In the summer of 2022, Higher Achievement connected Imani with the opportunity to attend the National Summer Learning Association’s Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. “When my dad got the call about the program his face lit up,” recalls Imani. “I had never been to DC before, and I was excited to meet new people and see new places.”
At the conference, Imani and a cohort of other young leaders participated in group projects that fostered learning, teamwork, leadership skills, and relationship building. Imani particularly enjoyed the opportunity to visit the National Mall and Capitol Hill where she met U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. An additional bonus was staying at American University and exploring all that college campuses have to offer – including the dining halls. “I’ll never forget the fries there!” laughs Imani.
Now in her 8th-grade year, Imani has been in Higher Achievement since the 5th grade and has enjoyed the field trips and experiences offered through the program, including college tours and poetry electives.
“The environment is important, and the people in the program make it or break it. I really enjoy the students and staff at Higher Achievement and it’s a supportive environment here,” says Imani.
Imani is seeking that same supportive environment as she prepares to leave Higher Achievement and looks ahead to high school and college. “I’m looking for an inclusive and safe environment where there are good teachers and staff to help me with my art,” says Imani.
One of Higher Achievement’s core components is high school readiness mentoring and programming to prepare scholars socially and academically for the transition to high school. Imani submitted applications to three highly-regarded high schools and is now waiting for selection results to be announced in the spring.
“I’m really proud of the work I did on my Appomattox application,” says Imani. The Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology is one of the top high schools in Virginia and requires a rigorous application process. “I worked hard putting my portfolio together and prepping for the interview. I think I answered their questions well and I got good reviews of my art. One of the critics even took a picture of one of my pieces!” says Imani.
It’s not the first time Imani’s work has been recognized. Each year, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards honor the creative abilities of middle and high school students throughout the country. It is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens and Imani was recently awarded a 2023 Silver Key in art, recognizing her talent in drawing and illustration.
Higher Achievement is proud to support scholars like Imani and connect them to opportunities that help them pursue and expand their passions and talents.