A local sorority chapter used its Founders’ Day Luncheon to put the focus on outstanding accomplishments by youth.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was established in 1908 at Howard University, and is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African-American college-trained women. On Sunday, the 41 members of Xi Epsilon Omega Chapter of Amherst celebrated the group’s 35th anniversary by honoring brothers Ameer and Rahim Dunston, Austin Marshall and Regeena Yvette Martin for their academic performance and community service.
“We have a lot of youth programs in our chapter, and we thought this would be a fitting way to celebrate our youth,” said Madrene Kemp, the sorority president, at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott Hotel in Amherst.
The four honorees were chosen by a panel from 12 finalists. They are:
• Ameer Dunston, senior, Leonardo da Vinci High School. Ameer is the student representative to the Board of Education, providing a student perspective on educational issues.
“It’s a good experience because I want to major in business when I get to college, and I have to learn to articulate and speak in front of a group of people, and voice my opinion,” Ameer said.
Ameer is valedictorian of his senior class, vice president of da Vinci’s student council and president of Inner-City Student Council, which involves all of the city’s high school student councils. As a volunteer, he has wrapped Christmas gifts for children at Seneca Babcock Community Center, and mentored incoming da Vinci students.
He will attend Howard University in the fall, where he plans to major in finance and a double minor in Spanish and African-American history.
• Rahim Dunston, 8th grader, Performing Arts High School. Rahim plays violin, is concertmaster in his middle school orchestra and takes lessons with Richard Kay, a violinist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has also held lead roles in several school plays, including “The Lion King” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“Music inspires me,” Rahim said, and “acting is a whole world, a variety of things you can explore.”
Rahim has also performed at community events and for people who are hospitalized. He has performed at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in nursing homes and at this year’s annual Martin Luther King Breakfast.
“He’s a people person. He has a big heart,” said Lisa Dunston, Rahim’s mom.
Rahim’s strong grades have landed him on honor and merit rolls. He has also earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has helped teach others.
• Austin Marshall, 8th grader, Nardin Academy. Austin, an alto, enjoys singing in the school choir.
“I enjoy senior choir a lot because, despite my deep voice I can actually belt a few notes,” Austin said.
He was vice president of student council last year and had the role of Daddy Warbucks in “Annie.”
As a member of the school’s Community Service Club, Austin has volunteered at Bornhava Preschool, walked dogs at the Buffalo Animal Shelter and helped cook at the Ronald McDonald House. He is also part of the school yearbook, scrabble and recycling clubs.
He hopes to sing professionally, and also enjoys ballroom dancing.
“He is so passionate about helping other people, and has taken that on in his Community Service Club,” said Rebecca Harris, Austin’s mother. “He is just a very well-rounded young man.”
• Regeena Yvette Martin, a sophomore at Middle Early College High School, was also honored. She is involved in student council, volunteer activities and is past president of the Emerging Young Leaders program, and a winner of the Black History Essay contest.
Linda Coppock, who spent 30 years as an educator in Buffalo Public Schools, was honored as the chapter’s “Member of the Year.”
The sorority also celebrated its founding members at the event.
“We wanted to show a token of our appreciation for the founding members,” Kemp said. “We have looked to them for wisdom and support over the years.”