Mirror Image graduates first class of scholars 

Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward (left) and Gainesville City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut (right) were on hand for Mirror Image Leadership Academy's inaugural class of graduating scholars on Thursday.
Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward (left) and Gainesville City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut (right) were on hand for Mirror Image Leadership Academy's inaugural class of graduating scholars on Thursday.
Photo by Robert J. Joseph

Mirror Image Leadership Academy (MILA) celebrated its inaugural class of graduating scholars Thursday evening at the 2024 Gala in Alachua.  

Applause, cheers and prayers from county officials and community leaders filled Valley View event center as the nine graduates walked across the stage in matching black ties and suits to receive certificates of completion.  

“I watched these young men three years ago, they were half the size they are now,” said Craig Wilburn, a MILA board member. “I couldn’t get them to look me in the eye, I couldn’t get them to shake my hand, I couldn’t get them to do a lot of things. It is unbelievable the transformation these young men have experienced.” 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

Mirror Image Leadership Academy founder Greg Bradley speaking at the 2024 Gala on Thursday.
Photo by Lillian Hamman Mirror Image Leadership Academy founder Greg Bradley speaking at the 2024 Gala on Thursday.

Gainesville native Greg Bradley founded MILA, a three-year leadership academy for middle school-aged African American boys, back in 2021. The program includes five pillars—self- image, purpose, faith, character, and work ethic—emphasized as scholars progress through a series of trips exposing them to local, national and international communities and career opportunities. 

During Thursday’s event, Bradley emphasized the positive change in the scholars is necessary for shaping a generation of successful Black men and begins by first recognizing that all men are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Daily affirmations taught to Mirror Image Leadership Academy scholars.
Photo by Lillian Hamman Daily affirmations taught to Mirror Image Leadership Academy scholars.

“We are not here to make them leaders. God already did that,” Bradley said. “We’re here to help them discover the leader that God already made them.” 

MILA graduate Travis Carter Jr. highlighted in his commencement speech that the academy, “created a forever brotherhood. I am proud to have experienced these three years with each of them.” 

Akeem Thompson Jr. is part of that brotherhood and says it’s now easier to dream about what’s next for him in life because of the values MILA instilled in him. 

“It shows young kids it’s better than going to the streets, and [it] tries to uplift young Black men to become better men,” Thompson said. “I was going through my dark stage in life, and it helped me uplift myself to be better than what my father and other older men in my life [were]…After this, I’m going to play professional football. Or if I don’t manage that, I’ll do real estate.” 

Earlier this month, the city announced its IMPACT GNV initiative to prevent gun violence would include a partnership with Mirror Image.  

“We’re real proud of the work y’all are doing and excited to be part of this from the early stages into this inaugural, wonderful event,” said Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward. “These young scholars that we honor here today, and will go out into the world and change it, they will make it better for the thoughts, actions, critical skills, and leadership traits they’ve been taught as part of this program.” 

The Mirror Image Leadership Academy inaugural graduation class at the 2024 Gala on Thursday.
Photo by Lillian Hamman The Mirror Image Leadership Academy inaugural graduation class at the 2024 Gala on Thursday.

MILA hopes to raise $500,000 to support a class of 75 students, 25 per program, next year. During the event, attendees were able to scan a QR code and give to the academy, resulting in $18,000 in new funding. Proceeds from gala tickets and an auction with prizes from community sponsors also kickstarted MILA toward the new goal.  

“The Bible says ‘Do not despise the days of small beginnings,” Wilburn said, reflecting on the first class of graduates and funding for next year. “This is our small beginning right here.”  

2024 Mirror Image Leadership Academy graduates: 

  • Demetric Bass 
  • Travis Carter Jr. 
  • Samuel Dunmore 
  • Isadore Foreman Jr. 
  • Alshawn Amari Kitchen 
  • Kwamane Nichols 
  • Yunel Rojas 
  • Sinatra Shaw 
  • Akeem Thompson Jr. 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments