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Young, Gifted and Black #2k17

Ten talented teens from the class of 2017

Clothing provided by: UnitedFront, 6513 Woodward Ave., Detroit, shopunitedfront.com and The Suit Depot, 26158 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, thesuitdepot.com

Photos by Lauren Jeziorski

The class of 2017 will be remembered for quite a few reasons: they’re the last of the 90s babies to graduate high school, born the same year Michael Jordan retired (for the first time) and most of all, they’ve accomplished some pretty incredible things. Just take a look at some right here in Metro Detroit. We included a small sample of talented students. Whether they’re graduating at the top of their class, headed to a competitive school or and even have plans to serve their country, we at BLAC congratulate all the graduating seniors across the region and we eagerly await to see what these student accomplish.

AFI-SETUT A-ALKEBU-LAN

Cass Technical High School, Detroit
Hometown: Detroit

Afi-Setut A-Alkebu-Lan has high dreams—39,000 feet high.

“I plan to obtain my pilots liscense and be an aviation engineering technology major,” A-Alkebu-Lan says.

Her involvement with the Tuskegee Airman Detroit Chapter, which she’s been a part of for about 5 years, in addition to an opportunity she once had to fly a plane helped ignite her passion for aviation.

“I always knew I wanted to go into the engineering field, but I didn’t know what specialization until I flew that plane and thought ‘This is it.’”

In addition to her aviation involvement, A-Alkebu-Lan participated in student council, a member of her school’s High Fashion Society, CEO of the studio at her school (which was built through a donation from rapper and Cass Tech alum Big Sean) and even helped start an anti-bullying club.

“I had the opportunity to go to Japan in my 10th grade summer with the Mayor Mike Duggan as part of the Detroit Sister Cities program,” she says. “That was a very great, eye-opening experience.”

A-Alkebu-Lan will attend Bowling Green State University in the fall on a full scholarship.

“I had the interview for the scholarship, and I got the call 2 days later. They said they wouldn’t start the selection process for at least a month after our interviews, but they really wanted me,” A-Alkebu-Lan says. “It was a big burden lifted off of my shoulders and especially my mom’s so she’s stress free, I’m stress free, we’re set.”

She acknowledges her mother Sabrina Cesaire and principal Lisa Phillipps as two of her biggest supporters throughout her life and high school career.

“I would tell them thank you for helping shape me into the person I am today. I will make my city proud!”

JA’MYA GILES

River Rouge High School, River Rouge

Hometown: River Rouge

Future Plans: “I will be attending Howard University majoring in finance and accounting, while taking up a minor in Cyber Orientation. I will also enroll in the NROTC program my freshman year. After college I will commission into the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant working in the finance field. Shortly after about fifteen years of service I will retire and transfer to the FBI, where I will work as a computer analyst-- protecting this country from the nation's foes. Hopefully one day working in the white house.”

Words of Advice: “Stay Focused! Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough. Defeat the odds that no one expected you to be up against in the first place.”

I would like to thank… “my Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Instructor Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt.) Jonathan Robinson for all of my success. Growing up without a father due to lung cancer created this empty space of confusion in my life. However within the first couple of weeks of my high school career GySgt. Robinson stepped in to fill that void. I would just like to thank him for pushing me out of my comfort zone, and always being my number one fan.”

FRANCHION JEFFERSON

Cass Technical High School, Detroit

Hometown: Detroit

Future Plans: “To attend the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. I wish to pursue a career in mortuary science, then open a funeral business or crime scene clean up operation to clean up instances involving casualties.”

Words of Advice: “Stay focused and push through the senioritis and do not give up. This is not the time for distractions! All your hard work will pay off, so please go that extra mile-- you will thank yourself later. Do what is best for you. Never make any life decisions to please anyone besides yourself.”

I would like to thank… “my mother for my success. I love her for being my biggest supporter, for standing by my side when I felt like I had no one, and for making all the sacrifices she did to ensure my success. Not only are you a phenomenal mother, you are also a fabulous woman, and most importantly my best friend. Thank you, I am forever grateful.”

MAJESTY BLAND

Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies, Detroit

Hometown: Detroit

Graduating valedictorian of her class, Majesty Bland’s repertoire of accomplishments is that of an ideal high school student: captain of the varsity volleyball team, Nation Honors Society, a member of her school’s fashion club.

But Bland says excelling in high school hasn’t always been easy.

“I’m shy, so becoming comfortable around the people and making friends, I feel like that was the most difficult part of High School for me,” Bland says. “Once I started making friends I feel like high school got easier.”

As a student at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative studies, Bland’s love for fashion flourished.

“I’m really passionate about fashion and I eventually want to go into fashion design and start my own brand and company,” Bland says. “My family was my inspiration. My dad and my sister are really into fashion so I kind of followed in their footsteps.”

In the Fall, she will study fashion accessory design at College for Creative Studies on a full scholarship.

