We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Ellis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, what do you want your legacy to be?
The legacy that I would like to leave behind is one filled with grace, determination and perseverance. I want people to know that while I was on this earth, I did my best to uplift humanity. That I was intentional in all of my work, actions, deeds and efforts. I believe this is one of the reasons why I started The YOU Awards International nonprofit organization. It was out of a need for me to give back with love and appreciation to the community in which I serve and to leave a legacy. I have always recognized how hard it is for young people to work towards their goals and actually achieve them. Sometimes they need a little support and other times they just need to know that people see them and appreciate them. This is the reason why our organization seeks out and spotlights outstanding young people in the community. We are all about encouraging our young future leaders. I do the same with my own two daughters. I want my daughters to know that it’s good to be a good human being. That hard work does pay off and that people are always watching and wanting them to succeed. When it comes to the question about what do I want people to remember about me? I want people to remember that I am a woman who enjoys life! That if you put good into the atmosphere, you will get good back. Also, that life is about choices. You can choose to be positive or negative. I choose to be positive. Lastly, I just want people to remember that I just care about people.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am the Founder and President of The YOU Awards International nonprofit organization. We join together with the community to seek out and honor outstanding youth in our various communities. Each year we come together and celebrate the accomplishments of our young people through our annual awards show. The year 2020 was a little different because of the pandemic, however we were still able to celebrate the youth virtually. I am proud of the fact that the idea of starting a nonprofit for youth was a dream about 7 years ago that became reality. I have always been a person who enjoys celebrating people. Anytime an award show was on television I was watching. So, it was only fitting that I would create an award show that airs on television celebrating outstanding youth. Through the nonprofit program we are able to give the youth merit money, a trophy, support and recognition. The youth use the merit money for school, their own nonprofits or whatever their need is. Getting to where we are today was a process that continues daily. I actually received encouragement to start this nonprofit from a renown civil rights leader who is a mentor to me and currently runs her own nonprofit. My mentor also had an award show that aired around the world in many countries for over 25 years. Working with my mentor gave me the confidence that I could create something like this for young people. Prayerfully I was able to do so and I am so grateful. One of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way is to just keep pushing for greatness because it will eventually come. If there was one final thing, I could leave with people it is the fact that we can all contribute to society in our own way. Find what you love to do and go for it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week-long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had friends coming to town and we weren’t in a pandemic, I would take them to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum, The Carter Center, The King Center, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, World of Coca-Cola and we would eat at The Capital Grille, The Cheesecake Factory and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. After all of this we would carve out one day to check out a great movie in the theater. I know everyone would have a wonderful time because Atlanta has so much to offer.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Success is an ongoing process and there are people along my journey that have been instrumental in all of my accomplishments starting with my parents Patrick and Elizabeth Cousin Jr., my husband Steven Ellis and my two daughters Raven & Sofia Ellis. In addition to these individuals, I have the great honor of working with six ladies on The YOU Awards International Board which include Katina Johnson, Carla Graham, Nena Bermudez, Maria DeLaFuente, Silvia Goodman and Danielle Lee. All of these individuals have had a major/positive impact on my life and my mission.