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Young Trailblazer Nominee

Je’Nia Manning

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Nominations

Nominated By Dr. Mike Lamphere

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter for Je’Nia Manning. Distilling her into 750 words will be a challenge.

After nearly 20 years in education, she is without a doubt in the top 1% of the students I have encountered. Intelligence, poise, charisma, empathy, grit, leadership, and courage; Je’Nia has it all. Many students say they want to make the world a better place, Je’Nia just does it. I admire her restless curiosity. The term renaissance woman comes to mind. On the days that the National Honor Society would meet, Je’Nia would swing by my office to hang out and chat. Art, music, philosophy, literature, history, and science were topics she was eager to discuss. On top of a robust class load and leadership positions in many student organizations, she wanted more. I’d give her names and she would devour their works, assimilate them, and wield them with surgical precision. No topic is too complex for her all-consuming intellect.

Je’Nia is one of the most charming and articulate humans I have ever met. When I need a person to best represent Odyssey Early Colleges to a parent, student, board member, or other high powered dignitaries, Je’Nia is a natural choice. She will jump in and charm them. That massive intellect is at her disposal and she can speak with any audience on a variety of topics. Je’Nia understands people and makes anyone she is with feel like they are her sole focus. In an era of social media and platitudinous interactions, Je’Nia makes each encounter authentic and meaningful. She is a shining example of the type of student we strive to cultivate.

This is a young lady not afraid of hard work. When working on an essay for a scholarship, she spent countless hours in my office after the school year had ended to polish her essay into perfection. I can’t remember the number of drafts she produced, but she was determined that it had to be perfect. Write, read, edit, repeat. She is not one for immediate gratification and understands that hard work leads to bigger and better outcomes. She understood that the week spent perfecting the essay would lead to a summer camp at a university.

Je’Nia knows how to be authentic to her own identity while still putting people from all walks of life at ease. She is a natural leader and gives back time and time again. Je’Nia leads by example and would never ask another person to take on a burden she has already lifted. She refuses to be a victim or be labeled a statistic. This is a young woman who has taken ownership of her destiny and uses this to lead and inspire her peers. I have had her mentor countless students and she does a great job of holding students accountable while still being kind and compassionate. Her message to them is one she lives, “Work hard, be a warrior, refuse to give up on yourself.” I have witnessed her call kids out on their nonsense and push them to evolve into a better version of themselves.

Je’Nia is committed to being a steward of our planet. She spent countless hours at Odyssey as a driving force in our recycling program and hopes to pursue a career in Marine Biology. I can see her up on stage admonishing her peers for their failures to empty out bottles and yogurt containers before recycling. Gross for sure, but she was in there separating and cleaning, not afraid to get dirty to save our planet. Je’Nia is very grateful for the experiences she is given. When we heard she wanted to be a Marine Biologist, the first thought is that we needed to get her SCUBA certified.

Je’Nia was secretly nominated for a scholarship and won. Rather than just accept this and move on, she took the time to personally write to the people involved in the nomination and thank them accordingly. I appreciate the grateful nature of Je’Nia. When so many in her generation are accused of entitlement, she is the hallmark of what a human should aspire to. Je’Nia is an amazing human being. I’m relieved to know that the world will be in her capable hands. She will complete college, go out into the world, and improve our planet for generations. I have seen the work she has completed at Odyssey and I am optimistic about what she will achieve in the future.”

My Black Colorado Interview

What school do you attend and what year are you in?

I am currently a senior at Odyssey ECCO set to graduate in May 2021.

What do you think others would say they like the most about you and why?

My friends have told me I am easy to approach and hard to miss because I have a bold presence and can be pretty charismatic.

When you are not in a class, what are the things you enjoy being involved with?  Why?

Outside of the classroom, I am devoted to clubs that help develop my school. I am in the National Honor Society(NHS), FFA, Spanish Club, and Speech and Debate. I enjoy these clubs because they allow me to explore my interests and help develop Leadership skills, which have aided me in the College admissions process.

What is the best advice someone has given you recently?

When quoting an Instagram post on her phone, my sister said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It is simple, but it resonated with me a lot. Often we get frustrated and try to force others to understand to see from our point-of-view while simultaneously ignoring theirs. This way is counterproductive and accomplishes nothing. When I let others share their minds and find ways to learn from them, they are more likely to listen to me as well.

What is one thing you want to get better at?

I would like to develop my communication skills. Though you can never fully understand a person you can cultivate a deep and meaningful bond and help support each other in troubling times. This skill extends to knowing, understanding, and uplifting your community.

What is one piece of advice adults need to hear, to help them connect with the younger generation better?

It is okay not to understand everything we do. You probably were not understood by the generation before you. I guarantee that we will not fully understand the future generations we produce. It means that new ways to express ourselves are coming into existence.

What accomplishments or awards are you most proud of and why?

The accomplishment I am most proud of is being the President of the NHS. I had made it a priority since my freshman year. I am proud because I get to help the members execute their vision for beautifying the school. Another accomplishment I am proud of is receiving my SCUBA certification. I was a recipient of the Underwater Connection’s Scuba Scholarship Award. This made colleges interested in me as a prospective student and brought me closer to my career goals.

What impact have you made in the community that you are most proud of and why?

When I think about an impact dear to my heart I do not think about one that is physically tangible. I think about the difference I have made in the lives of my peers. I have continually encouraged my people around me to reach out if they have problems, are confused, or just want to talk. I have tutored people, help find summer programs, help with scholarships, and just find out what they want to do with their life. It makes me extremely happy to be able to help my community in this way.

What do you think you want to do for a career and why?

I want to be a marine biologist that specializes in marine botany. The ocean is the heart of our earth and should be treated with care and respect. I also love gardening and anything to do with plants in general. After finding out my two passions combined could create the perfect career for me.

What role did your family play in where you are today? 

My parents have pushed me to do better and to pursue what I want regardless of the obstacles in my way. My father would say “With every problem you list, put a solution right alongside it.” This advice has pulled me out of regressive states of mind by putting the focus on something productive I could be doing instead.

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