Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tonya Harris

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Mrs. Tonya Harris

Mrs. Tonya Harris

To understand the historical significance of Tonya Harris’ place in FSU history, one must understand the time in which her history was forged. It was the late 1960’s and, although the FSU student body was integrated, historically white campuses in the deep south had not yet become a welcoming place for people of color.  FSU was among the progressive campuses but even here we have an integration statue to underscore the significance of brave individuals who first walked the walk of integration.

It is within this framework that Tonya Harris in 1968 became the first black faculty member hired at Florida State University. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University in 1964, then a Master of Nursing from University of Washington in 1968, and prior to her arrival on the FSU faculty, Harris worked as a nurse for the FAMU Hospital and the Leon County Health Department. Originally hired as an instructor in the FSU College of Nursing, she was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1972, where she taught until retirement in 2003.

During her teaching career, Harris also served in the United States Army, earning the rank of Major. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she served as a member of a MASH unit that provided health services to the troops on the front-line, and received two Commendation Medals for meritorious service in the Army.

In retirement, Harris has maintained an active presence in the life of FSU, as a docent at the FSU President’s Home and also with the Association of Retired Faculty, where she served as president in 2012-2013.

For service to her country and in recognition of the trail-blazing path she walked for others to follow, the FSU Alumni Association is proud to welcome Tonya Harris into its Circle of Gold.

(Courtesy FSU Alumni Association)


Darryl A. Marshall

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Mr. Darryl A. Marshall, Sr.

Mr. Darryl A. Marshall, Sr.

Mr. Darryl A. Marshall, Sr.

Outstanding Faculty/Administrator – 2016

Mr. Darryl A. Marshall, Sr., is the Assistant Vice President for Financial Aid for the Florida State University (FSU).  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Florida A and M University, and his Master of Science degree in Higher Education from FSU.

Mr. Marshall’s career at FSU commenced in December 1985, where all 31 years have been in the Office of Student Financial Aid.  He has held several positions during this period of time working tirelessly to ensure that students attending FSU could afford their education and obtain their educational goals.

Mr. Marshall is responsible for the daily operations of $350 million annual financial program which is disbursed to over 25,000 students.  He has a staff consisting of 59 employees with an annual budget of approximately $5 million.  Recently, he spearheaded a plan to help FSU reach its diversity goals by leveraging the use of need based financial aid dollars whereby 75% of targeted students’ cost of attendance will be met with grants and scholarships.  Also, he established a collaborative partnership with the FSU National Black Alumni, Inc., to help match need based grant dollars for recipients of the FSU Black Alumni Scholarship.

Mr. Marshall was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education to serve on the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance from October 2003-2006, and was reappointed to serve a second term from October 2006-2009.  This committee served as an independent source of advice and counsel to Congress and the Secretary of Education.  During his tenure he used this opportunity to advocate for simplification of the financial aid process, access and affordability for students (especially underrepresented and low income students), increased persistence and degree completion, and other vital issues.

Mr. Marshall was appointed to serve on a Florida Blue Ribbon Commission, which was charged to evaluate issues of minority student enrollment and make recommendations to further assist in increasing diversity in our state institutions.  This Commission’s advocacy lead to increased need based state grant aid and the creation of the Florida First Generation Matching Grant Program which is still benefiting many first generation, low income students in the State today.

Mr. Marshall is a member of the National Association, Southern Association and Florida Association of Student Aid Administrators.  He has also served on the National Direct Student Coalition Board of Directors, Private Lenders Advisory Boards, and Guaranty Agencies Advisory Boards.

Mr. Marshall fulfilled his passion in his spare time for over 16 years, serving as an Assistant Basketball Coach at Shanks High School, in his hometown of Quincy, Florida.

