Cre­at­ing to­mor­row’s lead­ers to­day

It Takes Two, Inc. holds first awards din­ner to rec­og­nize, cel­e­brate stu­dents’ aca­demic suc­cess

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

It Takes Two Inc. hosted its first Schol­ar­ship and Honor Roll Awards Din­ner Aug. 4 at the Sig­na­ture Blue Events venue in Lan­dover, an event to rec­og­nize, honor and cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of lo­cal high school se­niors and col­lege stu­dents from sin­gle-par­ent house­holds in Prince Ge­orge’s County.

More than 50 stu­dents and par­ents at­tended the event — hosted by It Takes Two Pres­i­dent and CEO Jaemel­lah Kemp along with com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate, phi­lan­thropist and ed­u­ca­tor Jus­tine Love — which fea­tured free books and gift bags with school sup­plies, catered food, mu­sic from Avonne Collins of DJ Clappa En­ter­tain­ment and fam­ily por­traits by Lance McCoy of BLive Pho­tog­ra­phy. There were also live per­for­mances by spo­ken word artist Cici Fel­ton from Mor­gan State Univer­sity and mo­ti­va­tional speaker and au­thor Pauline Rose Moore. Guest speak­ers in­cluded Feli­cia Mead­ows, newly elected Prince Ge­orge’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent mem­ber Juwan Blocker and Du­Val High School grad­u­ate Mo­hamed Ban­gura.

“The rea­son be­hind the event was be­cause my son made honor roll for the very first time, in the sec­ond quar­ter of the 2015-16 school year,” Kemp, of Crofton, said in a phone in­ter­view. “I didn’t get a chance to see and cel­e­brate him like I was ex­pect­ing to [be­cause his school only held an awards cer­e­mony for par­ents of stu­dents who made a 4.0 GPA]. … So I de­cided to do it my­self not only to cel­e­brate my son, but to also cel­e­brate the aca­demic suc­cess of other young peo­ple that of­ten goes un­no­ticed.”

It Takes Two, founded in 2012 by Kemp, is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion with a mis­sion to en­rich the lives and in­creas­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties of young peo­ple from sin­gle-par­ent house­holds in the greater Wash­ing­ton, D.C., met­ro­pol­i­tan area. Its mis­sion is also to en­hance ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences by award­ing schol­ar­ships that pay for school sup­plies, books and uni­forms, as well as build self-aware­ness and en­cour­age the youth, ul­ti­mately cre­at­ing to­mor­row’s lead­ers to­day, ac­cord­ing to Kemp.

Kemp said the pur­pose of the awards din­ner was to cel­e­brate stu­dents who have shown aca­demic im­prove­ment over the 2015-2016 school year — that in­cludes rais­ing their re­port card grades by one or more let­ter grades, mak­ing the A/B honor roll and any other ac­com­plish­ment par­ents were un­able to cel­e­brate at their child’s school.

“Ev­ery stu­dent is not a 4.0 stu­dent and they work just as hard to main­tain maybe that 2.0. But when they raise that 2.0 to a 2.5 or 2.5 to a 3.0 or any sort of in­crease, they don’t get ac­knowl­edged for it,” Kemp said. “I think the ac­knowl­edge­ment and that pat on the back goes a long way in say­ing, ‘Hey, I see you work­ing hard so let me just say pub­licly that you’ve done a great job.’ So that was the pur­pose of the event — to let every­one there know that all suc­cess should be cel­e­brated.”

Blocker said he be­lieves all progress is good progress. Any sort of aca­demic im­prove­ment is some­thing that de­serves to be rec­og­nized be­cause it pushes stu­dents to con­tinue to stay on the right track. The awards din­ner en- courages young peo­ple to do just that, he said.

“There’s a say­ing peo­ple use which is [based on the no­tion that] it’s not about you just hav­ing an ed­u­ca­tion, but it’s all about what you do with that ed­u­ca­tion,” said Blocker, a ris­ing se­nior at Park­dale High School who was named the youngest Forty Un­der 40 re­cip­i­ent last year by the Prince Ge­orge’s County So­cial In­no­va­tion Fund. “I see this as an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to really en­joy their night be­cause they de­serve it and have at least made some type of progress. … I think that’s what stu­dents need be­cause it’s hard deal­ing with the pres­sures that you have to­day.”

For A/B honor roll stu­dents like Kierre Davis, she con­tin­ued on the right track and got ac­cepted into the Ben­jamin D. Foulois Cre­ative and Per­form­ing Arts Academy af­ter one au­di­tion. Davis cre­ated a re­sume, filled out an ap­pli­ca­tion and ob­tained let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion on her own.

“That’s a big ac­com­plish­ment for her so she’s ac­tu­ally be­ing hon- ored for be­ing ac­cepted into this school and for her grades,” said Davis’ mother, LaK­isha Bat­tle of Capi­tol Heights. “I’m grate­ful and glad that [It Takes Two] is do­ing some­thing in the com­mu­nity be­cause as par­ents, es­pe­cially sin­gle par­ents, we can’t al­ways make it to the awards cer­e­mony and some­times [schools] may not have one. ... I think that it’s great and a good op­por­tu­nity. I hope that [Jaemel­lah] con­tin­ues it. I will sup­port her 100 per­cent.”

Dur­ing the awards din­ner, 19-year-old Mikeya Dun­ni­gan was an­nounced as the win­ner of It Takes Two Inc.’s 20162017 Tools for Suc­cess Schol­ar­ship. Dun­ni­gan, a ris­ing sopho­more at Penn State Univer­sity, re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate worth $400 to use to­ward school ex­penses.

Hav­ing lost her mom as a young child, Dun­ni­gan said she and her three sib­lings had to rely on help from their grand­par­ents be­cause their dad strug­gled as a sin­gle par­ent. But thanks to It Takes Two’s ded­i­ca­tion in re­liev­ing the fi­nan­cial bur­dens of sin­gle-par­ent house­holds, Dun­ni­gan said Kemp will al­ways have a place in her heart and that of her fam­ily.

“My life has been noth­ing but a tes­ta­ment to God and what He wants me to be and what He is al­low­ing me to be be­cause of the plan He has for my life,” Dun­ni­gan said. “For years, I was in the dark—my mind, my spirit was in the dark and I went through things be­cause of that dark­ness. … When I met Ms. Kemp, she saw that light in me. … She showed me kind­ness and love and helped me see my light. That ended up chang­ing the rest of my life.”

“Your jour­ney to suc­cess starts here,” said Ban­gura, who was ac­cepted into 15 col­leges and of­fered more than $760,00 in schol­ar­ships. “It will not be easy but each and ev­ery one of you needs to push your­self harder than you have ever pushed be­fore. With per­se­ver­ance and a will of de­ter­mi­na­tion, I know that all of you can at­tain suc­cess be­yond your wildest imag­i­na­tion.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate, phi­lan­thropist and ed­u­ca­tor Jus­tine Love an­nounces 19-year-old Mikeya Dun­ni­gan as the 2016-2017 Tools for Suc­cess Schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent dur­ing It Takes Two, Inc.’s first Schol­ar­ship and Honor Roll Awards Din­ner Aug. 4 at the...

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