From the small paper mill town of Bastrop, nestled in the piney woods of Northeast Louisiana, a shining star has emerged to become the national youth advocate for the elimination of the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’, and his name is Jalen Kennedy.
Jalen entered the national spotlight when his award-winning social studies project, “School-to-Prison Pipeline: Is This The New System of Jim Crow?”, went viral on Facebook with over 500,000 views and 100,000 shares. His project won 1st place at the Region III Social Studies Fair – Political Science Division: grades 6-8, at the University of Louisiana – Monroe on February 1, 2017.
Jalen is a13-year-old 7th-grade honor roll student at Morehouse Magnet in Bastrop, LA. He is the founder and Chairperson of a newly formed non-profit youth empowerment organization called
RISE (Retooling Idle Students to Excel), and their primary goal is to eliminate the nightmare faced by many children and their families throughout America known as the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’.
Jalen is a member ofhis7th grade basketball team. He loves reading a variety of books, playing chess and video games, fishing, bike riding, bowling and helping people in his community.
Jalen plans to follow in his father’s footsteps by attending Xavier University of Louisiana. He plans to pursue a double major in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Marketing. He is focused on becoming a cultural psychologist and business owner, and is committed to empowering his people and others by working and living a positive, productive and purpose driven life.
Jalen believes and lives by a quote crafted by his father,
“Youth are like diamonds in the ruff; they must be cultivated and refined if elder human eyes desire to see them shine.”
A woman of many talents, Evelina Gaina is an actress, an entrepreneur, an event planner, a storyteller, a teacher, and a director. Romanian born, American raised, Evelina first broke into the acting scene at DeafWest Theatre and had gotten into onstage acting for several local productions before landing her first television role in CBS’s “Cold Case” in 2008, and then appearing in “Night Sky” in 2009. In 2010, she has appeared in an American Sign Language (ASL) Films production, "Black Sand,” featuring four students on a suspenseful Spring Break in Costa Rica.
Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead is the #blackmommyactivist and an associate professor of Communication and African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland and the Founding Executive Director of The Emilie Frances Davis Center for Education, Research, and Culture. She is a three-time New York Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker. Dr. Whitehead is also the author of :
- “Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis”
- “RaceBrave,” which was selected as one of the Top Ten Summer Reads by The Baltimore Sun
- “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America; and “Sparking the Genius: The Carter G. Woodson Lecture.”
Dartanyon Crockett is an athlete at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He moved to the OTC in 2010 after graduating from Lincoln West High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Dartanyon is a two-time Judo Paralympic medalist and is gearing up for the 2020 Paralympics.
Along with his best friend and former teammate Leroy Sutton, Dartanyon gained notoriety during his senior year of high school after being featured in the ESPN story "Carry On."
Dr. Webb-Hasan is an associate professor in the Departments of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development and Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M University. Dr. Webb-Hasan teaches graduate courses in culturally responsive leadership, urban school administration, instructional leadership development, and home, school and community partnerships. Dr. Webb-Hasan received the George Bush Excellence Award in Public Service in 2009 and the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development Service Award in 2017. She also received the Social Humanitarian Award from The Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee's "Black Girls Rock" celebration at Texas A&M in 2014. She is currently the proud faculty sponsor of the A&M Student Chapter of the NAACP.
Dr. Webb-Hasan's research is focused on (a) culturally responsive leadership, pedagogy, and teacher development, (b) the disproportionate representation of African American learners in Special Education, (c) culturally responsive family and community engagement, and (d) the exploration of academic achievement and sociopolitical contexts impacting African American girls.