YEA! medal

Board Presents 2021 YEA! Awards

Middle and high school students honored for leadership, volunteerism, and success despite difficult odds

Every year, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners' Youth Excellence and Achievement (YEA!) Awards recognize young peoples' positive contributions in three categories: Success Despite Difficult Odds, Leadership, and Volunteer or Community Service. Selected by the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women, these individuals are examples of how young people can dedicate themselves to improving their community and shape its future.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of County Commissioners honored all the winners during its May 5 meeting. During the presentation, the following six students were recognized for their initiative, innovation, and commitment to Hillsborough County.

2021 YEA! winners, clockwise from top left: Titus Thien Nguyen, Jade Athina Stafford, Nicholas Michelini, Shanya Luke, Afton Kinkade, and Haili Smith


Afton Kinkade, Stewart Middle Magnet School
A "Top Gun" in her academic studies and in her passion for aviation, Afton serves as a member of the Flight School Association of North America's Youth Envoy and the John Glen Top Gun Academy, an honor society for STEM students. Her love for aviation recently was recognized by AviNation Magazine, as she served as a guest editor and author of the article, "My Path to the Left Seat."

Shanya Luke, Lennard High School
Shanya is an honor student with a 5.38 GPA who is dedicated to helping animals and working as a youth fire cadet with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. After she graduates from high school, she plans to attend a college or university in Florida to major in zoology and/or fire rescue in hopes of becoming a veterinary technician and firefighter.

Volunteer or Community Service

Haili Smith, Farnell Middle School
Haili is the co-founder of Books Like Me, a nonprofit organization that donates sets of culturally relevant books to schools, libraries, and youth organizations throughout the Hillsborough County area. In only seven months, she has helped donate over 1,500 books to 110 local schools.

Nicholas Michelini, Town 'N Country Christian Academy
A junior at Town 'N Country Christian Academy, Nicholas volunteers at the Matthew 25 Homeless Ministry, serving his community almost every day. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked seven days a week for four months, volunteering over 650 hours to date.

Success Despite Difficult Odds

Titus Thien Nguyen, Burns Middle School
Titus is a seventh-grader at Burns Middle School who overcame some challenges to achieve Principal's Honor Roll, and earn awards for Citizenship and Perfect Attendance. Additionally, Titus participates in numerous academic competitions and programs, including STEM.

Jade Athina Stafford, Armwood High School
A senior at Armwood High School, Jade has faced the death of her parents and homelessness during her young life. However, she strengthened her resolve to succeed academically and plans to pursue a career in law after graduation.

The Board also presented a proclamation declaring May as Community Action Month and a commendation recognizing the 2021 Tampa Pride Street Festival and Diversity Parade.


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