It was Tiffini Littlejohn’s night.
Students, faculty and volunteers gathered recently for a full course meal in a banquet room at Peerless Steakhouse in Knoxville to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of all the students of Richard Williams Jr. Leadership Development Academy.
Those gathered gave special attention to Littlejohn, who was the first student to enroll in the academy when it began in 2003. She was honored for her outstanding achievements in academics and community service since becoming a part of the academy.
“Special thanks to Mom, Dad and George,” Littlejohn said, as she addressed the cadets after a steak dinner and dessert. Tiffini was recognized by the National Society of High School Scholars and is a leader in the academy. She is graduating with honors and plans to attend college.
George Williams, a former Alcoa City commissioner and founder of the academy, said the Richard Williams Jr. Leadership Academy, named after his late brother who served as a Blount County commissioner, was established in 2003 as a Tennessee non-profit organization to help address the needs of school-aged children. Through an initiative supported by the Women’s Department of Tennessee’s Church of God in Christ, and administered by the Blount County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the academy partners with area schools to identify and select the participants. Participants are not required to be affiliated with any religious organizations or church.
During the March 27 dinner, other students were recognized for their outstanding achievements in and out of the classroom. “The academy is an outstanding example of community taking interest in the development of our youth,” said keynote speaker Bob Booker, Denso manager of legal, environmental engineering, community relations and communications.
Booker said Denso of Tennessee provides mentors for the program, many of whom attended the dinner. The company’s employees, said Booker, contribute their time, energy and business expertise in mentoring the youth of the program. “We want to encourage other businesses to participate in our community,” said Booker.
Each year the leadership cadets engage in a week-long camp called the Kramer Summer Leadership Camp and Youth Congress. Selected Leadership cadets participate in a comprehensive week of developmental activities emphasizing personal/professional
development, spiritual development, academic preparation and fellowship and fun.
The camp is hosted by Maryville College and sponsored by Denso and the Alcoa City Center. In the camp, the students are encouraged to continue in community service. They attend self-esteem, development and goal setting classes, all while continuing in their spiritual development.
Williams points with pride to the academy’s record of encouraging youth. “We have a 100 percent college enrollment,” said Williams, adding that the academy is a “beacon of educational light.”
Foundation partners include Alcoa City Schools, Alcoa City Center, Alcoa Foundation, Blount County Schools, Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Blount Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Child and Family Services, City of Alcoa, Denso of Tennessee, Maryville City Schools, Maryville College, Mane Support, Pellissippi State Technical Community College, Robert Littlejohn, Tennessee Careers Centers and Wal-Mart, Inc.
As a community-based organization, the Richard Williams Leadership academy is dedicated to the youth of this area and to their continued success in life and business. “We will continue this program,” George Williams said.
For more information about the Richard Williams Jr. Leadership Academy, go to www.richardwilliamsjracademy.com.