On Monday night the 18-year-old William W. Bodine High School senior learned that she was selected among 300 students for the highly competitive Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship.
More than 34,000 high school seniors across the country applied.
"When I got the letter I was in shock. I was shaking. I was jumping up and down, screaming," Akayla described.
The scholarship takes care of all costs including tutition, room & board, and even other personal expenses for five years. Akayla has already won many presidential scholarships and has more than $2 million in offers.
She believes what made her stand out is her nonprofit called Dimplez 4 Dayz, Inc. She founded the youth-run organization when she was 13 years old.
Akayla was inspired to showcase youth in a positive light in the community. The organization hosts various events including turkey giveaways during the holidays and feeding the homeless.
She recently launched Dimplez Dreamz Youth Workforce Fellowship to deliver educational, employment and training services to 50 young adults. Akayla is also active in reducing the gun violence crisis in the city.
"I always loved helping people. I always noticed there were issues with my community and I knew I was a strong speaker and very much independent," she said.
Her principal, Michele Dawson, said Akayla always stood out as a natural leader. She said her whole school community is excited they can claim they helped produce a Gates scholar.
"The whole staff and all the students are proud of her. And it means so much to us especially as we've been going through the pandemic to have a bright spot," Dawson said.
Akayla applied to more than 25 universities including several historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Ivy League schools. She will announce her final decision on May 1.
She said the Gates scholarship is life-changing and she looks forward to continuing with her non-profit in college.
Akayla intends to study international business and she wants to use her degree to continue helping people.