Marti L. Forchion

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Ms. Marti L. Forchion

Ms. Marti L. Forchion

Ms. Marti L. Forchion

Outstanding Alumni – 2016

Ms. Marti L. Forchion received her Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University (FSU) in 1987.  She has enjoyed a successful 20-year professional career as an Information Technology professional at Black Knight Financial Services.  She has not only excelled in her career, but has given immensely of herself to the community, and has been a great role model for other alumni and students to emulate.

Ms. Forchion is described as “a quiet storm comprised of a gentle spirit and a fierce determination that is the foundation of our FSU community.  Her innovation and creativity is only surpassed by her humility.”  She is the author of “The A+ College Prep Planner – The Ultimate College Admissions Planning Guide for High-School Students (and their Parents)” and creator of the website  Her dream of writing a “navigational guide” of the college admission process came to fruition after the experiences she encountered while preparing her own three children for a post secondary education.  The A+ College Prep Planner is a step-by-step guide that focuses on each year of high-school and encourages 9th – 12th grade students to take an active role in their educational development and future plans to attend college.

As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Ms. Forchion helps to transform the lives of high school seniors through her commitment to education by serving on the May Week Committee, which focuses on providing collegiate scholarships for our leaders of tomorrow.  In addition, she has been actively involved for many years in student mentoring programs and student leadership programs through organizations such as Take Stock in Children, Junior Achievement, and Jack and Jill of America.  She believes that a college education is an obtainable goal for most students, including first-generation and other under-represented students.

From 2009 through 2012, Ms. Forchion served as the Program Director of the “How to Lead Your Ship” Student Leadership Program, sponsored by the Jacksonville Chapter of Jack and Jill of America.  “How to Lead Your Ship” focused on teaching leadership skills to high school students through a variety of interactive workshops and other activities to encourage them to excel.  It also included local college tours and an annual College Road Trip.

Ms. Forchion is married to Mark Chapman.

Cecily E. Matthews

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Ms. Cecily E. Matthews

Ms. Cecily E. Matthews

Outstanding Student – 2016

Ms. Cecily E. Matthews is originally from Clermont, Florida, a small town in Lake County.  She is majoring in Social Science with minors in Political Philosophy and Education.

Since starting at Florida State University (FSU), Ms. Matthews has worked extensively with the Black Student Union, where she previously served as the Political Education Chair and Secretary; the Pride Student Union; and the Center for Leadership and Social Change.  She is an Intern with PeaceJam Southeast (Tallahassee), where she constructs workshop curriculum for 8th grade, high school and college students.  She is also a Facilitator for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Summit (North Florida/Tallahassee), where she develops connections and networks for rising high school juniors in order to promote team building and leadership development.

Ms. Matthews worked this past summer in Miami teaching 9th and 10th grade English/Language Arts, a Black Lives Matter course, and a course on harnessing talents of poetry and spoken word to become better public speakers.  She currently serves as a National Ambassador for Breakthrough Collaborative and will help recruit more individuals to work as Teaching Fellows.

Ms. Matthews serves on the FSU Student Diversity and Inclusion Executive Committee under the Office of the President, and is a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Ms. Matthews received the 2016 Sean A. Pittman Award (FSU Division of Student Affairs) for demonstrating outstanding leadership and dedication to the student body, university and community with significant contributions to the welfare and support of African-American students.  She also received the Women’s Student Union 2016 Strength Award, the Breakthrough Miami-College Bound Site’s Outstanding Teaching Fellow, FSU Division of Student Affairs’ 2016 Seminole Torchbearer, and the Black Student Union’s 2015-2016 Most Outstanding Executive Board Member.

Ms. Matthews’ favorite quote is “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious.  The desire to reach hearts is wise.”  She believes all people deserve access to opportunity, education and equitable justice.

Ronald J. Peterson

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Mr. Ronald J. Peterson

Mr. Ronald J. Peterson

Outstanding Alumni – 2016

Mr. Ronald J. Peterson received his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Florida State University (FSU).  He is also a graduate of the University of Phoenix’s Master of Business Administration program.  He has excelled in his profession and continues to give of his time and talents to the community.

