Each year at COA’s Oscar Night Hollywood Gala, we honor one amazing participant from across all COA programs with the Rising Star Award. This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate what it means to reach their greatest potential. This year, we honor Lailaa Crockerhan for her incredible leadership and growth in COA’s youth program. Through her outstanding dedication to her music, peers, and school, Lailaa embodies COA’s holistic mission to serve children, strengthen families, and build our Milwaukee community.
Lailaa Crockerhan is a 12-year-old student at Milwaukee Math & Science Academy, and a longtime participant in COA’s preteen program at the Riverwest Center. Lailaa has made COA history by being the youngest person ever to win COA’s Rising Star Award! Lailaa started attending COA when she was just seven years old, with her mom’s support and encouragement. From the time Lailaa first got involved in the Riverwest preteen program, she has been very involved in a wide range of activities including Making Proud Choices, dance, STEM, and COA’s Music and Video Production program. Throughout the years, COA staff have proudly watched Lailaa grow from being a “quiet kid” to being the “smart, creative, respectful young woman” she is today.
“Every day, Lailaa comes to COA with a smile on her face and a positive attitude – brightening the day of everyone around her.”
Though she may be young, Lailaa’s confidence and determination makes her a role model for her peers and younger children at COA. Every day, Lailaa comes to COA with a smile on her face and a positive attitude – brightening the day of everyone around her. She is always very respectful to program staff and other participants. Brad Van Pay, COA’s Youth Development Manager, said that in all of his time at COA he has not had one single experience with Lailaa where she has acted out, adding that she is a “very good communicator” who positively mediates issues with her peers and staff. Day in and day out, Lailaa sets a strong example by following directions without push back, and by staying on task to get her work done. Being open-minded has helped Lailaa explore her talents and develop her skills at COA.
Lailaa is passionate about rap and dance, and hopes to one day become a famous rapper. Her favorite activities at COA are writing and producing her own songs through the Music and Video Production program – activities Lailaa works diligently at. Lailaa’s program teacher Mr. Van Pay remarked, “When Lailaa is working on a project, she takes her time to make sure it is exactly the way she wants it.
Through her hard work, COA staff have watched Lailaa grow as a “very intelligent” and “mindful” songwriter and performer. Mr. Van Pay said that Lailaa’s lyrics are “very relatable to her life and what’s going on in our world.” In the past year, Lailaa has performed her songs live to wide audiences at venues throughout Milwaukee. Lailaa performs her songs on stage with passion and dedication – the same passion and dedication she brings to all areas of her life.
Mr. Van Pay feels that Lailaa is the “perfect example” of how beneficial the programs at COA can be for a child who is determined to succeed. Not only is Lailaa thriving at COA, she is thriving in school as well. When asked if she has any advice for her peers, Lailaa responded, “to not care what anybody thinks about your dreams because in the end, it is all about you and your dreams.” Congratulations, Lailaa!