BY JATIKA HUDSON
KISSIMMEE – This past year has been quite a whirlwind of blessings for Deidre Martin, MAN UP’s 17-year-old youth leader. In May, she graduated from Tohopekaliga High School (Kissimmee, FL) holding an extraordinary 4.0 grade point average, while also earning her associate’s degree from Valencia College.
In three weeks she heads off to her dream college, UNC-Charlotte, where she was matched with 35 potential scholarship opportunities and selected to participate in the University’s Transition Opportunities Program, (UTOP). As you can see this young lady is riding high on cloud nine and shows no signs of slowing down!
Six years ago, Deidre was introduced to MAN UP by Jean Jamerson, her grandmother and MAN UP’s Board Member. In her grandmother’s words, she knew MAN UP would help Deidre break out of her shell, “recently I was blown away watching her speak on a youth panel while attending an event for PeaceJam Southeast, it has truly been a blessing witnessing her blossom into a confident young lady.”
Deidre started out as a mentee in 2016, but by 2020 she began serving as the organization’s youth leader and an active junior board member. She also was selected to represent MAN UP as an active member of PeaceJam’s Youth Advisory Council for the Southeast Region at Florida State University.
During 2020 she landed a digital marketing apprenticeship with University Teeth working under Dr. Hayward, where she created social media posts, assisted with web site updates, and social media engagement.
All the while, she found time to volunteer weekly at Highland Christian Academy where she read to kindergarten students, in addition to volunteering at the foodbank on the first Saturday of each month with “It’s a Dream Inc.”
Reflecting on her college search process, Deidre recalls working closely with Samantha Wallace, MAN UP’s executive director. “Ms. Samantha showed me how to advocate for myself, prepare for college admission interviews, as well as articulate my strengths and desires beyond one-word answers, and most importantly she encouraged me to dream big.”
Programs like UTOP will help underrepresented students like Deidre transition from high school to college. Additionally, since she has met her general educational requirements, this program will give her a jump start on entering her major courses. Although offers came in from North Carolina Central, Bennett College, and Johnson C. Smith universities, her school of choice was UNC-Charlotte.
Deidre understands the competitive advantage college will give her as she prepares to pursue a career in marketing. The influx of scholarship opportunities coming her way is a direct result of her faith, relentless perseverance, hard work, learning to utilize her voice, and most importantly, having family support.
MAN UP provided such rich learning experiences that help to positively shape Deidre’s self-esteem, self-image, and confidence. With Wallace urging her not to be afraid to ask questions and to advocate for herself, she’s transitioned from being a shy young lady to an empowered leader who knows what she wants to do in her life and is eager as well as excited to set this world on fire.
“Ms.Samantha also connected me with a social media marketing consultant where I’ve been able to work on small projects to help hone my skills. She’s even become my mentor, and now I am interning under her as well,” she shared.
Billie Hilliard, founder and creator of BH Consultants, shares how Deidre’s qualities are an asset to her social media and marketing company. “I am incredibly impressed with Deidre,” Hilliard shares. “I am particularly impressed by how Deidre always goes the extra mile with the projects and assignments I give her. She has the traits, skills, and drive to become whatever she puts her mind to and decides to be.”
MAN UP’s leadership is grateful for this rising star. They know her future is extremely bright. Even though she says she’ll miss the weekly meetings, the mentors, and her peers, she will always carry the lessons that have helped propel her life forward.
Deidre’s mother, Erica Jamerson, is proud of the participation and differences she’s noticed in her daughter since joining MAN UP. “She’s naturally an introvert, but the program has helped her step out of her comfort zone. Youth leadership experiences with MANUP, PeaceJam and being a Junior Board Member forced her to open up and get to know a diverse group of other participants.”
Erica is most thankful for the leadership and efforts of MAN UP, exposing her daughter to people, places, and opportunities that she otherwise may have never known or experienced. In her words, MAN UP broadened her horizons.
Deidre, continue shining bright like a diamond. As you blaze your own trail MAN UP is here to support and cheer you on. We wish you abundant blessings and God’s very best!