Mr. Peterson currently serves as the Director of Corporate Compliance and Audit at Tampa General Hospital, Inc., a thousand-bed acute care teaching hospital.  He has more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry and another 14 years of public accounting and industry experience.

His previous experience includes working in the field of public accounting with two of the big four accounting firms and a local accounting firm; where he held the position of Audit Manager.  He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Fellow of the Health Care Financial Management Association (FHFMA), Certified in Healthcare Compliance and Certified in Healthcare Privacy.

Mr. Peterson was one of the founders of the FSU Minority Business Students Association, where he served as a mentor.  He continues to be an active participant in the community.  He currently serves as Board Chair for the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation and the Conn Foundation.  His other community activities have included past President and current Secretary of the Midtown Kiwanis Club of Tampa, Coordinator of Midtown Kiwanis Club’s Terrific Kids Program, member of Greater Tampa United Way Site Committee; and Deacon, Food Pantry Coordinator and Assistant Sunday School Superintendent at his church, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church (Tampa).  He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Mr. Peterson was formerly a Board member of the Enterprise Bank of Tampa; Board member and Treasurer of Tampa Crossroads, Inc.; Board member of The Divine Providence Food Bank, Inc.; member of the University of South Florida President’s Minority Advisory Committee; and President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc.

Mr. Peterson continues to give unselfishly of himself but always makes time for what he believes to be most important, family and church.  He is married to FSU alumnus Nell Cook Peterson, and they are the proud parents of Jason, Jessica, Jake and Justin.

2015 Scholarship Recipients

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2015-2016 Scholarship Recipients

L-R: •Kristin G. Sanders, Alesia T. Carter, President John Thrasher, and Isiah S. Parfait

L-R: • Kristin G. Sanders, Alesia T. Carter, President John Thrasher, and Isiah S. Parfait

L-R:  Rashard Johnson (BSU President), Charee Williams (FSUBA VP), Rikisha A. Collins, President John Thrasher, Kristen G. Sanders, Isiah S. Parfait, & Eric Friall (FSUBA President)

L-R: Rashard Johnson (BSU President), Charee Williams (FSUBA VP), Rikisha A. Collins, President John Thrasher, Kristen G. Sanders, Isiah S. Parfait, & Eric Friall (FSUBA President)

The Florida State University (FSU) Black Alumni promotes and supports the academic achievement and excellence of Black students at FSU.  As part of its 2015 FSU Black Alumni Homecoming Reunion: “A Garnet And Golden Age” the FSU Black Alumni is awarding $500 scholarships to three deserving students.  One of the scholarships is specifically designated for a student who is involved in the International Program or plans to study abroad, one will be awarded in honor of Maxwell Courtney (the first Black undergraduate student to attend and graduate from FSU), and one will be awarded in honor of Dr. William R. Jones (Founder and first Director of the FSU Black Studies Program).  A new procedure, designed to enable distribution of funds in the fall, was implemented in 2016.  These are the initial recipients who receive matching, and sometimes exceeding, distributions from the FSU Office of Financial Aid.This year’s award recipients are listed below.

