A weekend of renewal for the mind, body and spirit culminated in recognition for winners of the Destiny’s Elite Girls Scholarship Project.
Destiny’s Elite Girls is a nonprofit, student-run service organization that strives to connect community resources with community needs. Recently, finalists for a $1,000 scholarship were invited to the My Journey Weekend Getaway, held at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport.
“Although Destiny’s Elite Girls’ Foundation is a scholarship (program), it is also a developing mentoring group,” says founder Latrina Graves McCarty. “Some girls and ladies connected over the weekend, and some already have partnered together. We want our next generation to have the opportunity to avoid some of the pitfalls the older generations have experienced simply by not being made aware of something better.”
Attendees were encouraged to relax, network, hear from inspirational guest speakers and participate in numerous activities. Scholarship finalists, including Madison Jefferson and Chanel Howard, were honored during the retreat — receiving numerous gifts and a $100 award.
Alana Wilson, the winner of the $1,000 scholarship, was not in attendance. She is secretary of the Class of 2022 at Jefferson County High School and a member of the Student Government Association, ACT Club and Future Business Leaders of America, as well as a recent inductee to the National Honor Society.
“Once I accomplish my goal of becoming a registered nurse,” she states in her written bio, “I want to get married, buy a house and get a puppy.”
After being accepted to college as an 11th grader and remaining on the honor roll throughout her years at Pascagoula High School, finalist Jefferson has earned a spot on the Vice President’s List, was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and was awarded the NASA STEM Excellence Award at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
“My long-term goal is to open up my own engineering law firm while working as a mechanical engineer at Google,” she writes in her bio.
Howard, a senior at Pass Christian High School, plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi this fall to major in chemistry. Then, she plans to become a licensed dental hygienist.
Success is very important to Howard, who grew up in a single-parent home with three older sisters
“I plan to continue to show my mom all the sacrifices she made to take care of me were worth it in the end,” she writes.
The scholarship project was established in honor of the founder’s late husband, LaRue F. McCarty, who was an educator, coach and youth advocate. As part of the selection process, the applicants were asked to write an essay discussing a time they persisted in the face of adversity.
“We were looking for heartfelt stories that would inspire readers to move forward regardless of situations that are beyond their control,” McCarty says. “The girls’ essays will be an anthology project, which is scheduled to be available in December.”
The Destiny’s Elite Girls Scholarship Project will be awarding a $500 prize to a 2022 high school graduate; the deadline to apply is Aug. 8. To learn more, visit myjourneymydestiny.com/destinys-elite-girls, and to apply, click here.
PERSISTING THROUGH ADVERSITY
Here’s what the scholarship finalists had to say in their essays about conquering their greatest challenges:
“I am still overcoming the fact that my father does not want to be in my life. I could have given up on having a normal, happy and successful life for myself a long time ago, but instead, I chose to persist. I chose to continue loving everyone. I chose to love my neighbor as myself. I chose to treat others the way I want to be treated. I chose to continue to make good grades. I chose to continue to live my life making my mom, my late grandmother and my other family members very proud of me.
I have accepted the fact that my father is probably not going to be at my graduation. Despite this, I am still optimistic and dream big. I believe that I will become a registered nurse, and I am working very hard to do so. I want to be successful in life.”
– Alana Wilson
Reflecting on the four-wheeler accident that caused the death of fellow Boys and Girls Clubs member Donovan Necaise: “I’d be lying if I said this still doesn’t affect me negatively now. I still find myself experiencing death anxiety very often because everything was so sudden and so unexpected. Every time my best friend and I ride four-wheelers up and down the street, it’s nearly impossible for me not to think about how what happened to him could also happen to me. I wasn’t able to ride them until about two years ago because I was so scared, but you can’t live in constant fear of the inevitable.
So now, I focus heavily on how I want to be remembered rather than getting lost in trying to figure out the only constant in life: death. His legacy reminds me how much a simple smile can do, how much remaining positive can affect a situation and, lastly, how remaining true to yourself can help you overcome any obstacles.”
– Chanel Howard
“As an overachiever, I decided to complete the ACT test again, but my score was still not high enough. So, I decided to complete the Accuplacer test, but my score was still not high enough to be placed in certain classes. All of this was done to prove to the advisors that I was worthy of being in (the Collegiate Academy) program.
Despite that, I made the decision to not give up on myself and chose to continue with pursuing this program. Throughout this journey, I lost my connection to the high school, which caused me to not feel included as a senior. However, this experience taught me to be more independent, to always persevere and to be secure with my decisions.
Now, I find myself graduating with honors from MGCCC and graduating from Pascagoula High School in the top 10 percent of my class. I achieved every one of my goals because I believed in myself and persevered through every obstacle.”
– Madison Jefferson