Meet the 2017 Reverend Pinckney Scholars

“I know that [Clementa] is smiling down as he sees all of the Pinckney Scholars moving forward in life to improve upon themselves and strive to make a better future. This year’s group of scholars are amazing.” – Jennifer Pinckney, widow of Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney

Coastal Community Foundation is proud to announce the second cohort of scholarship recipients of the Reverend Pinckney Scholars Program, established at the Foundation in memory of the late Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney.

The four-year renewable scholarship program, dedicated to promoting access to higher education for African American students, has been awarded to 11 Class of 2017 scholars from Beaufort, Charleston and Jasper Counties. (Click here to read the full press release.)

Aside from receiving a total of approximately $80,000 for each of their four years of college, Scholars will participate in professional development and networking opportunities, including sessions covering topics pertaining to college transition. This summer the Scholars will have the unique opportunity to meet former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Dr. James A. Joseph.

“This program gives promising students an opportunity to attend their first-choice schools,” says Darrin Goss, Sr., President and CEO of Coastal Community Foundation. “Feeling a sense of belonging in the place where one studies is a key ingredient to academic, social, and civic engagement so this difference is integral to student achievement.”

Notable leaders Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Mr. William M. Lewis, Mrs. Jennifer Pinckney, and the Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr. had a hand in selecting the scholars. Academic performance, substantial financial need and leadership potential narrowed 62 initial applicants to the final 11.

“It’s a great honor to be a part of this program to commemorate Reverend Pinckney and his wonderful legacy,” says former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. “And it’s thrilling to meet this most remarkable group of young people. It’s special and inspiring.”

With an extensive list of accolades, accomplishments and goals that will surely impact not only the community, but the nation at large, we present our 2017 Reverend Pinckney Scholars.

Summer Boyd

A lifelong member of the Mother Emmanuel AME congregation, Summer Boyd uses the motivational words of Reverend Pinckney to this day to help drive her successes. At Porter-Gaud School she excelled in track-and-field; she and her teammates hold both the Porter-Gaud and state records in the 4×100 Relay, and she placed third in the state in 2016 for Long Jump. Her identity, however, lies in leadership and public service. She served as the head leader for all food drive programs at Porter-Gaud, and co-founded the Porter-Gaud Young Democrats Society in 2015. She also participated in the Student Mentors for Minorities in Medicine Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She will be attending American University in the fall of 2017, hoping to pursue majors in Political Science and International Relations. Her dream job is to become the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico or Cuba, hoping to continue carrying the message of interrelatedness and cooperation that were echoed through Reverend Pinckney’s sermons.

Aaron Campbell

A graduate of R.B. Stall High School, Aaron Campbell will be attending Emory University, a school that he feels celebrates diversity and promotes cultural awareness. Aaron aims to either double major in Sociology and African-American Studies or Political Science and English (with a concentration in African-American literature.) His passion for diversity and the dismantling of oppressive institutions derives from his childhood in a six-person home with disabled family members, as well as his intense dedication to his school and community. During his high school career, Aaron served as the President of R.B. Stall’s Student Government Association, and served as President of DECA and Beta Club. In terms of community involvement, Aaron served as the Chair of the Advertising Committee for the WarriorFit Challenge and served as group leader at a local leadership camp. Aaron is excited to continue finding his identity at Emory and celebrating his African-American heritage.

Davontay Dopson

As the Salutatorian of Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School’s Class of 2017, Davontay Dopson’s involvement in his school and the Jasper County community demonstrate an immense capacity for leadership. He served as Team Captain of his school’s football and track-and-field teams, and participated in the National Honors Society and the Interact Club. He will be enrolled and playing football at Newberry College in the fall, where he will be studying Computer Science. At Newberry, Davontay hopes to continue “leading by example and learning from those who are willing and competent enough to teach me how to be the best man that I can be,” taking advantage of any opportunity to catalyze intellectual and professional growth.

Janelle Green

A Pinckney scholar driven by faith and the pursuit of justice, Janelle Green states that true leaders “know that nothing that they do is possible without the spirit of service.” This idea is echoed throughout her high school career at Academic Magnet High School, where she served as the Student Body Service Coordinator for the Student Government Association and created the Student Ambassadors Program, all with the intent of increasing diversity in her school. Her connection with her community runs deep—she mentors eighth grade girls at Title-I schools in the art of goal setting and academic excellence, and serves on the Mayor’s Youth Commission. Her senior year thesis, an impressive 37-page document compiled over 18 months of research, focuses on amending hate crime legislation (especially those that are racially motivated) in South Carolina in light of the events that occurred at Emmanuel AME. She will be attending Clafin University in the fall, possibly pursuing a career in Religious Studies.

Kenetra Johnson

A graduate of James Island Charter High School, Kenetra Johnson hopes to follow in the footsteps of her sister and obtain an Engineering degree from Clemson University. Her high school years illustrate a clear dedication to public service—she participated in the Youth Volunteer Corps of Charleston, served as President of Students in Action, and created “Love is Respect Week” at JICHS, a joint community outreach project sponsored by Kickin’ Chicken that raised over $2,000 for My Sister’s House in its inaugural year. Her talents in technology are apparent as she pursues this challenging degree at Clemson—she also served as Vice President in JICHS’s chapter of the National Technical Honors Society. At Clemson, Kenetra hopes to explore ways in which she can combine her passion for technology and public service.