  • Alesia T. Carter is a freshman from Jacksonville, Florida, majoring in Nursing.  In excerpts from her essay she wrote, “There have been many obstacles in my personal life that have tried to stop me from being the person I am today…(I was) involved in many activities, sports, and jobs that took hard work, dedication and the drive to do so…I was enrolled in Honors courses throughout high school, (which) showed me how I could be challenged and do great…Ever since I was fourteen years old I’ve always wanted to have a job with or without money.  I volunteered at a summer camp called “Daniel Organization” assisting younger kids between the ages 5-9 with disabilities…I will soon be inducted into the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students.  It was an honor to be considered…I now see myself as a positive role model and leader to my peers.”  Ms. Carter is being awarded this scholarship in honor of Dr. William R. Jones.
  • Isiah S. Parfait is a sophomore from Tampa, Florida, majoring in International Business (Finance) and Spanish. In excerpts from his essay he wrote, “For a large portion of my high school career I was homeless…By the end of my senior year I graduated in the top ten percent of my class… I also got accepted into FSU and learned that I would be classified a sophomore, my freshman year…I had excelled despite circumstances when I was given the foundation I needed…During my junior year of high school, I saw a student with special needs crying and I asked him what was wrong. He told me that people were making fun of him…I learned that students with special needs were bullied quite frequently…As president of my school’s community club, I signed our club up for the Special Olympics. It was amazing seeing all the students work together regardless of their identities. This had been what I felt community was all about. Later that year I was named the 2014 Florida Holocaust Museum Anne Frank Humanitarian.”  Parfait is the International Programs Scholarship Recipient.
  • Kristin G. Sanders is a sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, majoring in International Affairs and Women’s Studies. In excerpts from her essay she wrote, “Although I understand the importance of hard work in the academic sphere, I also understand that being a well-rounded student extends beyond the classroom. During my freshman year at FSU I founded the organization VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, an organization centralized around mobilizing young people in the fight for women’s health and reproductive justice…Alongside Planned Parenthood I worked on the Broward County Youth Council, to co-draft, advocate for, and implement a comprehensive sexual education curriculum for Broward county public schools…After over a year…we finally achieved our goal of getting the curriculum passed…The curriculum is now available to over 260,000 students and we are collecting data to see how effective it has been.”   Sanders is being awarded this scholarship in honor of Mr. Maxwell Courtney.
  • Rikisha A. Collins is a freshman from Tallahassee, Florida, majoring in Political. She is currently involved in the Honors Program and Black Law Students Association (BLSA), in addition to volunteering in the local Tallahassee community.  Upon graduation, she plans to attend law school, attain a Masters of Law, and become either a law professor or open a law firm.   Collins is also a 2016 MLK Book Stipend awardee.

Jesse W. Solomon

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Mr. Jesse W. Solomon

Mr. Jesse W. Solomon

Mr. Jesse W. Solomon

Circle of Gold

Football—a game of statistics—can quantify just about everything.  But the one metric the experts have not been able to measure is the size of a man’s heart.  This has been Jesse Solomon’s greatest strength.

One of seven children, who grew up poor in Madison County, the song of Solomon could have ended up a different tune, but through faith, hard work, and heart, Jesse Solomon would wind up owning the 115-acre farm on which he hauled tobacco leaves as a kid for less than minimum wage.  Football and education were his tickets to success.

He played only one year of high school football and walked on at Florida State.  The 1986 NFL draft was almost over when the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the 12th round.  Despite all their technology, the NFL scouts had no way of knowing how much desire was in Jesse Solomon’s heart.  Ten years later, after 116 games and over 800 tackles….they knew.

Solomon played in the NFC Championship Game with the Vikings, and later wore the colors of the Cowboys, The Buccaneers, the Falcons and the Dolphins, earning a reputation as a swift, hard-hitting linebacker…and an even better teammate.

From that very first year of pro football he talked teammates into coming to his small hometown in the offseason to take part in a youth football clinic.  The biggest names of the day, including Troy Aikman, Hassan Jones, Micheal Irvin, and Nate Newton, came to Jesse’s camp in Madison.

The clinic went on for ten straight years and included a banquet at which Solomon awarded scholarships to one deserving boy and one deserving girl—20 scholarships in all.

In retirement, Solomon has followed his heart in another direction, helping former athletes who fall on hard times.  Since you are here tonight, who know well the impact the Athletes Care Association has had on the lives of former Seminoles, whose failing health or family and financial circumstances have placed them in a perilous position. Countless FSU alumni have been helped by the work of the association under Solomon’s leadership.


There’s no way to measure it.  But it is possible to recognize it.

