2013: Women to Watch

Published 10:42 am Friday, February 15, 2013

By Gene Motley


“Community service helps make me a better me.”

That’s how Hertford County High School senior Casey Grant feels about the support she gives weekly at New Ahoskie Baptist Church as part of the church-sponsored After-School Academy.

But that’s only part of the “paying it forward” that this young lady is all about.

In addition to her extra-curricular activities with her church, where she is also chairperson of the NABC Usher Board, she also keeps busy with activities at Hertford County High.  There she is member of the National Honor Society, participates in the school’s debate team, the Book Club, the Beta Club, is secretary of Future Business Leaders of America, and president of the school yearbook club.

Away from school she is especially proud to be a member of the Delta Gems, a part of the Ahoskie Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority which was created to catch the dreams of African American adolescent girls ages 14-18.  The program encourages the young girls to excel academically by providing tools that enable them to sharpen and enhance their skills to achieve high levels of academic success. The group also assists in proper goal setting and planning for their futures in high school and beyond; and most importantly, to create compassionate, caring, and community minded young women by actively involving them in service learning and community service opportunities.

The reigning “Miss Jabberwock”, Casey delivered an address at the Deltas’ Martin Luther King Day service back in January.

“I wrote the speech prior for an Elks national (public speaking) contest on the local level and I got second place in it,” she says with pride. “It was basically about asking is racism still alive in America and I was just pointing out examples like Trayvon Martin, the young man (James Byrd of Texas) who was lynched, and the Jena 6.

“But I also wanted to point out how African-Americans bring racism tendencies upon themselves with things such as why people know more rap-song lyrics than they do poems. How too many black teenagers can make time out to go to tournaments but aren’t able to go to things like high school choirs or band concerts. I also looked at why reading is not stressed among children, especially African-American children, who can watch endless hours of television instead of picking up a book to read.

“By the end of the speech I tied in (how) we have come from famous African-Americans who have set a foundation, such as MLK, such as Rosa Parks, such as Barbara Jordan, Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General Eric Holder. They have set a path for us and we have to continue moving forward to make black America and America as a whole a better place for us to live. That was basically what my speech was all about.”

Grant feels that a lot of leadership is inspired by motivation, and vice versa.

“I see, especially in my peers today that basically they’re not motivated enough,” she noted. “So I’m trying to set my means different from everybody else around me by being a leader instead of a follower. By being a leader I’m trying to give back to my community, especially (by) inspiring other young men and young women to pursue their goals especially with programs such as this after-school program.

“I’m not only helping them with their homework,” she adds. “I’m also giving them hope and to fulfill their dreams.”

Upon graduation from HCHS this spring, Grant will enter Atlanta’s Spelman College in the fall where she hopes to major in political science and pre-law.

“I’m an ambitious individual,” she says. “Instead of looking at colleges exclusively in North Carolina, I’m also trying to pursue my lookings outside North Carolina, which is why I’m looking to Atlanta and places like that, just to give me a college that’s going to provide all that it can offer because my career goal is to become a district attorney.”

Grant comes by her love of the legal process honestly, because it runs in her family where her parents are both proud graduates of North Carolina Central University in Durham and NCCU’s Law School.

Her father is Cy Grant, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for the First District of the Superior Court of North Carolina and the first African-American appointed to the bench in Judicial District 6-B that serves Bertie, Hertford, and Northampton counties. Grant has held that post for over 13 years.  Her mother, Rosiland, is also an attorney with the firm of Grant, Lewis & Grant in Ahoskie.

“Also my career goal is to mentor other young people, particularly young women but also young men,” she says. “Those are my two top career goals: to be a motivational speaker, someone to look up to; and also to be a prosecutor,” she continued.

“My parents are really involved with giving back to the community. My father mentors to young men, to try to put them on the right track, and my mother loves to talk to young women to get them to do what they’re supposed to do.  It’s really not the new ‘black conservatism’, but I hope people can see things like, ‘I can be like Cy Grant because he came from Indian Woods (in Bertie County)’. Things like that gives me hope because that’s something that I can achieve because people in my community I’ve seen achieve it.”

Reverend C. David Stackhouse, who is the pastor of New Ahoskie Baptist Church, says Casey is just one of several members, adults and teens, who he has gotten to mentor with his after school program.  He feels it takes something special to make this type of sacrifice, and that Casey exemplifies this.

“She’s a personal mentor to several of our students who need not just help with their homework, but also hands-on direction,” Stackhouse says. “She has vast knowledge of all subjects, so by being one of the top academic acheivers in high school she can work with the students on everything from science projects, math skills, reading and writing, and every single student she has worked with has made the honor roll.

“She learned that from home because her parents are the same way. Her parents have a very high profile in their jobs and in the community,” he adds. “Yet, they are very down to earth, very jovial, loving people and they taught her to be the same way. Her humble spirit comes from having parents with humble spirits. They taught her well; that it’s not about you, but about those that are around you because those are the people that make you who you are.”

Stackhouse says Casey can be found at the church doors at her usher’s post on Sunday mornings, and that New Ahoskie also conducts ‘Youth Explosion’ bible study every mid-week at the church on Wednesday nights and she participates there.

“It’s just a matter of time and we’ll have as many anywhere from 85 to sometimes 185 children from the community who will be involved and if she is asked to lead she’ll lead; and if not she supports the person who leads and that’s what makes her a great follower, as well as a great leader.

“People make us better because we try to make people better,” he says. “I’m glad to know that I’m a positive influence in her life. We say never speak or think anything negative, because that’s our goal, and that’s what we strive to achieve. We’re not looking for ‘some’ good days, but to have good days every day.”

Some of the youth activities she supervised in just the last week included a surprise birthday visit by the kids to a senior member of the church at their home; getting a chance to see a Hertford County High basketball game that included cheering for the Bears, and even placing apples in the teacher’s mailboxes at Ahoskie Elementary School.

“It gives (everyone) a little surprise,” says Casey. “It allows them to see that people appreciate them. The after-school program is about giving because it gives the children hope and they in turn give their time to other individuals that are not as fortunate as they are.

“When I began with the Delta Gems program in ninth grade, one of my advisors tells about how I used to be quiet and introverted.  Now I’m an extrovert and this program and its workshops have helped me to grow and empower myself successfully.”

Casey Grant’s accomplishments are easy to see now. But ambitious like she is, she keeps an eye pointed toward the future.

“I want to be doing the same things I’m doing now which is helping,” she says with a knowing smile. “I see a need for more people to help young children and I don’t feel my age group sees the interest in doing that, but that’s very important.

“I want to continue to mentor to young people, especially young girls; and I see myself as ambitious and motivated, so I want to go to the top, top, top,” she says punctuating the air with a finger for emphasis as she repeats it.

“And that,” she says again smiling, “helps me to be that better me.”