We’ve been featuring young professionals on our pages for years, and we are launching a new feature to highlight some pretty cool accomplished youth who are doing great things in the community. We are beyond impressed with these exceptional individuals and know that you will be equally proud to know they are paving the way for future generations.
“A smile and a good heart will take you a long way in life.” Those words from Alexis Weber’s mother has guided the 5-time All-American cheerleader to be a passionate leader for her team and an inclusive friend in her community. Alexis, a 17-year-old senior, has been the cheer captain at Montgomery Catholic Prepatory School since 8th grader and strives to be the best in whatever she participates, whether it be athletics or academics.
After high school, Alexis will be continuing her education at Auburn University, having already been accepted into the COSAM program where she’ll work toward a medical degree in dentistry and orthodontics. There, she plans to join a sorority as well as other extracurricular clubs that offer fellowship that will further her career and growth as a person.
In addition to her biggest supporter, her mother, who taught her the importance of character and confidence, Alexis credits the faculty and staff at her school in helping her follow her dreams. Her six years at MCPS have taught her the value in living a good Christian life and walking with God every step of her journey.
When she’s not working toward attending Auburn, Alexis is traveling there to shop and “take in its glory!” The Plains will surely be a great place for her to see movies and continue making Tik Toks with her friends.
Achieving your dreams requires determination. And few people have bigger dreams and more determination than Braelen Francis, a 16-year-old soccer player at Stanhope Elmore High School. Whether it be seeking a degree in physical therapy or engineering or aspiring to represent the United States in the World Cup, there is no goal out of his reach.
With his mother pushing him in the world of academics, and his father guiding him along his athletic journey, Braelen is unwavering in the belief in his own abilities. He understands that you need determination, consistency, and cooperation to make it to the top. If he believes switching positions in the middle of a game will help his team win, Braelen is willing to do it for his teammates.
His rigorous focus on completing a goal until it is complete helps him on the pitch as well as the classroom. There is no goal too big to achieve or too small on which to focus in his mind. And that’s why the student-athlete will continue practicing until he reaches the pros.
Until then, you’ll find Braelen hanging out with his brother and friends, making music, and – of course – practicing and bettering himself every day.
Emma Clair Strength
Every person on earth has the same amount of time in a day, and legacies are created by what you do with that time. Emma Clair Strength, the 14-year-old junior varsity cheer team captain and 2019 Miss Teen Highland Home School, has taken those words to heart and is already filling up a resume of which many high school seniors would be envious.
In addition to Emma’s academics, athletic and community responsibilities, she is also the president of the Middle Level Future Business Leaders of America. Her elevator speech on the March of Dimes beat out 31 other participants at the state of Alabama competition, which secured her invite to San Antonio last summer to compete at the national level. She credits her FBLA advisor, Kasey Pouncey, with helping her push past her comfort zone to accomplish more than she thought possible.
There are no signs of slowing down for Emma. She and some friends have multiple community service projects lined up, including collecting duffel bags and suitcases for foster children that otherwise move from home to home using trash bags. Emma hopes that the example she sets can show others that no matter who you are, what you look like, or what your age is, you can make a difference in your home, school and community.
After a long day of difference making, you can find Emma drawing, hanging out with friends or playing with her pup, Ruby.
Daisnu "Danny" Laurent Jr.
Danny Laurent’s desire to fly was propelled by a rug his mother bought him as a child, and he hasn’t since looked back (or down). The 15-year-old at Valiant Cross Academy hasn’t merely dreamed of soaring through the air, he’s on path to be there by graduation. Danny received a $10,000 scholarship from the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation, which will pay for his pilot’s license.
The awarding organization strives to provide opportunity to aspiring minority pilots, as the population makes up a mere 2% of the commercial and military aviation community. Danny’s mentor, Red Tail board member Colonel Will Sparrow, credits the freshman’s hand-eye coordination, situational awareness, and downright excitement with his success in the program.
The soon-to-be aviator has no shortage of leadership examples. He admires how his brother, Omar, lives his life to the fullest and funnels this motivation into attending the Air Force Academy and becoming an F-35 fighter pilot. And his former football coach, Derrick Moncrief, taught him to do what’s right, even if it’s unpopular. “If everybody likes you, somethings wrong.”
While Danny knows a lot of people would be disappointed if he fails, it’s his will to always be able to be in a new place, never stuck, that fuels him. He’ll continue to work hard because he knows nothing is promised to him. And when it’s time to relax on the ground, Danny finds his fun by playing football, working out, and writing poetry.
Tracy Abigail Wright
Tracing back lineage and uncovering family trees mean different things to everybody. For Tracy Abigail Wright, a 15-year-old athlete, scholar, JROTC Cadet, class president and pageant queen from Wetumpka High School, it is a source of inspiration. She has traced the branches of her family tree back to the first freed slave, Robert Bradshaw. Tracy believes Mr. Bradshaw, who was barred from reading, writing and voting, had faith that someone like herself would exist in this country.
Tracy uses that motivation, as well as encouragement from her parents, to make the most of opportunities. She is the recipient of the Joe Sewell Memorial Award, a member of the National Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is the only female to break 100 on her high school golf team. Tracy recently developed a Diversity Program spotlighting a different heritage/culture each month with weekly announcements on the intercom at her school. She will be competing in Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen Pageant, where her platform is Veterans First, due to her heart for those who served our country.
There will be many colleges competing for Tracy, and she has not yet narrowed down her choice; but she is sure of one thing - she will be playing golf and studying science.
Her mother never let her believe that being a female should stop her from achieving her dreams. And her father is always there cheering and pushing Tracy to be better. It should come as no surprise that Tracy loves spending free time with her family. From going to the movies, shopping or beating her dad on the golf course, she feels blessed whenever with them.
Understanding that you are, in many ways, a product of your environment is a lesson seldom learned in youth. But this self-awareness is definitely found in Dominique Halingten-Verville, a senior at LAMP High School.
Dominique has surrounded herself with people that are kind, responsible and intelligent. This community, along with the encouragement and support from her family and friends, serves as a constant reminder to be a selfless leader while striving to be her best self. This mindset helped her earn the title of Alabama’s Distinguished Young Woman.
Her passion for leading and teaching is expressed through dance. Dominique started teaching dance two years ago and is excited to use the lessons learned there in her future career endeavors. She plans to attend Auburn University this fall and will major in organismal biology, where she then hopes to continue her education toward a doctorate in physical therapy with the goal of becoming a pediatric physical therapist.
These high aspirations are guided by a belief instilled in her by the words from a friend: “Never cease to have a genuine love for God and for people.” This mentality allows Dominique to embrace every opportunity and lead by example while doing so.
Dancing and drawing are what you’ll find Dominique doing in her spare time. And while she feels her talents in visual arts aren’t on par with her ability to choreograph dance moves, she finds the therapeutic value worth it.