(Courtesy FSU Alumni Association)

Gregory L. Grady

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Mr. Gregory L. Grady

Mr. Gregory L. Grady

Mr. Gregory L. Grady

James “J.T.” Thomas/Heart of A Champion – 2015

Gregory L. Grady was born and raised in the Buschwick Housing Projects in Brooklyn, New York.  He attended Eastern District High School where he earned “All City” and “All American” Athlete honors.  After being recruited by over 375 colleges and universities, in 1972, Greg chose to attend the Florida State University (FSU) on a full basketball scholarship. He was the first freshman to play varsity basketball at FSU and the first and only player to have a perfect game of scoring 25 points with making every shot attempted. Greg received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Mass Communications.  He went on to play professional basketball overseas with the French Federation for five years.

Greg was directed back to Tallahassee to become a member of the City of Tallahassee Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Team.  In 1980 Greg became the Assistant Supervisor at the Walker-Ford Community Center, working alongside his friend and fellow FSU alumnus, Center Supervisor Joe Thomas.  This would prove to be a formidable team in changing the community for the better and the lives that lived therein.

Greg eventually transitioned from Walker-Ford to become the Supervisor of the Jake Gaither Community Center, and then to his current Parks and Recreation home, the Lawrence-Gregory Community Center at Dade Street and the LeVerne Payne Community Center at 4th Avenue.

Although we will never know all of the sacrifices he has made, his value has not gone unnoticed.  In the late 1990’s Greg was recognized by the Tallahassee Police Department for his assistance with a dangerous situation involving an arrest in which the suspect gained the upper hand. Understanding the implications if the suspect was able to obtain the officer’s gun and thinking of the Center participants’ safety, he jumped to action and subdued the suspect until the officer regained his composure and backup arrived.  Other recognition received by Greg include: 2001 AM South Bank Hero of the Black Community Award; Youth Track, Inc. 2002 Volunteer of the Year Award; 2005 Citizen of the Year by the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. for putting his life at risk after entering a family’s burning home. He was also recognized for this heroic act and given an award by Former Mayor John Marks for exemplary action taken by a City employee; 2006 received the Lester Blakely Memorial Award for dedication and commitment; 2006 Smith-Williams Service Center Hero Award; 2009 received James Hudson Humanitarian and Citizenship award from the Tallahassee Chapter of the NAACP; 2014 received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award by the Inter–Civic Council of the Southern Christian Leadership Council.

Greg is a devoted husband to Mrs. Annie Grady and a loving father to Gregory II, Nicole and Andrea. He also helped raise his niece, Deanne.  In his time away from the Centers he serves as a Deacon at the Tabernacle Church of Christ Written in Heaven, Inc. in Gretna, Florida.  He is also the Recreational Coordinator for the National and Diocese Youth Departments of the same Church.

The words Gregory Grady lives by are few but powerful: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) And, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Na’im Akbar

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Dr. Na'im Akbar

Dr. Na’im Akbar

Dr. Na’im Akbar

Outstanding Faculty – 2015

Dr. Na’im Akbar was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, where he graduated from the Florida A and M University Laboratory School in 1961.  Upon graduating high school, he moved on to the University of Michigan, where he completed his B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Clinical Psychology, and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Dr. Akbar is a Clinical Psychologist well known for his Afro-centric approach to psychology. He is a distinguished scholar, public speaker, and author.  Dr. Akbar entered the world of Black Psychology in the 1960s, as the Black Power Movement was gaining more and more momentum.  In the 1970s, Dr, Akbar published his first critiques of the Eurocentric psychological tradition, asserting that this model maintained intellectual oppression on African Americans.  Many of his major works involved mental health among African Americans.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Dr. Akbar worked for the Psychology Department at Morehouse College.  At Morehouse, he designed and taught the first Black Psychology course in the history of the college, and eventually developed the first Black Psychology program at the college.  After two years of working at Morehouse, he was named chair of the Psychology Department.  Three years later, he left Morehouse to work at the Nation of Islam’s headquarters in Chicago.  He created the Office of Human Development, where he remained for two years until he went back to teaching and accepted a position at Norfolk State University.  As an Associate Professor at Norfolk, Dr. Akbar crafted and taught courses in Black Psychology.  Dr. Akbar then accepted a faculty position at Florida State University (FSU), where he continued to teach courses in Black Psychology.

