Her time as Miss Florida A&M was sweet on the outside, but inside, she was coping with the painful loss of her brother Tynell to cancer. NaKena Cromartie, a 23-year-old alumna of FAMU’s School of Business and Industry, demonstrates the benefits of working hard despite adversity.
“My brother’s passing was one of the hardest things I have ever had to overcome in life thus far,” she said. “I was left feeling lonely, abandoned… but I remembered that my brother looked up to me as much as I looked up to him.”
He was her biggest fan, and she said his support helped propel her through most of her current achievements.
Cromartie didn’t come to FAMU with her eyes on the crown. Her earliest roles on campus were a resident assistant for Truth Hall and a business leader for the Omega Xi chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity Inc.
It wasn’t until she arrived at FAMU that she considered vying for the position and all of its accompanying responsibility. Her goals had been to learn, make friends and graduate with a job opportunity.
“I wasn’t raised back at home idolizing the chance at becoming Miss FAMU either,” said Cromartie, a first-generation FAMU student. “I simply saw a position that entailed leadership, humility, and grace; and I thought to myself, ‘Why not go for it.'”
During her reign as Miss FAMU, NaKena Cromartie launched community initiatives in and around the university, including the “Truly FAMU” Quilt.
“I wanted to offer a way for students to connect with FAMU and share their love for the institution,” she said. “It was also important for me to create a way for the student body to leave something significant behind after their time on ‘The Hill.'”
Ariel Larmond, the 2012-2013 senior attendant, said she believes Cromartie’s “great character and integrity” make her a living legend for the university. “NaKena Cromartie embodies this and inspires me to do the same as I take on my title,” Larmond said.
Former sophomore class president Alfred Henderson said he looks up to Cromartie. “She is truly an inspiration to not only our Rattler family but to local communities, shelters, and other institutions,” said Henderson, a third-year SBI student. “As a student leader, she has taught me how to remain transparent.”
Dominyece Gregory, a first-year criminal justice student from Washington, DC, said, ” NaKena is a beautiful person inside and out, not knowing her on a personal basis, but watching her around campus she inspires me to one day become a role model for my peers. I see how people admire her grace and beauty, not to mention she is academically sound.”
Cromartie said she tries to stay grounded as a person, but she said she plans to take more chances. “My nervousness also comes from taking risk and trying new opportunities that I typically would not engage in,” Cromartie said, but, “I’ve notice that I need to live life to the fullest. You only live once.”
In the fall, she will be taking the Certified Public Accountant exam, and in January, she plans to start working with premier accounting firm Deloitte in Tampa. She also hopes someday to work in the fashion industry.
With the memories of her biggest fan in mind, this young woman plans to make the best life she can. “One thing about my brother is that regardless of any and everything I set my mind to, my brother was the No. 1 person in line to support me,” Cromartie said. “My brother’s passing has motivated me to strive to do more, be more, and achieve more. I look forward to living life to the fullest as did he.”