Keloni Seawood-Walton always had an interest in fashion. She learned how to sew in second grade—starting with pajama pants and pillowcases. Now, she's designing outfits for community fashion shows.
"When I was in middle school, I played a ton of sports, and that's what everyone thought I'd be doing," Seawood-Walton said. "Everyone had set plans for me, and somehow I found my way here."
"Here" is West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT), an organization that provides a culture of opportunity for people to create social and economic progress in their lives and community.
Seawood-Walton, a 2016 graduate of Grand Rapids Montessori School and current Grand Rapids Community College student, participated in WMCAT's Teen Arts + Tech afterschool program—designed to affect social change through applying design thinking, arts and technology to critical thinking, inquiry and practical application in the community—throughout all four years of her high school career, studying photography and fashion.
"Something told me to stay."
So she did.
And on November 15, Seawood-Walton traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet first lady Michelle Obama and accept the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award on behalf of WMCAT's Teen Arts + Tech afterschool program. The award recognizes WMCAT for its effectiveness in promoting learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the arts and humanities.
"I think WMCAT truly deserves it. WMCAT gave me an opportunity to do what I love."
In 2015, Seawood-Walton participated in a community fashion show, designing pieces to address bullying and stereotyping. Focusing on natural hair, she designed her pieces—a sophisticated jumpsuit and a pleather black skirt paired with a loose-fitting, floral top—to showcase that in the business world, you can wear your hair the way you want.
"Be bold. Be who you are."
Today, Seawood-Walton is learning how to run and manage a small business through an apprenticeship at WMCAT's Ambrose Print Shop. Customer service, phone skills, pricing and more: She's learning it all.
"People think it's the boring side, but I want to know the boring side.
"I do want to run my own business someday. I want to own something someday and sell it. I know it's something I'll love doing."
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for West Michigan Woman magazine.