The YOU Awards International (The YA’s) is a non-profit organization that was specifically designed to provide support and recognition to young people who stand out in their communities, but have not truly been celebrated. Every day, we as a society are flooded with negative images and stories, and are rarely shown the positive; the goal of our organization is to bring those positive images and stories to the forefront by seeking out extraordinary youth. This is done through research, as well recommendations by individuals, schools and other organizations. We honor our prodigies with a trophy and one-time monetary gift—a merit award—during our annual awards show, as they are recognized for their talents in academics, sports, business, fine arts, entertainment, technology and community service.

Michelle Ellis started this organization after several amazing years volunteering with the world-renowned Trumpet Awards. She has always appreciated the idea of recognizing people who stood out in their respective fields of work. But her thought was to take this concept to the next level by recognizing youth who may be considered “ordinary” as there’s no fame associated with them, but are extraordinary because of their everyday accomplishments. The YOU Awards International recognizes seven talented youth from every walk of life, with honorees currently selected from the states of Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, as we intended to expand our reach in the very near future. The youth are our future, and we want to share their stories and reflect on the journeys that got them to where they are today.

Everyone has a light to shine—join us today, and help young people shine even brighter.

Make a Donation

Donate electronically, or by mail to:
43 Community Square Blvd, PO Box 721
Villa Rica, GA 30180


Join our team, and help us bring smiles to the faces of deserving youth each year.

Become a Sponsor

Contact us at (404) 906-5783, or email to learn more.

Our mission: to recognize and support the education of young members of our society who have chosen an exceptional path, and have performed outstanding works in their communities.

Our purpose: to annually acknowledge our youth both locally and nationally, who know no boundaries and at a young age, have excelled in various areas from academics, to community service and beyond, becoming role models and inspiring people of all ages.

Michelle Ellis

President & Founder

Michelle Ellis is the Founder and President of The YOU Awards International, and is also the co-owner of the Ellis Modeling & Talent Agency.

Michelle was born and raised in New Orleans, LA where she studied modeling, acting and broadcast journalism, honing her skills in journalism and business at Xavier University. Upon graduating, she would go on to develop her marketing and sales experience through stints at ABC, CBS and NBC news affiliates, as well as Cox Communications. Michelle’s love and passion for others is what keeps her going every day; she volunteers with various organizations including the famed Trumpet Awards Foundation. Her willingness to help others shine gave her the idea to create The YOU Awards International, where the organization shines a bright light on the extraordinary youth in our communities.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”


Michelle carries this idea with her every day, and while this is only the beginning for her, she won’t be satisfied until she has touched thousands of lives along the way. Another quote she lives by comes from T.D. Jakes who said, “Live your life without limits and let history explain how you did it.” This she intends to do.

In the midst of her many accomplishments, she has the honor of raising her two beautiful and intelligent young daughters with her extremely supportive husband, and she strives to be a role model for all of them. Michelle knows without a doubt that she is blessed, and understands that to those whom much is given, much is required. She also recognizes that it takes a village to make a big impact.

You too can make a difference. Join her and The YOU Awards International team, and help them champion all that is good with our young people of today!

Maria De La Fuente

Vice President

Maria DeLaFuente is a consummate professional with an extensive background and a varied career. Born in Germany and reared in Spain, Maria has traveled the globe and spent time savoring the cultures of many countries. Fluent in Spanish, she grew up speaking five languages, and these language skills were a perfect fit for her during her career at CNN, as well as with the Trumpet Awards and Xernona Clayton Foundations, where she served as Executive Director. She also served as the executive & personal assistant to the chairperson, CEO and president Xernona Clayton for more than 13 years. She had been affiliated with the Trumpet Awards since its inception in 1993 at the age of 26, utilizing her excellent skills in development, strategic planning, production and logistics for the implementation of the award-winning annual presentation.

Maria is the Managing Principal and Chief Consultant of 5 Star Eventz, a full-service boutique event firm, and also freelances as a personal assistant to high-profile clients. She is a graduate of Georgia State University, holds several certifications including the CMP designation, and is the mother of three children. Her passion is traveling the world, and teaching English and Spanish to international students. Her knowledge and skills are invaluable to The YOU Awards International team.

