Defender Network reporter receives award
Defender Network News Reporter Laura Onyeneho (left) and Olamide Kayode Founder of PAYA Houston (Right) at the PAYA Houston Honors Ball Photo: Sweetish Studios

Congratulations are in order for Defender education reporter Laura Onyeneho for being named one of the Top 20 Rising Stars by the Professional Association of Young Africans (PAYA Houston) on Nov. 27 at The Heights Villa.

The non-profit organization hosted its fifth annual Honors Ball ceremony with the theme “Moments to movements, recognizing leaders who are making waves in their respective careers and communities.” PAYA Houston also celebrated its 10-year anniversary since its launch in 2012 in Michigan and has expanded to other cities nationwide.

“Our goal is to promote and empower young Africans who are committed to excellence and have a share interest in Africa and community service,” said PAYA Houston’s Chief Operations Officer Teni Sulaiman. “We’re highlighting individuals who have taken specific moments of time in their careers and made an impact or significant change in their communities.”

It is an honor to be recognized for my contributions in the media and entertainment space. It has been a long and challenging journey but I’m glad to be in a space where I can continue telling our stories and keeping our communities informed with the support of the Defender Network.

Laura Onyeneho

Onyeneho joined the Defender in June 2021 as the education reporter and Under 40 channel publisher. She covers the city’s education system and news important to Houston’s Black community, while commanding stages and many cultural, educational and lifestyle events across the country.

She has covered numerous events and profiled influential people in Houston’s African community, including Igbo Fest, the premiere of the movie “Hyde Park,” the Battle of the Canvas live art event, SAiD Institute Shared Journey Conversations, Kemi OG and the Moment’s Project and Ayo Shofoluwe’s 20.10.20 Project in support of the #ENDSARS movement to name a few.

The master of ceremonies Joe B D Guy (Joseph Babalola) introduced the 20 Rising Stars from various professions, along with Honors Ball honoree and keynote speaker Banky Wellington, a musician, filmmaker and philanthropist.

More than 200 guests enjoyed the classy black-tie event with a power hour for networking, red carpet action covered by Afrocentriktv, a live speed painting presentation and auction by artist Leo “Degreat” Orji, West African delicacies by TNT catering and music by DJ Eclipse.

Onyeneho was one of two local journalists to be honored this year alongside Ugochi Iloka, reporter at KHOU 11.

“As we look into the future, we hope to tap into the international community. People who are in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, or anywhere where the diaspora lives,” said Sulaiman. “The sky is the limit for us.”