They say that it takes a village to raise a child; as a one pound and nine ounce, twenty-seven week old premature baby, I was no different. My journey from birth to now was all part of the greater purpose. All that I am and everything that I have done is thanks to God as well as my very supportive family, friends, church family, and community youth outreach programs.
I am the youngest grandson of 22 grandchildren, and have had the privilege of growing up with many cousins. What a way to learn how to work with individuals! I come from a very large family with great aunts, great uncles. I was the only kid who had two (2) grandmothers in their 80's now one who is 91. These matriarchs taught me many life-long skills and morals. For example: 'Never give up', 'Life is not fair' and 'With God all things are possible'. College has been discussed in my home like bread is consumed daily. I always knew that one day I would attend college, but feared not having all of the resources.
As a toddler, I always enjoyed reading books. The teachers were pleasantly surprised with my reading skills and the enthusiasm that I exhibited around books. One of the reasons for this was because of my very early exposure to books. These blessings would soon lead me to discover one of my main talents: Public Speaking.
The Annual James F Wertz Oratorical Contest sponsored by the Wake Missionary Baptist Association, provided me with numerous opportunities to strengthen my writing and public speaking skills. On the day of my first contest my topic was 'God Will Do the Rest'. When my number was called and I got up to the podium, I recited my speech with well-practiced confidence. Nonetheless, I made a small mistake during my delivery and this broke my confidence. I did continue to deliver my speech in spite of this and I even won third place of the preparatory division. It was then that I realized that this would be the beginning of many more challenges to come.
I continued to participate in the James F. Wertz Oratorical Contest throughout my years in middle and high school. For the past six years, I have been asked to say my speeches for groups like the Rotary Club, Top Teens of America, Inc. (of which I have been a distinguished member for four years). I also became involved with many other community service and leadership organizations like the Clarence E. Lightner Youth Leadership Organization where I was the winner of the First Annual Clarence E. Lightner Youth Leadership Oratorical Contest. As the winner, I was asked to speak during the banquet for an audience of over five hundred people. The title of my speech was 'The Future Belongs to Those Who Create It'. In previous banquets, a scholarship was awarded to an outstanding high school Lightner member. This year as an eighth grader, I was quite surprised when I was awarded the scholarship for community service and leadership abilities for this organization. Unbeknownst to me, an eighth grader was the youngest recipient to ever receive such an honor. Because of this speech, many doors of opportunities were afforded to me. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to be the youth speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr., Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast with an audience of 2000+ people. What an honor to be asked to represent the youth as well as on the same stage with the Governor of North Carolina and many other prestigious speakers. Speech invitations were occurring monthly and I spoke at more than 24 special events and venues across the state.
During this time, I also had the chance to speak for many different churches within the community, as well as being asked to speak at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Judge Cressie Thigpen, Jr. The audience consisted of the NC Court of Appeals Justices, Governor Perdue, Senators, Representatives, and many other government officials. This was by far the biggest challenge I had ever endured, while at the same time a big honor for me. In addition, I was the first youth to ever speak at the NC General Baptist State Convention Conference in Greensboro, NC in 2013.
My senior year in high school has been the best year yet! With over 1,000 hours of community service yearly, I have been active in the literacy program, highway cleanup, sickle cell anemia, homeless ministry, Wake Interfaith, Martin Luther King, Jr. activities, Math & Science Education Network (MSEN), and Top Teens of America, Inc., sponsored by the Top Ladies of Distinction. I was chosen to attend the 2013 North Carolina Boy's State Program, sponsored by the American Legion, Catawba College, NC. I served as a Senate Page for Senator Daniel Blue during the summer of 2013. I was a cast member of the plays 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Antigone'.
Finally, I participated in the James F. Wertz Oratorical Contest for the last time in the summer of 2013. In the Senior Division my topic was 'Are You Prepared to Meet the New Challenges?' I won first place in the local and regional contest. In June 2014, I participated in the national contest in Dallas, TX where I placed third out of seventeen outstanding contestants. As I transition from high school to college, I pray that my gift of public speaking and community service will continue to grow and perhaps even make a difference in this world. While I am the oldest of two with my sister in high school, the assistance of any financial resources such as this scholarship will surely lessen the burden of my parents having two children in college at the same time. I know that without this scholarship I will have to take out loans or work a job. I want to be able to focus on the full college experience and minimize distractions from such an essential time in my life. I am very excited about attending college and plan to major in Mass Communication with an emphasis on Broadcasting, at the one and only “North Carolina Central University”! According to Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr., “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”