An eager participant shows off his talent. (Courtesy of DC College Access Program)
An eager participant shows off his talent. (Courtesy of DC College Access Program)

The DC College Access Program, a nonprofit focused on college admittance and retention, celebrated its success with its annual gala that featured an “American Idol”-style competition hosted by local radio celebrity Donnie Simpson, tap dance legend Savion Glover and famed R&B singer Will Downing.

For almost two decades, the program has focused on college admittance and retention for District students of both public and charter schools, serving mostly those from low-income, minority, single-parent households who are the first in their families to attend college.

But the Feb. 28 gala was all about celebrating the talent of D.C. youth.

The citywide talent search began in the fall with more than 250 auditions. In December, the top auditions were posted on the organization’s website for the public to view and vote for their favorites in vocal, instrumental and dance categories.

The top 10 finalists in the show showcased their singing, dancing and instrument-playing abilities, with the finalists and top competitors all receiving scholarships. Judged by the celebrity panel and a full house at the Kennedy Center, all the students competed with style and grace.

The first-place prize and $10,000 college scholarship went to singer Kyree Allen, 17, a Duke Ellington senior. The second- and third-place prizes also went to Ellington seniors — instrumentalist Jeremiah Flack, who won a $6,000 college scholarship, and dancer Keanu Williams, 17, who took home a $4,000 college scholarship.

The other student performers each received $2,000 college scholarships.

Allen, dazzled with his confident delivery and dynamic singing voice, performing a classic operatic style.

“Opera is a great outlet for me to be able to speak to people and into their hearts, and I feel that if I am at least making someone feel something than I doing something right,” he said shortly after his victory.

Allen is planning to attend Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, this fall to study vocal performance.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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