Career Week 2016!

Steve StaesSteven Staes (left) is Chief Operating Officer and Counsel for K&G Fashion Superstore, a division of Tailored Brands.

Atlanta Youth Academy (AYA) kicked off our 2016 Career Week with an inspiring Chapel service, featuring an address by a world-class individual who knows all about achievement — Steve Brown: All-American, NFL/CFL, Olympian, Hall of Fame. Mr. Brown relied on an acronym to illustrate his point: FOCUS — Faith, Options, Commitment, You, and Support. Encouraging our students to find their strengths, he added, “If you’re not willing to work for it, you’re not going to get it” and “If your friends aren’t going to check you and keep you in line, you need a new circle.” Mr. Brown’s bottom line: “You can accomplish your dreams if you have the right faith, the right work ethic, and the right people surrounding you.”

In further illustration of his insightful wisdoms, from Monday, March 21, to Thursday, March 28, nearly 30 speakers presented unique details from their educational and professional journeys. Each classroom and grade level received a visit from a professional who came in to discuss higher education and career-building.

Universally, each speaker highlighted the importance of goal-setting, of aspiring to high bars of achievement with faith, preparation and endurance. They talked about mentors and influencers, taking calculated risks and making careful choices, delaying gratification in return for longer-term returns on both education and professional growth.

“You need to be the best version of you, and that will help those around you be the best version of them.”

John Featherston, Senior Director, New Ventures, Chick-fil-A

“My parents were my role models and they sacrificed to put me in the position to get the best education and to be successful.” 

Morgan Ingram, Sales and Marketing, Terminus

“I believe that God brings opportunities across your path at the right time. I ask God every day to open doors in front of me to lead me. I also ask him to close doors that I shouldn’t go through.” 

Sonja Jackson, Sales, Kompan Playground Solutions

Our students and faculty look forward to this week every year. Its positive and lasting impacts on the AYA community is both motivating and energizing to children and adults alike, and we are so grateful for the great individuals who made time to be with us!

Professional fields represented include:

  • Wealth management
  • Dentist
  • Author
  • Software Sales/Programming
  • Community Health
  • Broadcast Engineering
  • Digital Media Marketing
  • Interior Design
  • Legal Cousel/Law
  • Restaurant Business/Owner
  • Judge
  • Police Officer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Music Producer
  • Psychology Professor 
  • Athlete 
  • Firemen

Many professionals of the Atlanta Metro Region establish a relationship with AYA through exposure to our school community during Career Week. If you’re interested in becoming a 2017 Career Week speaker, would like to join our mentoring program, or take a closer look at our Friends of AYA group, please contact us!

What about you? Who were your role models and guiding inspirations? What were some of the choices you faced on your journey? Feel free to leave your comments below as you scroll down and enjoy some pictures from our wonderful Career Week.

Judge Jackson

Pictured above, Judge Phillip Jackson was appointed an Associate Judge in the Fulton County Juvenile Court in June 2009,  where he continues to work today.  He presides over delinquency, deprivation, and status cases.


Millie Turner

Millie Turner was an AYA art teacher who left one profession for another — to explore the Atlanta food scene. She now works in human resources and operations at Banner Butter.


Next post — The annual AYA Spring Luncheon! We had great fun gathering with old friends and meeting new ones! Stay tuned.

Nina Akerman, our Spanish teacher: “Never give up!”

Nina Ackerman

Nina, would you share about your Clayton State program and why you’re studying Spanish?
I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish ever since I was a little girl. When I went to high school I took two years of Spanish as an elective. When I started at Clayton State, I was required to take four semesters of Spanish. I decided to minor in it, in hopes that one day I’d be able to use Spanish to help others. I love to travel and to be able to help those in Spanish-speaking countries — or even in America — learn English.

How has AYA helped you grow in the realm of teaching?
I’ve really enjoyed watching our students get excited about learning Spanish. I’ve had a lot of experience working with children of all ages, from teaching Sunday School at church, and from working with the after-school program in Clayton county. This experience is a bit different because I’m teaching all grade levels at AYA, not just one age group. This has helped me to adjust to each grade  level and communicate with each age group. This has also helped me gain better organizational skills.

What do you appreciate about education?
I believe education is very important. As a student, I always strived to make A’s. I made the dean’s list every semester. I love learning and helping others learn. The key is to never give up. If you struggle in a certain subject, never think of yourself as a failure. Stop saying you can’t learn it. Just keep practicing and praying about it. Do all you can and God will help you with the rest. This applies to everything in life.

Would you share some student stories of life here at AYA?
There are so many stories. Each of the students is important to me. Some of the most recent AYA stories include watching a student in 4th grade make a 105% on a Spanish quiz for the first time after not doing so well on previous quizzes!

Next blog post — Photos from Career Week!

Jessica: An AYA Profile in Leadership

The AYA community puts a premium on leadership in teaching and learning — in everything we do. Check out Jessica’s response to our blog questionnaire, and you’ll understand our pride in all our students. (Click on the image to enlarge it, or read the transcript below).

What do you think?


How long have you been at AYA?
I have been here at AYA for seven years.

What are your three favorite memories through your career at AYA?
My three favorite memories are the fall festival Treats Town, becoming SGA VP (Student Government Association Vice President), and making the cheer team.

What is your favorite subject area?
My favorite subject areas are science, art, and math.

What accomplishments at AYA are you the most proud?
I am most proud of being SGA Vice President, a cheerleader, and head of the 8th grade community service group. Some of the projects we have done range from the fall festival to gift baskets donated to a church. I have also enjoyed being SGA Vice President.

Please share a bit about your leadership experience as an 8th grader.
I am head of the community service group and we have done four projects so far. One of our projects have been helping collect shoe boxes filled with treats for the Homeless at Heart organization. One of the things we have done in SGA is host a bake sale. The bake sale was a lot of fun for me.

What is your greatest goal?
My greatest goal is to go to Yale or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.