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  • Writer's pictureKatie Madyun

From Quiet Observer to Vocal Leader

Original story written by Jamie Levin and published in Smart Girl Stories.

What does one think of when they think of a peach? For me, the idea of a bit of a tough outer skin – a little difficult to break through – and sweet inside immediately come to mind. Perhaps that’s why Tajelia Green was given the nickname Peaches because that is who she is…it’s spot on.

In 2016, Student ACES, a 501c3 with the mission to create CHAMPIONS, was introduced to a female student-athlete from Belle Glade. She had a presence about her yet kept to herself; her eyes twinkled, and her smile lit up a room…when she smiled. She had a tough outer shell; why she didn’t smile more and engage with others was a mystery. The Student ACES team was determined to find out because the world, specifically the Belle Glade community, needed someone like Tajelia “Peaches” Green.

The Student ACES Flagship Program

Tajelia participated in the Student ACES Flagship Program. The ACE Flagship Program joins high school student-athletes from across Palm Beach County to further develop their leadership skills. The program is a 20-hour course that takes place on four distinct days throughout the school year. Upon successful completion of the program, student-athletes will understand what it means to be champions.

  • Command Respect

  • Honor your Word

  • Aspire to Greatness

  • Maintain Courage

  • Possess a Strong Work Ethic

  • Inspire Others

  • Own a Winning Attitude

  • Never Settle

  • Sacrifice for self and others

The first day of the class Tajelia observed. She closely watched everything, and everyone around her. Not one peep. She was a bit standoffish, she had her guard up. The team was stumped – why wasn’t she speaking? Why didn’t she engage? Was she uncomfortable in the setting?

To be eligible for the program, students are nominated by their coaches and/or administration. The team was baffled – how was a student who was so quiet standing out? For some, it’s those who observe first – using their eyes and ears to listen to take in all that they are surrounded by – and act second who have the biggest impact…perhaps that was it.

The second day of the program, still no interaction with the ACE team, but the students gravitated towards her…they wanted to know more. But even when students approached her, she didn’t engage, at least not with her voice. Her tough outer layer remained. She was still intently and intentionally observing everything that was going on in the room. Whenever a guest speaker took the stage, her body language changed, and her eyes did not stray – she was listening, she was present, and she was engaged.

On the third day of the program, everything changed, and the team saw the real Peaches, as they have come to know and love, come out of her shell (or her skin since we’re using the comparison to an actual peach). She spoke with intention, she was a leader, she was brutally honest – yet still sweet (just like the peach), and she respectfully challenged for the greater good. On the fourth day, we think you can guess what happened.

Helping Fellow Students To Find A Better Way

While Peaches struggled to overcome obstacles that were created for her by others, she took those lessons with her to help her fellow students find a better way. For the next two years, Peaches was the voice of the ACES in the program, participating in the internship program and taking advantage of every opportunity that was presented to her. She recruited students to the program and shared with them why they should join her. She knew what the students needed, what the community needed, and what Student ACES needed – not just what we needed, but how we would get there. Her tough outer layer remained because that’s one of the many amazing things about Peaches – she knew who she was, and she wanted to better understand her surroundings and people before softening up a little.

Following high school graduation, Peaches attended FAMU and studied social work. While in college, she mentored students in the program and helped the team understand what the students and the community needed when opening The Student ACES Center, our first and only physical location located in Belle Glade. She continued to lead from afar and ran the internship program over the summers while she was home. She was consistent in a community where inconsistency is expected.

A True Leader

Today, a proud graduate of FAMU and the Student ACES program, Peaches continues to lead, only now she does not lead from afar. She has returned home, although staying away may have been easier. In July 2023, because she knew the students and the community needed her, Peaches joined the Student ACES staff as a Program Manager at The Student ACES Center (The SAC), an afterschool and summer program that serves teenage student-athletes from the Glades Region. The SAC is a safe, stable, and nurturing environment offering innovative programs. At The SAC, she is The Passport to Winning Program Manager, where she supports students throughout their journey with an innovative and research-backed program with hands-on tasks in 7 different guiding principles – academic success, career readiness, college prep, health and wellness, mental health, character development, and personal development.

And while people know her for being sweet and caring that tough outer layer remains. The full circle continues…

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