UCAN Recognizes Seven Youth Leaders in Annual Awards Banquet

The awards recognized youth ages 16-21 who demonstrate exceptional leadership and advocacy.

The excitement ran high June 1, as seven Chicago-area youth received Youth Leadership Awards at the 24th annual UCAN YLA awards dinner at The Four Seasons in Chicago. The annual event benefits not only the youth, but UCAN as well. This year, the event raised $832,835 for UCAN’s youth programming.

The awards are presented to youth ages 16-21 who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and advocacy for themselves, the community, other youth, and UCAN programs. The awards celebration is dedicated to celebrating the academic and personal achievements of UCAN’s outstanding youth.

Each year, seven YLA awards that are presented, one of which is the John. E Rooney Dynamic Scholarship award. Each Rooney award winner receives a grant of $10,000 to pay for tuition, books, or class fees at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, or vocational training school. Winners are asked for a plan of action as to how the award will be used and must continue to share progress made with UCAN’s Alumni Services in the form of grades, transcripts, or entrepreneurial progress. Grants are not distributed to winners until receipts outlining appropriate expenses are submitted to UCAN for approval, after which funds will be sent directly to the requesting agency/company/organization/school.

The other YLA winners each receive $5,000 towards educational and personal/professional development.

Here are this year’s award recipients:

Daniel Animashaun

John E. Rooney Dynamic Scholar 2023
Daniel Animashaun Daniel currently attends Lindblom Math and Science Academy. In the fall, he plans to attend North Carolina A&T, majoring in computer science and minoring in marketing. Daniel’s ultimate goal is to utilize his computer science skills to run and facilitate his own businesses, as well as helping others with theirs.

Daniel has a range of hobbies that he enjoys, including photography, roller skating, running track, and hanging out with friends.

Denishe Mberi

Steans Family Foundation Award Winner
Denishe Mberi Denishe graduated from Lithonia (Ga.) High before she relocated to Chicago. She hopes to attend UCC-related Howard University to further her education and pursue her dreams of becoming a New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker. In her free time, she enjoys expressing her creativity through painting and writing, as well as enjoying the outdoors with kayaking. Denishe also has a love for makeup and creating videos, which she uses to share her inspiring messages with her followers. Denishe says, “I believe that we’re all just walking books, each with our own hero, villain, and teacher, in which God is the reader watching as we all realize that we are just well-thought-out characters in one big book called Life.” The award is presented to a young person from Chicago’s North Lawndale community.

Youth Leadership Award Winners

Joel Casey

Joel Casey Joel will graduate from Lindblom Math and Science Academy this year and has plans to attend Howard University to major in Finance. His future career aspirations include becoming a Wealth Manager or Financial Consultant. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, socializing with friends, exploring new travel destinations, and trying new foods.

Additionally, he places great importance on humanities and social justice work, which is a fundamental part of his identity.

Trinity Winfield Trinity will graduate from Latino Youth High School this spring and hopes to attend Tricoci University in the future. She aspires to be a hairstylist and to own her own business, where she can offer hairstyling, tattooing, and other hair care services. Trinity has a love for learning, even beyond the limitations of school. Her hobbies include cleaning, cooking, and drawing, which also serve as her coping skills. She is passionate about hair care and styling, and hopes to utilize her skills and knowledge to create a successful and thriving business.

Erica Brown

Erica Brown Erica graduated from Perspectives High School of Technology as salutatorian. She was a part of student government, National Honors Society, and was on the dean’s or principal’s list every semester. She plans to enroll in the Chicago Association of Realtors Real Estate School. Erica’s future career goals include becoming a real estate broker and investor, and eventually continuing her secondary education. In her free time, Erica enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, as well as connecting with nature. To quote Erica, “Be grateful for all that you have now. To remain grateful when you get to where you want to be, Asé!”

Maya Hunter

Maya Hunter Maya is a currently studying graphic design at Illinois State University, with aspirations of becoming a graphic designer. She graduated from ITW Speer Academy. She has always been interested in the arts, and her hobbies reflect this passion, as she enjoys drawing, building houses online, writing, listening to international music, and cooking.

Maya has a particular interest in animation and is working hard to develop her skills in this area, with the ultimate goal of becoming a successful animator and artist.

Antoni Scott

Antoni Scott Antoni currently attends Little Black Pearl Art And Design Academy. He plans to attend North Carolina A&T University to pursue his dreams of having his own culinary business. Aside from his passion for food, Antoni is also committed to promoting mental health awareness, which he hopes to achieve through the creation of his own youth program. In addition to these goals, Antoni is also an avid boxer and enjoys playing video games in his free time. Furthermore, his Christian faith is an important aspect of his life.

Other Awards Presented

During the evening, UCAN also presented the tenth annual John D. Nichols Impact Award to the Steans Family Foundation, honoring Executive Director Patricia (Pat) Ford, in recognition of its positive impact on youth and families in Chicago.

UCAN also presented its inaugural Corporate Philanthropy Award — recognizing an organization that has demonstrated exceptional philanthropic commitment to UCAN and the youth of Chicago — to The Allstate Corporation. The award was accepted by Mario Rizzo, president, property-liability insurance.

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