Ella Titus amazed the crowd with her ballet variation from "Coppelia."
The ballerina and Oak Grove Middle School student entertained as well as won an award at the Mayor's Youth Showcase of Achievement Wednesday.
And for St. Petersburg, which has had its share of recent heartbreak, the inaugural event proved to be a night to remember.
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster wanted the community to recognize positive student achievements.
“I wear two black bands on my wrist [to remember St. Petersburg’s fallen police officers]. One, from February when a fallen officer was killed by a 16-year-old," Foster said. "But, we only hear the negative in the media, and not the positive accomplishments of our teens. Tonight, we celebrate the positive, and the goodness in our community."
The event recognized outstanding accomplishments of 400 middle and high school students in 11 categories including: academic achievement, citizenship or leadership, fine arts, literary arts, media arts, overcoming adversity, performing arts, center achievement, scholar athlete, science technology and vocational or business enterprise.
Hosted by the St. Petersburg TASCO Teen Program, the two-and-a-half hour event proved to be a heartfelt, show stopping night of awards, entertainment and positive energy.
Malcolm Williams, 12, ambled his way through the crowd and across Mahaffey’s stage to accept his award for overcoming adversity.
He walked with a slight kick to his gait and his obvious pride touched the heart of the crowd, who only saw a peek of the child’s three-month near-fatal ordeal that started with a stroke and culminated with his walk of fame.
In February 2011, he suffered a paralyzing stroke. Williams survived with the help of a breathing machine, and in the last few months, he’s had numerous operations, and undergone months of therapies to walk, talk and eat again.
His father Officer Mark Williams, Sr. nominated Malcolm for the award.
“I wanted to do everything I could do to recognize Malcolm’s efforts. After every surgery, when the doctors said they weren’t sure if he’d survive, I told him never to give up. And he hasn’t. He continually works hard,” Mark said.
Meadowlawn Middle School student William Martinez won for Center Achievement, an award given to outstanding students at city recreation centers.
“I was nervous but happy I succeeded,” Martinez said.
Alvin Shirley, the Roberts Recreation Center teen supervisor, nominated Martinez for his constant, positive influence.
“Since sixth grade, he’s constantly improved. He volunteers at the center, tutors peers, does everything I ever ask him," Shirley said. "He’s the guy to count on."
All the nominees received achievement certificates.
“I’ve never got anything like this,” said Tyrone Middle School student Amber Frank. “It’s cool.”
Frank was nominated in two categories, scholar athlete and center achievements. The marine biologist hopeful made Principal’s List and played sports year-round for her school and at her nearby recreation center.
Frank’s mother Viola beamed at her daughter’s accomplishments.
“I’m proud of her,” Viola said.
“She puts her heart and soul into it,” said family friend, Carmen Tirado, about Frank’s dedication.
Geoffrey Boyajian had a similar reaction to his nomination in media arts.
“I was quite shocked, really,” Boyajian said.
Mahaffey Theater’s entire bottom level and the partial balconies buzzed with excitement and joy from more than 1,300 people. The audience included students, parents, teachers, mentors and community leaders.
St. Petersburg Leisure and Community Services Administrator Clarence Scott, III, reminded the audience that negative situations are few and far between in Pinellas County.
“We always ask, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ We need to ask, ‘What’s right about our youth?’ Tonight, we recognize what’s right about our youth,” Scott said.
The show, worthy of a professionally televised awards show, energized the audience with local student talents, such as the smooth “Ballad” played by saxophonist Jarred Armstrong, from Boca Ciega High School.
TASCO Co-host and Assistant Artistic Director Shawn Drouin kept the audience guessing with jokes, passion about TASCO Teens and his quick suit changes in black, red, gold and purple.
The event’s primary sponsor Florida Central Credit Union awarded $500 savings bonds to winners and $100 savings bonds to runner ups.
Brain Robinson, Chief Marketing Director, said the award ceremony provided the perfect venue to recognize youth who are doing something positive.
“Our motto is ‘People helping people’, which we take to heart,” Robinson said.
“When the city called, we were excited. Take a night to celebrate the good things that happen in our community. These kids are doing amazing things… They are our future leaders,” Robinson said.
At the event’s close, Mayor Foster thought the night was a success.
“It’s amazing. We have amazing kids. The level of talent here was incredible, and the musical performances were worthy of Broadway."
- Ella Titus,
Achievement Award Winners
- Middle school winner: Malcolm Williams, Home School / Soaring Eagle Academy
- High school winner: Bailey Monarch, East Lake High School
- Middle school winner: Amanda Tannenbaum, Carwise Middle School
- Middle school runner up: Morgan Mercier, Carwise Middle School
- Middle school runner Up: Natalie Shollenberger, Carwise Middle School
Citizenship or Leadership
- Middle school winner: Stefanie Caros, Carwise Middle School
- Middle school winner: Noah Sain, Home School
- Middle School Runner Up: Katie Milbrandt, Carwise Middle School
- Middle School Runner Up: Carra Madden,
- High School Runner Up: ,
- Middle school winner: Kyle Howarth, Carwise Middle School
- Middle School Runner Up: Morgan Mercier, Carwise Middle School
- Middle school winner: Ella Titus,
- Middle school runner up: Soosha Meaders, Home School