"Deneisha has transformed herself into the posed, confident and capable young woman she is today with the support of the staff, adult volunteer mentors, and the programs and activities available to her at the UCM Creekside Village Community Center," says Kathy Lehner, long-time volunteer and one of Deneisha's biggest fans.
Deneisha shared her story with the guests at the UCM Gala in April 2016. Here is her story, in her own words:
"My name is Deneisha. On June 14, 2013, my life changed forever. When I walked into the Community Center I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't making the best decisions for myself, nor was I on the right track. What I ended up finding at the Center was an opportunity to meet different people, kids in my age group who had the same goals, and the inspiration to be better each and every day.
"Coming to the UCM Center every day after school taught me to have a better outlook on things, on my self respect, and most important -- to believe in myself, to be my own star in the story of my life. I was now on the right track. I was an honor roll student, and my attendance was excellent. I had a new appreciation for my teachers and for my peers.
"I really would like to thank everyone for taking the time to hear my voice. My speech would not be complete if I didn't thank a very special person: Ms. Deborah Finley. Ms. Deborah: If not for your tough love and guidance, I don't know where I would be today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in me. Without you, I wouldn't be the young lady and role model that I am today. You are truly a treasure and I wholeheartedly appreciate you. Again, thank you to everyone."