Nena Bermudez


Nena Bermudez is a certified school counselor and fourth grade teacher, and has worked with children and families in educational and social services for more than twenty years. She has also served as the account manager for Studio Named Bermudez, a multidisciplinary design firm in Atlanta, GA which specializes in graphic design and custom awards. Nena taught catechism to elementary school children for 10 years, and her proudest accomplishment is being the first teacher, advocate and mother of her three amazing children. Nena’s expertise in working with kids brings a very high level of greatness to The YOU Awards International team.

Silvia Goodman


Silvia Goodman is a Senior Account Executive for a Fortune 500 Media Company. With 30 years of experience, her career has thrived through multiple media venues from broadcast to cable networks, and several non-profit organizations ranging from neighborhood civic groups to national organizations such as The American Red Cross and The United Way. In both her corporate and philanthropic careers through sales, marketing, public relations and fundraising, she specialized in the identification of talent, donors and business by training, leading and developing teams, and giving moving and inspirational speeches and presentations that often led to generating nontraditional revenue and clients.

When she’s not selling or volunteering, Silvia enjoys spending time with Sean, her husband of many years, and their son Sean Jr. She loves spinning, TV, commercials, reading, movies, all sports, baking, snowballs and her hometown of New Orleans. She believes in the power of prayer and positive thinking, and her life has been energized by the firm belief that she has been blessed–it’s her responsibility to be a blessing to others. This is why we are very excited to have her as part of The YOU Awards International team.

Katina Johnson

Director of Development

Katina Johnson currently serves as Human Resources Manager, USA & Latin America for T.D. Williamson. Before working for T.D. Williamson, Mrs. Johnson served as Regulatory Compliance Manager and Internal Auditor of the AssuranceAmerica Corporation from March 2006 to January 2014, and as the Regulatory Compliance Specialist for the Treasure Chest Casino, a Boyd Gaming Corporation, from 1999 to 2006. She also has more than 25 years of experience as a professional dancer and choreographer, serving as an instructor for the Ballethnic Academy of Dance from August 2006 to May 2014, and owned and managed Rhythms School of Dance in New Orleans, Louisiana for several years.

Katina earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Dillard University, and a Master of Science degree in Human Resources Management from Southern New Hampshire University. She is also a member of Top Ladies of Distinction, Incorporated. Her experience as a fervent volunteer, choreographer and entrepreneur brings a lot of support and vision to The YOU Awards International team. When she’s not working, Katina enjoys spending time with her three beautiful children. We are blessed beyond measure to have her.

Dr. Chayla

Harris Gaines

Director of Public Affairs

Dr. Chayla Harris Gaines, is a wellbeing professional and staunch advocate for diverse, equitable and inclusive healthcare. She is a graduate of Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, North Georgia College and State University; where she earned a Master of Science in Physical Therapy and Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, where she received her doctorate in Health Promotion and Wellness. Dr. Harris Gaines also serves on the board of A Dancer’s Heart and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Her love and appreciation for the arts is anchored in years of extensive dance training at Spelman College’s Dance Ext. Program and continued training at Ballethnic Academy of Dance where she instructed classes and mentored students for over 15 years. She is thrilled to share her gifts and talents and serve as a member of the board of The YOU Awards International.

Carla Graham

Director of Special Events

Carla Graham is a native of New Orleans, LA, but has lived in Houston, TX for the past several years. Carla is a PK-12 ELA Resource teacher for Aldine Independent School District, previously serving as a diagnostician secretary for eight years, the Financial Secretary for Truevine Missionary Baptist Church for three years, and five years as the Assistant Controller for the Queen and Crescent, a boutique hotel in New Orleans. She earned her Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Eastern Gateway Community College, her Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical and Applied Studies from Ohio University, and her Teacher Certification through the Teaching Excellence Alternative Certification Program. Carla’s love of education and children says a lot about who she is—a very warm, giving and loving individual. When she’s is not working, she’s spending time with her husband two wonderful kids. Carla has a beautiful spirit with a giving heart, and is a valued asset to The YOU Awards International team.