had the opportunity to meet Attorney General Pam Bondi, and hopes to work with her in the future to address Human Trafficking issues in the state! She was also interviewed by Commissioner Lumon May and featured on “May’s Minutes,” which can be viewed on Commissioner May’s page on www.myescambia.com under “Missing Petals.”
Other Youth Council “Dreamers and Doers” include Ceirra Moore, who received a $5,050 scholarship to EnviroTech summer science camp for girls in Massachusetts this summer! The program prepares girls for futures in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. She may be a future Scientist or Engineer, as may Thomas Booker, who received a science summer scholarship as well! Both of them participated in the Pensacola Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA) Program in 2015 and continue to maintain their own businesses, “Coteire Beads,” and “Your Just Desserts” respectively. Actually, our Youth Council members made a “clean sweep,” in 2015, with Ceirra winning first place in the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA), Thomas winning 2nd and Grace Stanley, 3rd! When Ceirra moved forward to the regional youth entrepreneur competition, she impressed Dean Gropper of Florida Atlantic University so much that she was awarded a $10,000 scholarship to attend their business program in the future…even though she was only in the 5th grade! We encourage and cultivate our young entrepreneurs to DREAM BIG and PLAN FOR THE FUTURE!
Additional writing competitions and events that the Youth Council participated in include the Governors Black History Competition, the First West Florida Baptist District (FWFBD) Black History event, FWFBD Oratorical Contest and the General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. Essay Competition, but there were many more available! Parents are encouraged to get their children involved in these opportunities, because not only are they beneficial in developing the writing and presentation skills of our youth, but they can win cash prizes and scholarships as well!
Competition information is distributed by the county to the schools. Parents are encouraged to inquire about opportunities available for their children, and most importantly, have your children PARTICIPATE! It is critical that ALL of Escambia County be reflected and represented in state and national competitions, and that does not happen without the participation of youth of color! I believe that it is critical for parents to encourage their children to pursue excellence and strive to do their best, and these competitions provide a platform for that pursuit. Of course, we as parents are busy and there is already so much to do (I readily admit that doesn’t always work in my own household), but we MUST keep trying and seek help when needed, because our children’s future is dependent upon the lessons they learn now!
Unfortunately, those lessons are not always pleasant, but they can still be used positively. As some of our children excel, they have been faced with negative, critical people (referred to as “haters” by the youth). One would assume that all would encourage and support a child, but that is not always the case. Although “haters” can be a deterrent, the youth are encouraged to persevere, bolstered by the examples set by their ICONS. Time and time again, by looking at the lives of ancestors such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Rosa Parks, they are encouraged to “rise above,” remain aware and stand your ground. At times, the only response is to continue in excellence. Two favorite quotes are Mrs. Parks, who said, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” and Marcus Garvey, “If we as a people realized the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.”
If you are looking for an organization that can have a positive influence on your children filled with children committed to striving to do their best, have them join the Pensacola Youth Council #5750! We are committed to developing their leadership and speaking skills, increasing their community involvement and expanding their knowledge of ancestral history. The next Youth Council meeting will be April 18th at 6:00 pm at St. John Divine Baptist Church in the Education Building behind the church, located at 620 E. Jordan Street. New Youth Council Leaders will be elected from members on that date. The Youth Council is currently raising funds to attend Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio in July. We ask for community support to help us continue our critical work of developing tomorrow’s leaders TODAY!