Ambriance Lamar

A graduate of Whale Branch Early College High School in Beaufort County, Ambriance Lamar has faced a lifetime of adversity in the realm of communication, as she is nonverbal. However, she has used this impediment to fuel her passions rather than inhibit them—she cites the proudest moment of her life as “writing to former President Obama about the communication barrier between the police and the hearing/speech-impaired population.” Not only did President Obama read the letter—he had it published to his website and reached out to Ambriance to express his gratitude for her dedication to social change. Her capacity as a change-agent is also illustrated through her dedication to public service: throughout high school, she served as a mentor in the Ladies First Mentoring Group and the Boys & Girls Club, and was a member of the Christian Outreach Committee for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Ambriance will attend Converse College in the fall, where she will pursue a degree in Deaf Education, dedicating her studies to advancing the interests of a disabled population. She is excited to be a part of a small-school community, and is looking forward to making new friends that know sign language.

Briona Millidge

Never doubting her professional aspirations— Briona Millidge she has always wanted to be a teacher. She first discovered her passion to teach through volunteer tutoring, and then realized that one of her main desires in teaching is to address bullying and assist in conflict resolution. In 2013, she founded A+ Tutoring, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tutoring students and ensuring that no student is left behind. She has demonstrated many examples of her leadership capabilities at Whale Branch Early College High School, where she will be graduating as Valedictorian of the Class of 2017 and has served in the Student Government Association under a variety of positions, including Vice President and Treasurer. She also served as president of the Zeta Phi Beta Youth Auxiliary, while also maintaining the highest GPA of anyone in the Southeast. She will be attending Winthrop University as a Teaching Fellow in the fall, pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.

Autumn Turner

Valedictorian of the Palmetto Scholars Academy’s Class of 2017, Autumn Turner illustrates a leadership style based on communication and inclusiveness. While she served in a number of impressive student organizations, such as Student Council and the National Honors Society, she founded her own organization, Quiet Riot, in 2014. This organization sought to provide a space in which students are able to comfortably discuss world issues, catalyzing “true expression, acceptance, critical thinking, and debate.” She will continue catalyzing discussion and awareness at the University of Central Florida, where she will be pursuing a major in Event Management and a minor in Communications. She hopes to one day either be a wedding planner or plan corporate meetings.

Tanzania Williams

Tanzania Williams finds much of her inspiration from “the beauty of [her] mother’s unconditional love.” Acting as a constant source of encouragement, Tanzania’s mother pushed her to achieve her goals regardless of her color or creed, assuring her that she would be capable of anything. Such determination to succeed is apparent throughout Tanzania’s high school career: she was Team Captain of the Volleyball team and served as Senior Class President at R.B. Stall High School, where she will graduate ranked fifth in her class. Tanzania will enroll in the Pre-med program at Howard University in Washington, DC in the fall, hoping to one day become a pediatric surgeon. She is excited to attend a school up north (albeit her mother will miss having her close to home) and continue to develop her identity and strive for “black excellence.”

Tyeshia Williams

A Long Island native, Tyeshia Williams moved to Charleston in the second grade. Since then, she has made a point to engrain herself into the greater Charleston community. She frequently volunteers with St. Andrews City Church, serves as a mentor with Girls Rock Charleston, and is the President of the Community Service Club at Burke High School. Coining herself an “over-achiever,” Tyeshia attended leadership conferences and took advantage of every academic opportunity available at Burke High School, resulting in her graduating as the Salutatorian of her class. “Embrace who you are and where you come from” is her mantra, and she intends to do so by continuing to celebrate her African American heritage while developing her Spanish speaking skills at Clemson University. There, she will also be pursuing a degree in Psychology, and hopes to apply this discipline to art therapy for young children and the elderly.

Shawna Wright

Pushed to her fullest potential in part by her mother’s unyielding support, Shawna Wright does not let her hearing disability impede on her personal and professional goals in the slightest. While she actively participated in the Cheerleading Team and Student Advisory Board at Whale Branch Early College High School, Shawna’s personality shines through her dedication to volunteering. She serves as the Community Service Chairperson for her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, participates in the Gullah Daughter of Purpose Program (which serves to empower African-American young women), and regularly assists with her uncle’s business, Cora’s Soul Food Catering. Shawna will be attending Winthrop University, where she is excited to be a part of a small campus community that will allow for more student-faculty interaction. She hopes to earn a degree in Psychology so that she can one day either pursue a career in social work or help disabled children reach their full potential.
As we near the anniversary of the June 17, 2015 massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, it is important to reflect on the past and those that the Charleston community have lost. But through the tenacious passion, skills and leadership of the Reverend Pinckney Scholars, our hearts are lifted as we move forward to a bright future.

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