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Suns and Mentors Shine at Visible Men Academy Impact Awards

By Gayle Guynup - Herald Tribune
Three ODA students were honored at the VMA IMPACT Awards.

Visible Men Academy (VMA) co-founders, Neil Phillips and Shannon Rohrer-Phillips, greeted more than 180 guests as they mingled throughout the ballroom at the Art Ovation Hotel before being seated for the presentation of the Visible Men IMPACT Awards.

The first award of the evening was presented by three incredible VMA graduates who are now Out-of-Door Academy 6th graders, Ira Jenkins, Marvin Palominos and Frankie Clark, who, along with Assistant Head of School, Tiffany Mickens, presented the VMA Community Partner Award to The Zenith.

The award of custom artwork was created by local artist and VMA art teacher Cliff McDonald. Zenith employees volunteer for Literacy on the Lawn, where they read to students in small groups or one on one. Before leaving the stage, Ira, Marvin and Frankie were surprised when Tiffany announced that they were this year’s VMA Rising Sun award winners. The Rising Sun Award is given to students that exemplify the SHINE (Selflessness, Honesty, Integrity, Niceness and Excellence) core values they learn at VMA.

Clifford McDonald, Chris Sanders and Keron Gordon took the stage to present this year’s IMPACT Award winners their custom artwork. “We created the IMPACT Awards out of a desire to highlight the visible men in Sarasota and Manatee counties who mentor, educate and inspire under-served boys in our community every day,” explained VMA Development Coordinator Mya Widmyer.

Arts award winner Michael Mendez is in his eighth season with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Mendez has taught numerous musical theatre workshops to students at VMA. Health and Wellness award winner George Van Buren is a dedicated pediatrician who has been providing outstanding care to underserved children in Manatee County since 1988. Education award winner Keenan Wooten helps Lakewood Ranch High School and his alma mater, Southeast High School, as a college career advisor. Community Hero Henry Blyden has served on a number of boards and foundations and is currently an active member of the NAACP, Gamma Xi Boule of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association and many more.

Community Hero Jose Lozada currently serves as a career development director with Replay, a nonprofit program in Bradenton dedicated to guiding at-risk teens to discover their direction, passion and purpose. Community Hero Robert Powell currently works as a behavioral interventionist with AMI Kids Manatee as well as coaching basketball at Palmetto High School.

Spotted showing their support were Karen Holbrook, Paul Bova, Judge Charles Williams, Corey Waters, Dominic Harris, Washington Hill, Nate Jacobs, Mitzie and Kenny Henson, George and Sandy Mazzarantani, Dr. Bart and Joan Levenson, Bill and Betsy Johnson, Felice Schulaner, Dennis Rees, Charles and Charlotte Perret, Terry and Susan Rawson, Jackie Woods, Sy and Shelly Goldblatt, Jackie Hinds, Jacki Dezelski and Mike Kennedy among others.

PHOTO BY WENDY DEWHURST CLARK

Source: Herald Tribune
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