To see and hear Alexis Cooley, 17, of West Palm Beach, you would never know she once had little conﬁdence. This aspiring doctor is not deﬁned by the speech impediment she was born with. Instead, she is deﬁned by winning: winning in life, in spirit and in all things.
The William T. Dwyer High School upcoming senior recently won the Miss Lady of Futurity title, among scores of other beautiful and sensational young ladies from all over Palm Beach County. She also achieved a victory for all those who’ve been bullied, looked down upon, and suffered relentless taunts from those who ridicule others.
Since childhood, Alexis has had to deal with other children making fun of her stuttering. It made her want to be alone, withdraw, and just stay to herself. For years she did just that, suffering in isolation.
When her mother, Michelle Cooley, pushed her to join Ladies of Futurity (LOF) mentoring program, something happened. Alexis was stretched to her limits.
The 501c3 organization helps young ladies prepare for the future through selfesteem building, character development, social activism, leadership skills and more. Founders Tracey and Amaris Graham, a mother-daughter duo, set out to change lives eight years ago when they created the group, and they’ve seen changes from the start. Year upon year, they’ve watched shy and timid girls turn into conﬁdent, success-bound young ladies poised for college and amazing careers.
Alexis is among them.
“My dream is to be a pediatrician,” said Alexis, who is also a track and ﬁeld player who wants to pursue sports medicine at the University of Georgia. “I love being around young children. I want to help them.”
Although the Grahams have seen this scenario play out each year, Alexis’ situation underscored the signiﬁcance of their hopes and dreams for the young lives they touch.
“At ﬁrst, I was uncomfortable being around so many people because I was afraid of being ridiculed,” Alexis said.
“But once I joined LOF, they taught me to be my own person and to stand up for who I am. The other girls encouraged me, letting me know that everyone else has an issue they’re facing.
“Yes, I stutter, but it doesn’t deﬁne who I am. Now, I give speeches, I give presentations, and now I am the ﬁrst to speak up,” she added. “LOF gave me the tools and steps to turn into the person I am now.”
Taking on leadership roles is one of the skills taught in Ladies of Futurity. Partici- pants also learn ﬁnancial responsibility, life skills, community service and even social activism and social media responsibility. They discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and processed feelings about George Floyd and racism.
Tracey Graham says her goal is to prepare young ladies for the next phase in their lives in all matters. The program even equips the seniors with computers, refrigerators, bedding and all supplies needed for their ﬁrst foray into college life. They’re provided a personalized trunk full of goods donning each girl’s name and the LOF logo.
The annual Ladies of Futurity Cotillion provides a night of beauty, elegance and a showcase of the girls. They are joined onstage by young male escorts who are taught respect for the young ladies. Last year’s presentation was not held due to the covid pandemic. This year the 2020 and 2021 girls were celebrated together. Alexis was crowned the Cotillion winner during the June ceremony at the Eissey Theatre on the campus of Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens.
Amaris Graham, 25, who co-founded the group with her mother Tracey, says they feel a sense of accomplishment with Ladies of Futurity.
“We’ve changed their lives, given them bigger dreams and goals, and now they’re out there achieving them.”