By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
An estimated crowd of over 200 parents, students, and well-wishers convened at Hempstead Hall on Sunday afternoon for the 2019 “Hope for the Future” honorees to close Black History month activities at the University of Arkansas at Hope campus.
African-American seniors with GPAs of 3.0 or better represented three of the region’s major high schools, Hope High School, Prescott High School and Arkansas High School, were honored in a two-hour ceremony at Hempstead Hall, which included plenty of photo opps, cake, and accolades.
The keynote speaker Sunday was Dr. Tionna Jenkins, who currently serves as serves as senior advisor for two U.S. domestic initiatives at the Clinton Foundation in Little Rock.
Jenkins lives in Little Rock, but grew up in both Magnolia and Pine Bluff, so she said she felt very comfortable coming to Hope.
Afterwards Jenkins said, “This was an amazing opportunity, an amazing experience. I grew up in Magnolia, so I feel like this is home; I definitely felt at home.”
In her speech to the honorees Sunday, Jenkins emphasized the importance of education and continuing education.
“I discussed a number of things; definitely to be focused on your education, to act with intention in your education, move forward in your education, not be fearful of asking questions, and seek to understand where you are suppose to be in life,” she said.
Jenkins also emphasized the importance of developing and maintaining a network of good connections throughout life, not just in high school.
“I hope I also conveyed that it is extremely important for our families to celebrate us, and for us to live up to the standards that our families have provided for us,” she said.
Jenkins had arrived at Hempstead Hall on Sunday after flying in from New Orleans, where she had attended a national women’s conference called “Power Rising.”
“It was a conference for African-American women to come together and rally around social issues and discussions on how we can be good leaders in our communities, change things in our communities, and also to form a camaraderie for black women and our accomplishments,” Jenkins said.
“And, I came here immediately from New Orleans, because the opportunity to reach these young people is in many ways equally as important,” she said.
Jenkins earned a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Arkansas, an Masters in Public Health from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and a B.S. from Philander Smith College.
“I loved meeting everybody, taking pictures with the students and parents, and congratulating them. There is an old saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’ so I was extremely happy to be here today as to show an example of what they can possibly do, once they graduate from college. It is all about providing hope for students. I want them to continue to be hopeful and excel,” Jenkins said.
UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomson delivered the opening remarks and welcomed honorees, and Sharon Woodley, introduced Jenkins as the keynote speaker.
Also, delivering short speeches were UAHT Dean of Student Services Christopher Smith, who spearheaded much of the Black History activities over the course of this year, and Lisbeth Bello, the student president of the Multicultural Society.
Among those listening was honoree Sara Lloyd of Prescott High School, one of 23 PHS seniors included in Sunday’s ceremony.
Afterwards Lloyd said, “I feel very achieved in life, and I feel that I can do anything I want to in life, and becoming anyone I want to become. When Dr. Jenkins was speaking, it was very inspirational to me to do great things.”
After graduating PHS in May, Lloyd plans to return the the UAHT campus in Hope as a general studies student the next two years.
In addition to Lloyd, the following Prescott High School seniors were honored:
Symia Buford, Cameron Cox, Jai’yana Dorrough, Kira Eslick, Keonte’ Franklin, A’Bresha Frazier, Adrianna Giles, Kobe Gillard, Quantas Gulley, Kobe Hopson, Te’unte Hopson, Ryan Johnson, Tatiyana Johnson, Christian Jones, Naomi Jones, Axaria Marshall, Courtland Mixon, Dahj Smith, Jamia Smith, Raevon Toliver, Kennedi Williams, and Olivia Williams
Hope High School seniors honored Sunday were:
Kanasia Alexander, Jesse Allen, Laion Brisby, Antwone Casteel, Gladajah Haynes, Christopher Haywood, Zy’mesha Lee, Christian Lowe, Eboni McClenton, Trinity Peterson, Kelsey Reedy, Derrheajjia Ross, Jaidyn Simington, Lydia Smith, Diamond Walton, Blessen Ward, Jazmine Watts, and Makayla Williams
From Texarkana, the following Arkansas High School seniors, many of them present at Hempstead Hall on Sunday, were also honored:
Kenzaria Atkins, Cecile Barnes, Tamara Biddle, Johnathan Blair, A’zaybreonna Burns, Fljustice Burton, Kion Coleman, Jr., Christopher Craig, Cedrianna Daniels, Ashley Davis, Ekari Davis, Cameron Dorn, Kasey Duncan, Ja’Tavia Fenty, Kyla Gamble, Tayler Gamble, Tyson Glover, Jacquelynne Graham, Alexius Green, Romello Hawkins, Shamontierra Hawkins, Elexcia Henderson, Kaneisha Henderson, Floyd Hill, Jr., Diamond Holmes, Shuntiarra Hope, Miracle Hunter, Desmond Jamison, Jr., Derrick Jefferson, III, Alexis Lane, Logan Lowery, Kaleb Manley, Keilan Nash, Lashondra Patterson, Irijah Price, Mya Reid, Patra Richardson, Rico Thomas, Corneilous Walker, Erin Wherry, Micah Yarber, and Savanna Young
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor