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Alumni Spotlight: Meet Akeyjah Charles

YE alum Akeyjah Charles’ passion for photography led her to found her own photography business, The Key Images. “Being in YE allows you build a path for where you want to go. It allows you to take your ideas and make them reality.” Meet Akeyjah Charles. 

As a YE student: Akeyjah participated in YE’s Entrepreneurs in Residence program during her sophomore year at Atlanta’s South Gwinnett High School. Now a high school junior, she credits her teacher for encouraging her to apply for the YE program. “Ms. Thompson was more than just a teacher – she was an actual entrepreneur teaching from her own experience,” Akeyjah says. “I went into YE hesitantly, but I came out learning all the factors to build my own business.” 

Hands-on growth: At the end of the program, Akeyjah gained real-world experience during a Georgia-Pacific Studios internship in which she produced a commercial. “I learned a lot of patience, and I was able to see all of the elements come together for the final product,” she says. Now, Akeyjah has a vendor’s license for Youth Entrepreneurs photography under the umbrella of Georgia-Pacific and has taken photos of employees and buildings. 

Her YE mindset-shift moment: “YE built my public speaking confidence. I used to be shy, but during YE I did a lot of speaking in front of groups. Now, I’m not afraid to go up to someone to hand out my business card and share about what I do.” She has even been invited to speak at a local YMCA and share her experiences with students. 

Why photography: “Ever since I was a kid, I loved, loved, loved photography!” Akeyjah smiles. “My mom is also a photographer, and she got me a small digital Kodak camera for Christmas when I was young. I’ve been asking for cameras every year since. I love capturing moments.” You can find Akeyjah’s latest photos on her Instagram.  

The Key Images now: A busy high school junior, Akeyjah recently was hired to shoot the South Gwinnett High School softball team’s photos. Her YE Classroom Volunteer, who is also a photographer, helped her price her photography, create a contract and decide how to package her services. “He was so helpful. It’s nice to have a connection to someone in my field to help develop my business.” 

Outside of school: Akeyjah enjoys participating in her school’s DECA club and being involved at her local church. She comes from a family of musicians and plays the saxophone in band at school. “My whole family is very creative. My brother and I have talked about starting a t-shirt company. He can design the shirts, and I’ll take the photos!” 

What’s next: Akeyjah plans to major in business management and accounting in college. She wants to build on her Youth Entrepreneurs knowledge to be able to manage her own business. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to be in charge,” she laughs. 

Her YE passion: “I think anyone who is indecisive about their future should participate in Youth Entrepreneurs,” Akejah says. “It helped me discover what I want to do, and now I know I can do it.” 

Explore more Alumni success stories on the YE blog.