“[High School] was a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, essays-- but it paid off. You can see it paid off with scholarships,” Bland says. “I feel like that was my greatest accomplishment. I thank my family for always supporting me.”

ALEXANDER MOORE

University Preparatory Academy High School, Detroit

Hometown: Detroit

Future Plans: “Attend Michigan State University to get a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. My future career plans are to work with the paralyzed and amputees to create a solution to give someone their mobility and missing limbs back so they can have natural parts instead of mechanical ones that the body will reject. I also planned on working in the automotive industry because I have a genuine interest in cars and want to create a vehicle with zero emissions.”

Words of Advice: “Never give up on your dream and continue to push forward no matter what trials or tribulations come your way.”

I would like to thank… “My parents, Frank and Christine Moore, all of my extended family, and University Prep Academy School District. If it wasn’t for all of the encouragement and pushing me to do more and be better, I wouldn’t be the well-rounded and hardworking individual that I am today.

BRANDI SHAUNTAE

International Technology Academy, Pontiac

Hometown: Detroit

Future Plans: “To attend Williams College for my undergraduate years on a full scholarship. At Williams I am going to study Political Science and Global Studies. My future career plan is to be an accountant clerk for non-profit organizations or possibly government entities. After gaining my undergraduate degree in Political Science I am going to enroll in law school. After graduating and becoming certified, I want to become a Human Rights lawyer and work in Humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International and UNICEF. Later in my career I would like to live in New York City and run for public office.”

Words of Advice: “Don’t be so concerned about other people’s opinions about your decisions that you neglect your passions and dreams.”

I would like to thank… “My mother, Tina Carr, for my success. She introduced a lifelong love of reading and travel to my childhood that has followed me into adulthood and molded my educational experience.

ANNETTA J. SUMLER

University Prep Science and Math High School, Detroit

Hometown: Detroit

Future Plans: “After graduation I will attend Michigan State University to earn a B.S. in healthcare management. It is my hope to work with DMC and provide quality operations and health system for the citizens of Detroit. Outside of my mainstream career I’d like to create a non-profit focused on the wellbeing of young women’s transition from high school to college.”

Words of Advice: “Take time to evaluate what your true calling is and make that the driving force of what happens the day after you graduate high school.”

I would like to thank… “My support system, which includes mainly my mom, dad and stepdad. I would just like to tell them that I know it hasn’t been easy but please know that it hasn’t been in vain. I appreciate the support and sacrifice always shown to me from the beginning because without you, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

COLE THOMPSON 

Cranbrook Upper School, Bloomfield Hills

Hometown: Southfield

“I always loved singing as a little kid,” Cole Thompson says. “I think I got that from my dad because he plays the piano and writes music. My cousins play in their own band. It was sort of in my family.”

After performing in his 9th grade play at school, Thompson’s passion for the stage blossomed.

“I just really fell in love with Musical Theatre and I decided that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine not having the chance to do that.”

Thompson was a member of his schools chamber music club, which he says became one of his most rewarding experiences throughout school.

“We’d go to different places near our school and perform. My school has an elementary school, so once we went down there and sang for them and it was just a lot of fun knowing that we were impacting people with what I love to do,” Thompson says. “I’ve also gotten the opportunity to sing at some nursing homes close to my school with my choir, so I really enjoyed getting the chance to perform for people and see them get enjoyment from it.”

In addition to his passion for performing, Thompson has a love for animals and was part of his school’s Animal Welfare Society Club through which he volunteered with various animal shelters.

In the fall, Thompson will be attending the University of Michigan’s competitive Musical Theatre Program, which accepted only 20 students out of 1400 applicants.

“I had to travel to a lot of different places for auditions. I auditioned for about 12 or 13 different schools all in the span of a couple of weeks, and my parents were just so supportive of what I was doing and they really didn’t second-guess me. They just backed me up 100 percent.”

LADELL WATSON

River Rouge High School, River Rouge

Hometown: River Rouge

Future plans: “I plan to attend Michigan State University to major in secondary education with concentrations in social sciences and English. I plan to teach in the urban setting to give students of color a new perspective in the history class.”

Words of advice: “Your future is too bright to let it be dimmed by fault and hesitation.”

I would like to thank … “my grandmother Vivian Williams, and I would tell her thank you for never seeing fault in my shortcomings and always encouraging me to the better than what everyone thought I could be.”

ALEXIA WHITE

Detroit School of Arts, Detroit

Hometown: Redford

Future plans: “My plans are to attend Stanford University to further my education and to begin creating my own nonprofit research organization. I will become a chemical engineer and own a research organization, where I will conduct scientific research with underrepresented students.”

Words of advice: “Create high standards for yourself and never be afraid to reach for them.”

I would like to thank … “my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Without him, nothing will be possible. I would also like to thank my family, friends and educators.”

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