Dr. Akbar served on the board of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) numerous times, which is the largest professional organization with focuses on Black mental health in the world.  He served as the President of the ABPsi from 1987 to 1988.  Additionally, he has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Black Studies and was the associate editor of the Journal of Black Psychology for eight years.  He was acclaimed by Essence Magazine as “one of the world’s preeminent Psychologists and a pioneer in the development of an African-centered approach in modern psychology.”

After teaching at FSU for 28 years, Dr. Akbar retired in 2008 so that he could put more time and effort into his role as the president of his private consulting and publishing company.  He created the private consulting company, Na’im Akbar Consultants, and the publishing company, Mind Productions, to broaden his teaching audience.  Throughout his career, he has become a distinguished author, writing numerous books and speaking publicly to share his expertise at conferences and interviews.  His major contributions to the field of psychology have been centered on the topics of developing an African-centered approach in modern psychology – which for Dr. Akbar involves the deconstruction of Eurocentric psychological thought and the subsequent reconstruction/construction of an African psychology that includes the specific historical and cultural experiences of African Americans.  Other key topics in Dr. Akbar’s life work involve the African American family and relationships, cultural diversity, and the Afro-centric perspective.

Iyanna Pierre-Louis

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Ms. Iyanna Pierre-Louis

Ms. Iyanna Pierre-Louis

Ms. Iyanna Pierre-Louis

Outstanding Student – 2015

Ms. Iyanna Pierre-Louis is a native of Miami, Florida.  She is the Student Body Vice President for Florida State University (FSU), where she coordinates the efforts of the Agencies, Bureaus, and Leadership Institutes, as well as serves as coordinator for the formulation and completion of Cabinet projects.  She is majoring in both Criminology and Criminal Justice and Psychology, and plans to attend law school.

Ms. Pierre-Louis is an exemplary student and a role model for her fellow students.  As a first-year student, she served as a Student Foundation Fellow and supported new campus initiatives by distributing start-up funds to enhance student development and the overall collegiate experience.  Elected to the Student Senate the fall of her sophomore year, she found joy in representing her constituents.  She served as the Recording Secretary for all committees during the 66th Student Senate, and later served as the Chairwoman of the Internal Affairs Committee for the 67th Student Senate.  She served as a voice for the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice; assisted in the allocations of $13.9 million to Registered Student Organizations, Bureaus, Affiliated Projects, and Student Agencies; governed and facilitated committee meetings; and interviewed applicants for executive positions within the Student Government Association.

Ms. Pierre-Louis served as a volunteer for the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, the Dance Marathon, FSU Relay for Life, Grace Mission Church, and National Council for Negro Women at the Leon Arms.  She served as a Mentor for PeaceJam Southeast in 2014, where she developed service projects through the Global Call to Action, an initiative that fosters awareness of underrepresented issues affecting the world.  She also facilitated the annual PeaceJam Conference.  Additionally, she served as a Mentor for the Black Student Union’s Seminole Minority Leadership Institute, where she provided guidance and networking opportunities for minority freshmen students to assist them in their successful navigation through campus.

Ms. Pierre-Louis is a member of the Kappa Epsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she previously served as the Social Action Chair.  She is also a member of Garnet and Gold Key Leadership Honorary, which recognizes the spirit of service, leadership, and loyalty. Additionally, she is a Seminole Torchbearer.  In March 2015, she was recognized as a Woman of Achievement by the National Council of Negro Women.  In April 2015, she was recognized by the Office of Greek Life as the National Pan-Hellenic New Member of the Year for the significant contributions she made to her chapter, the Greek community, and the University community.

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