Last month, a student from the Journalism & Media Academy (JMA) was singled out for recognition by leaders from the Hartford area for her exceptional community volunteer efforts. Senior Shellayo Thompson was chosen by members of the Epsilon Omicron Omega Chapter (Hartford Alumnae) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, to be honored as part of their 4th Annual Hartford Girls Rock! event. Thompson is currently enrolled in courses five days a week at JMA’s satellite campus at the Connecticut Public Broadcasting (CPBN) Learning Lab.
Hartford Girls Rock! is a yearly luncheon that focuses on celebrating the leadership, innovation, and empowerment of young women from community-based organizations in the Greater Hartford area.
Each year, local community organizations choose several young women of color to serve as representatives of their goals & standards, and then invite these women to connect and celebrate their accomplishments with female role models from their community. Candidates for selection are chosen based on their academic achievement, outstanding leadership skills, and commitment to civic engagement.
Thompson was selected for her outstanding efforts volunteering at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford. Between her academic pursuits and community activism, Thompson spends her free time writing poetry – an outlet she values as a free creative space.
“I went to a Lyricism 101 course which taught us to express our individuality and feelings through our writing.” Thompson remarks.
Her poems offer Thompson’s unique perspective and experiences as a young woman growing up in Hartford. Whenever struck with writer’s block, Thompson turns to classic hip-hop as a muse. “I listen to old school music like 2Pac, Queen Latifah, and Notorious B.I.G for inspiration.”
One of her poems, “Black Queens,” was selected by her supervisors, submitted to YouTube, and then reviewed by a selection panel in Atlanta before Thompson was ultimately selected as one of the nine honorees for 2017’s Hartford Girls Rock!
Honorees are notified of their selection and then attend a series of workshops in the months leading up to the event. The workshops, facilitated by members of Epsilon Omicron Omega, focus on preparing young women for their futures, including lessons on goal-setting, career exploration, and self-empowerment.
“I was really nervous at first during the workshops” recalls Thompson. “I was nervous to meet new people, just to talk – I sat there quietly and there was only one person I knew immediately and could talk to”.
Thompson’s nerves eventually subsided. By September, Thompson was excited for the luncheon. She treasures the personal connections she built with the supportive group of peers and community leaders through the workshops.
At the event, the keynote speaker reflected Hartford Girls Rock’s mission to celebrate leadership, achievement, and empowerment. As three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas took the podium as confidently as she takes to the balance beam or uneven bars, the 21-year-old gymnast encouraged the young women in attendance to persevere towards achieving their goals. Reflecting on Douglas’ speech, Thompson felt empowered and took the Olympian’s advice to heart.
“I learned no matter what happens to always keep pushing forward and always to follow your dreams no matter what’s in your path,” Thompson said. Now well into her final year at JMA, Thompson plans to take a year off after graduation and continue her education to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Proceeds from the Hartford Girls Rock! luncheon provide the Foundation for Educational Opportunities, Inc. (FEO), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the fundraising entity of Epsilon Omicron Omega, with the financial support to positively impact the Greater Hartford area by advancing their efforts to provide scholarships to deserving college-bound students and leverage the capacity of their community programming.
About Alpha Kappa Alpha
Founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (AKA) is the oldest Greek-lettered community service organization established by African-American college-educated women. Today, the sorority is comprised of more than 260,000 distinguished women in graduate and undergraduate chapters in the United States, the U. S. Virgin Islands, the Caribbean, Canada, Japan, Germany, Korea and on the continent of Africa.
About the CPBN Learning Lab
As part of a partnership with Hartford Public Schools, CPBN offers a satellite campus and afterschool internships – focused on video production, editing and digital arts – for high school students from Hartford’s Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School. For adults interested in pursuing a media career or simply interested in gaining technical skills to advance in their already established fields, CPBN’s Institute for Advanced Media provides classes in the basics of video production, from pre-production to post-production, as well as equipment and technical skills. CPBN also offers a range of opportunities to college students through the CPBN Media Lab, with classes focusing on storyboarding, video production, web content creation and social media.
For more information on Hartford Girls Rock! please visit:
To learn more about CPBN’s partnership with the Journalism & Media Academy (JMA) please visit: