Grant Senior Karl Acker Jr. has been named outstanding youth by the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
The Zeta Sigma Omega Chapter celebrated its 21st Emerald Awards Brunch by honoring Acker and four other men for their community service.
Acker, 18, and a senior at Grant High School, is a college-bound scholar-athlete who hopes to attend Florida A&M University majoring in sports medicine, with the goal of becoming a sports therapist or trainer. His GPA is 3.49, earned through two years of advanced placement classes.
For a young man who spends many hours completing his AP Biology coursework as well as team sports, the award is a well-deserved pat on the back.
"Because I spend a lot of time focusing on school work and stuff like that, and a lot of my friends will spend their time partying, a lot of times you think, 'I'm doing all this work and nothing's happening, I'm not getting anything out of it,'" he says. "So it just felt real nice to finally be rewarded for my academic achievements and staying focused."
"The reason we selected Karl is because one of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's platforms is 'The Black Family,' specifically the young African American male, and preserving their well being and educational growth," said co-chair Joy Fowler of Zeta Sigma Omega. "We thought it was fitting to honor a youth that was doing exceedingly well in both of those areas."
The sorority's prize comes with a $1,000 college scholarship. Also honored by the Alpha Kappa Alphas – the oldest established Black women's sorority in the nation – were Portland Community College President Preston Pulliams; entrepreneur James Posey; Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel; and business owner Antonio Harris.
Acker, along with his younger brother, Kenneth, was named to the PIL 6A All-League First Team last month. (Kenneth, a Grant High School junior, was named as one of the two best offensive players as well as the league's Defensive Player of the Year).
Together, the Acker brothers have proven to be beloved figures on the Grant Generals football team, with numerous write-ups in local newspapers.
But there's also a deeply scholastic and spiritual side to the Acker family.
A member of the Bridge Builders Prospective Gents, Acker is a mentor for freshman students at Grant, as well as at his church, the Life Change Christian Center. Last year he traveled with a student delegation retracing Martin Luther King's 1964 march for voting rights to Selma, Ala., on a mission to understand more about the Civil Rights movement.
The students attended events with Cornel West, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Maxine Walters and more.
His parents Karl Acker, Sr. and Tina Marie Acker, describe their eldest son as self-motivated and focused.
"I think the emphasis needs to be their accomplishments and who they are rather than their accomplishments on the football and basketball and track courts," Acker, Sr., a football and track and field coach at Grant, said.
"I don't think there's a secret in particular that I can take credit for or lay claim to that says, if you do this you're going to have a son that's as focused, as dedicated as Karl is," he said. "I think the biggest thing is that he figured out early what he really wanted out of his education and where he wanted his future to be, and what type of man he's striving to develop into."
"We have family dinners, we center our family time at the end of the day, that's the center of our family," says Karl's mom Tina Marie Acker, principal of Vernon Elementary School. "I think that will be a hard thing for us next year is not having Karl at the dinner table.
"I've talked about setting the place setting like he's there and calling him on the phone and having a conference call and him being part of our dinner," she quips. "And he says, mom, I'll be in a different time zone."
Acker also values his family support.
"I guess first and foremost is that I'm lucky to have two parents both at home, it's probably had the most impact on my life," Acker Jr. says. "I'm a Christian, I believe in God, and with those successes and achievements I've had, I stay humble, stay grounded, stay working.