By Phoenix Staff

Utica resident Na’Jaia Engram is a Utica and Study Buddy Club success story. Currently a senior at Proctor High School, she is headed off to college in the Fall of 2021, and will major in Music with a minor in Business Administration.

Na’Jaia Engram as a freshman with fellow Study Buddies, Ana and Naomi Romero, in the Linwood Pl. Community Garden during their Summer Reading Program. The books were provided by local author Shawn Pominville.

Her grandmother, Kim Baynard, described Na’Jaia as a born artist, someone with a love for performing and a rising star in her own right, adding that the Business Administration studies will serve to both support her artistic goals and as a possible second career while her goals in the arts unfold.

Na’Jaia  has not yet made her final decision on where to attend college, but she has been accepted to Delaware State, her first choice school. She is also considering Howard University, SUNY Oneonta, Hamilton College, Virginia State, Spellman, North Carolina A&T, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

Nai’Jaia’s success and focus is due to a combination of natural talent, hard work, and family and community support, including Na’Jaia’s mother Aleisha Troutman. Na’Jaia comes from a family of artists and began to show aptitude for the arts at age four.

“She was four when I first noticed she could hold a tune,” Baynard said. “The song ‘Soldier,’ by Beyonce was a favorite at the time. Nai’Jaia sang what she could grasp at four years old. I hardly think she understood what the words meant, but she sang the song as she understood it.”

By age nine, Na’Jaia had begun singing in church, in the junior choir, and in school. In the third grade, Na’Jaia began studying the violin.

“She really has a love for performing,” Baynard said. When Na’Jaia entered high school, she became active in the Show Choir and the Drama Club. Na’Jaia has also been active in basketball, playing the violin, the Mohawk Valley Junior Frontiers, and held a part-time job while in high school.

Baynard attributes Mohawk Valley Junior Frontiers’ mentors in helping shape her granddaughter’s life. “They help kids learn skills and hold them accountable,” she said.

Na’Jaia came into the group in the ninth grade and is still participating today.

Na’Jaia’s involvement in the Study Buddy Club began when she started tagging along with her sister, Emajinae Troutman.

“It was a supporting piece of helping with homework, and teaching her to carve out time for homework. She also credits the Study Buddy Club with guiding Na’Jaia on the path to researching and selecting the right college

“As a onetime volunteer, I would accompany them to Hamilton College and saw up close and personal how important it was to have high school students interact with college students,” Baynard noted. “For many students, they want to go to college, but don’t visit the campuses, they don’t know what it’s really like.”

Baynard encourages her granddaughter and everyone in the class of 2021 to envision what they want to be in life and stick to their own vision of what they want to be, guided by God. She further encourages Na’Jaia and her peers to avoid people who seem unwilling to work toward goals, or who seem stuck in old patterns that do not benefit them or society. We don’t get what we want without setting goals and setting a timeline to work from,” she reminds them. “I wish you all the brightest future and the best chance to do what nobody else has done.”

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