The 1st Annual This is My S.W.A.G. Gala Highlights Youth Advocates and Community Influencers

By: Miya Jones
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The 1st Annual This is My S.W.A.G. Gala Highlights Youth Advocates and Community Influencers

“I knew I needed to get some really powerful, like-minded individuals in the same room, so they could really understand what we’re about,” said Kershel Anthony, the founder of This is My S.W.A.G.

Anthony, who is a choreographer and energetic host, started the non-profit with the goal of providing programs for students that encourage self-expression through dance, creativity and teaches social-emotional learning and leadership. Being an event producer, he thought a gala would be the perfect way for people to shake hands and learn about his organization.

“The money is not there and we can’t go on the radio all the time and social media can only do so much,” said Anthony. “To actually have people here to experience and hear what others are doing is more impactful.”

One well-known mover and shaker in the room was the young but already extremely talented honoree and “Project Runway Junior” contestant A’Kai Littlejohn.

“It feels great to be honored and recognized for all the hard work I’ve been doing for the past few years,” said A’Kai.

The 16-year-old fashion designer started hand-stitching at age three and went on to compete on “Project Runway Junior”. He recently represented for Happaugue during his first solo fashion show at New York Fashion Week. When asked what advice he would give to his fellow peers, he encouraged them to push doubts aside and dream big.

“I believe with my generation we doubt ourselves and don’t think out of the box,” said A’kai. “The best advice I could give is find what makes you happy and think as big as possible and try to reach that dream every single day.”

The recipient of the Excellence in S.W.A.G. award, Nick Singh, echoed these sentiments.

“Don’t ever get stuck in that dark cloud, your life can change tomorrow,” said Singh, who at just 22 is the program director and youth development professional for the Hicksville Boys and Girls Club. He’s also a wish granter on Long Island, in New York City and across all five boroughs for Make-a-Wish Foundation. He credits the Boys and Girls Club for helping him get to where he is today.

“It saved my life,” said Singh “I was a broken, lost kid and I had mentors from the boys and girls club who for the first time said, ‘I’m proud of you and I love you.’ Finally getting some positivity in my life was the turning point and to now use my resources to help those in need, it’s truly been a blessing.”

Other award recipients and honorees included Elton George who is the president of the Brentwood Youth Activities, Priscilla Arena, the founder and executive director of Suffolk Asperger/Autism Support and Information (SASI), Carmen Smith the Founder of Fashion 4 Purpose, New York State Senator Monica Martinez, Rhonda Kich, the executive director for the Equity First Foundation and Music Producer, DJ and Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famer inductee Keith Shocklee.

To donate to This is My S.W.A.G.’s efforts you can click here.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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