Keniece Gray
Photo by Victor Powell.

5 questions with… international sorority leader, senior Keniece Gray

Keniece Gray
Photo by Victor Powell.

The decision to pursue membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority Inc. was a natural one for Keniece Gray.

Many of her family members and mentors who were involved in Alpha Kappa Alpha, which is the first the first Greek-letter sorority established by African-American women (in 1908).

Today, the sorority remains committed to initiatives on which it was founded: cultivating high scholastic and ethical standards, promoting unity and friendship amongst college women, leadership development, and implementing programs internationally to make a positive global impact.

But it was the organization’s emphasis on bettering the Greater Cleveland community through service that most moved Gray, a native Clevelander and an avid volunteer.

“I really care about uplifting the community and leadership development. Alpha Kappa Alpha is my platform to serve,” said Gray, who is in an undergraduate in the accelerated/integrated masters of accountancy program at the Weatherhead School of Management. “If I can use that platform to make the city even better, or do even greater things, I want to do that.”

Having served as standards chairman, vice president and president of the CWRU chapter and coordinator of the undergraduate Northern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania cluster, Gray realized she could—and wanted to—do more for Alpha Kappa Alpha, which operates under the mission of, “To be of service to all mankind.”

This summer, after campaigning for months and giving a speech at Alpha Kappa Alpha’s 67th bi-annual meeting in Atlanta, Gray was elected to serve on the directorate as the international second vice-president.

Now a senior, she serves on a Board of Directors composed of 18 women working for 993 chapters and more than 283,000 members around the world. Gray will advocate for undergraduate members, ensuring they have the resources they need to implement the sorority’s international platform, “Launching New Dimensions of Service,” and to be successful in their sisterhood, scholarship and service. Additionally, she will serve on AKA’s International Program and Finance Committees as well as the Educational Advancement Foundation Program Committee.

“Once I got to experience this sisterhood beyond Cleveland and I started serving at a regional level, I had the opportunity to see what we do around the world—this is not just in Cleveland,” she said.

In her new role, Gray says sees the true depth of service the sorority provides on the international level, which is the aspect she loves most.

“Wherever the community needs us, that is where we’ll go,” Gray said.

The Omega chapter, Cleveland’s city-wide chapter of AKA, provides service at least twice a month. Members aim to address needs within the community and around the world, whether it’s volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House or sewing dresses for young girls in Africa.

Gray’s favorite service projects involve working with youth to help them prepare for college by making vision boards to plan for their future, study for college entrance exams and more. Through all of her involvements, Gray strives to make a difference in her community.

“I wanted to be what other people were to me, to somebody else. My parents and my family, they always built me up to know you always bring someone with you along the way,” she said. “I knew that if I were to stay in Cleveland, one thing I wanted to do was reach back into my neighborhood.”

While Gray plans to sit for the LSAT and CPA exams in the spring, she hasn’t completely decided on her future career path. One element is certain: She wants to keep helping the community.

At some point, she’d like to establish a consulting firm to give urban youth the educational and pre-professional resources they need to succeed.

“As I grow, the more I realize nothing really is about me,” she said. “Yeah, I’m at CWRU to get this degree, but at the end of the day, God placed me here it’s so I can start a career to help others.”

Get to know more about Gray with this week’s five questions.

1. Who has been your most influential mentor?

It’s definitely my mother. She’s everyone’s rock. She will go out of her way to help anyone and helps young women find themselves. She always encourages people, especially women and youth, to use their voice and stand for what’s right.

Every softball game, summer club commencement, talent show, spelling bee—whatever—she was always there. She showed me you can work, have a family, do service—she’s Superwoman.

She showed me you can be strong and independent, and yet you can depend on other people. She really taught me how to be a strong woman—a well-rounded individual. Everyone thinks she’s the sweetest person—so I know it’s not just because she’s my mom.

Now that my brother and I are out of the house away at college, I’m really hoping her and my dad get to do whatever they  did not get a chance to while raising us.

2. What was your first job?

I was a cashier at Office Max in high school.  I used to sell computers, pens, and even furniture.  I was the  “Max Assurance” champion for four months in a row at one period. I think I sold over 70 insurance policies on various products.

My mom always says that when I was 3 years old, I told her my dream was to be a Kmart cashier —I ended up at Office Max, so I guess I was living the dream.

3. Who is your favorite author?

My two favorite books and authors are Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and The Coldest Winter Ever by Mildred D. Taylor and Sister Souljah, respectively.

4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?

I love to travel and eat. Food is my hobby. I’m also really into fitness because I’m learning I can’t eat how I eat forever.

But more than that, it would be hanging with family and friends. My best days are the days I get everything done I need to for the day.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The EXCEL Club [an organization Gray founded for African-American and other minority students to develop business skills and relationships]. I’ve been here for four years and I started that club last year. The EXCEL Club made me feel like I had a point to be here on CWRU’s campus. As a minority student, there are a number of issues we face on campus, and up until last year, I really was not comfortable as a student, per se. When I founded The EXCEL Club, that started to shift because I felt like my purpose on campus was finally greater than being a statistic.