By Mary E. Nance
Special to Frost Illustrated
FORT WAYNE—Kenya Thomas, the daughter of Dadrie and James Thomas, is
Kenya is an extraordinary African American young adult woman and exceptional high school student. She has shown throughout her high school tenure that her drive and work ethic towards her studies is paramount and is exemplified in her academic standing as a 21st Century Scholar by achieving sixth place standing in her graduating class as well as being the senior class president.
According to Christina Ehle-Fails, science lead teacher at R. Nelson Snider High School, “Kenya is one of our premier students and has excelled in both of the first and third year Biomedical Science classes in the Project Lead The Way program.”
“In the classroom, I have witnessed Kenya’s tenacity and meticulous nature,” explained Sommer Starks, visual arts teacher at R. Nelson Snider High School. She entered my ceramics and sculpture class without having had the introductory level art classes—which is recommended. It was difficult for her at times, but she put in the extra time, asked plenty of questions, and sometimes restarted her projects if they were not up to her expectations. Because of her determination, Kenya ended up doing work that was very mature, skilled, and was very successful in both classes.”
Kenya is community oriented and has a great desire to be an effective social agent of change within her community. Her efforts are evident through her scholastic achievements as well as having a positive impact on her community by spearheading a school wide fundraiser for Riley Children’s hospital.
The first time I encountered Kenya’s academic astuteness was from reading an application essay that She had submitted to be accepted into the 2012 Northeast Indiana Area Health Education Centers (NEI-AHEC) summer program Health Career Exploration Academy (HCEA). Kenya did not have difficulty identifying her attributes that would aid her on the career path to become an OBGYN.
She has been accepted by and plans to attend Indiana University. Kenya recently informed me that she wants to study a year in Spain due to her goal of double majoring in Spanish. She said she wants to practice medicine in Fort Wayne and one day travel the world.
She will have some well-earned help as she pursues a higher education.
“The future of Kenya Thomas is as bright as a sunny spring day,” said Alice Jordan-Miles, assistant director of the Behavioral Health and Family Studies Institute at IPFW. “Kenya, is the recent recipient of the Indiana University Hudson and Holland Scholarship and the Herbert Presidential Scholarship.
“The Hudson and Holland Scholarship is awarded to students who embody the qualities of academic achievement and community service as in the lives of Dr. Hudson and Dr. Holland. Both individuals were outstanding scholars in their field of study and both sought to help promising undergraduate students of color overcome the barriers of those they faced as they pursued their educational dreams,” explained Jordan-Miles. “The Hudson and Holland is highly selective and seeks students with outstanding records of academic achievement, strong leadership experience and a commitment to social justice.
Kenya’s hard work and academic achievement also garnered the attention of IU’s office of the vice president of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, earning her the Herbert scholarship. Funded by a $10 million grant through a Lilly Endowment, the Herbert Presidential Scholarship is a four-year renewable scholarship that is also matched by the sponsoring Indiana University campus. Scholars receive other benefits, including a personal laptop computer and funding to be used for study abroad in their junior or senior year.
The future does indeed look promising for Kenya Thomas as an exceptional young woman to be celebrated for her accomplishments.
Mary E. Nance is Northeast Indiana Area Health Education Center K-12 outreach coordinator with Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne College of Health and Human Services.