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Twanna “T-Fay” Dewdney

Distinguished Alumnus December 2016

Twanna “T-Fay” Dewdney is a local business owner and community activist. She earned her Polk State Associate in Arts degree in 2011, and a Bachelor of Applied Science in 2013. She is the first baccalaureate program graduate to be recognized as a Polk State Distinguished Alumna.

Dewdney graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1986. She started at Polk on a volleyball and basketball scholarship, but eventually dropped out. Due to blemishes on her record, her work options were limited. She had always had an interest in working with hair, so she went to beauty school and became a licensed cosmetologist.

Dewdney, a single parent, developed a rare condition at the end of her pregnancy where she lost her sight. Only eight known cases have been reported in the United States, and she is one of only two survivors. Miraculously, her sight was regained four days after her daughter was born.

After working at several salons, Dewdney’s brothers built her a salon of her own. She named the salon after her daughter, Ashanti, who had become a catalyst of change in her life. In 2016, Salon Ashanti celebrated twelve years in business.

After the miracles surrounding the birth of her daughter, Dewdney recognized that God had a purpose for her. She returned to Polk State to finish her education, and even appeared in the College’s “We Are Polk” ad campaign.

With a renewed focus on serving others, Dewdney has used her salon as a community resource in the Florence Villa neighborhood. She began Project Park Bench as a drive where items could be brought to the salon for donation to the homeless, eventually filling a park bench. She set the bench in her salon and discreetly told her co-workers and customers about it. By the end of the first week, the bench was covered with blankets, scarves, and caps. Items were donated to the Mission of Winter Haven. The project is now in its fourth year and continues to grow.

Dewdney is a passionate advocate for individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She had a cousin who died alone of AIDS, having moved away after the diagnosis so as not to hurt his family. Recognizing that lack of education about this disease can separate families, Dewdney became licensed to administer HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. She now provides testing and educational resources in her salon.

Dewdney is also active in her community. She received the Girls Inc. of Winter Haven “She Knows Where She’s Going” Award in 2014, and now sits on its board of directors. She was instrumental in bringing “Tallahassee Nights Live” to Winter Haven, where musicians perform a variety of genres to large community audiences.

Dewdney is a dedicated member of Hurst Chapel AME Church, serving as an usher and a licensed minister, and is involved with the women’s prison ministry and Willing Workers Committee. She has received numerous awards for her service to the community and her success as a small business owner.