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 encourages 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 honored 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 2016-2017 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.”