2022 Social Justice Youth Award Winners
Published on January 19, 2022
On January 18, the City Commission recognized eight extraordinary youth for their achievements and leadership towards racial and social justice. The Social Justice Youth Awards are given annually as part of Kalamazoo’s celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These young leaders exemplify Dr. King’s values through their community service and volunteerism.
The awards are presented by each of the program’s sponsors: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Consumers Energy, Fifth Third Bank, Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War, Life EMS, Lodge-Dennis, and Schupan & Sons. Additionally, one award this year was sponsored by the CSM Group and presented by Dr. Lewis Walker, a trailblazer for the progression of racial equity in Kalamazoo.
A recording of the awards presentation is available on the City of Kalamazoo’s YouTube Channel.
Congratulations to this year’s award recipients! Read about their accomplishments below (listed in order of presentation):
Ms. Brooke Edwards
award presented by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Ms. Edwards is vibrant, a stellar student, competitive athlete, role model and actively involved in social justice work. She is currently in the top 10 of the class of 2023 with a 4.1 grade-point average. Brooke serves as a member of the Kalamazoo Central High School Link Crew. As a member of Link Crew, she mentors freshmen transitioning into high school. She served as a youth advisor for the Youth Mobility Fund via KYDNET to help find solutions for youth who use bus transportation in Kalamazoo. She is also a member of the Greenleaf Trust Wealth Development Club.
Brooke believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that all people should be treated fair and equal. She is not afraid to speak out against violence or injustice of any kind. She does it with love and kindness. Ms. Edwards has been involved in MLK Community-wide Celebration and day of service, has volunteered with ISSAC -Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action and Residential Opportunities Incorporated - Serving individuals with autism and developmental disabilities.
Mr. Devin Porter
award presented by Consumers Energy
Devin is an inspiring young leader in our community. Devin stands out for his leadership among his peers at Portage Central High School. Serving as a Link leader, helping 9th grade students transitioning to High School, a Peer-to-Peer mentor helping students model excellent social and educational behaviors and as a founder of JEDI (Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion).
His work with JEDI in particular has led to meaningful conversations that have extended beyond the school doors to the community as a whole. Through Devin’s leadership, JEDI has hosted difficult discussions, formed a letter to the school board and planned community events, engaging diverse groups. He has taken the work of understanding others difference even further, partnering with the Ginsberg Society to understand and celebrate holidays of different religious groups.
Leaders like Devin will no doubt carry on the legacy of social justice in our community. Devin was nominated by Ashley Bowen, a teacher from Portage Central.
Mr. Cameron Moore
award presented by Fifth Third
Cameron stands out with his commitment to volunteerism. Focused through organizations like Jeter’s Leaders, Peace House, and the KC Special Olympics, the list of volunteer activities led by Cameron is impressive and inspiring. Cameron has accumulated over 500 hours of volunteer time with Jeter’s Leaders alone.
Cameron was nominated by Dr. Harold T. Swift of Jeter’s Leaders, who noted, “Cameron has been able to maintain being a standout athlete in soccer and basketball at Kalamazoo Central High School while still serving in the greater Kalamazoo community.”
Cameron’s ability to balance both his personal interests and the interests which benefit his entire community demonstrate a maturity beyond his years.
Ms. Justine Barnard
award presented by Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War
Justine has worked to increase voter participation by connecting drivers and voters to help them reach the polls on election day.
Justine seeks out educational opportunities and applied for and was a finalist for the Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar in Black and ethnic studies, she applied for, and was accepted to, the Yiddish Book Center Great Jewish Books program, and this year is studying abroad in Germany as a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholar.
Justine demonstrates an understanding and respect for diverse backgrounds in her interactions with others. She seeks out educational opportunities to learn more about diversity, such as researching cash bail's impact on communities of color and participating in a community forum on local bond practices.
In addition to these actions, Justine has also participated in the following activities: she has been a Youth Mobility Ambassador participant for the Youth Development Network; she has been a childcare volunteer at the YWCA; and she served as an intern on the Jon Hoadley for Congress campaign.
Ms. Brittany Wright
award presented by Life EMS
Brittany Wright is a compassionate young leader with an outstanding focus on community service, believing in a larger goal of providing basic needs, education, and entertainment to the youth of our area. This focus has been expressed as action through her involvement in the Merze Tate Explorers and her organization of fundraisers that have provided more than $5,000 in scholarships for girls in Kalamazoo and Tanzania. Through this same community minded focus applied on a global scale, Brittany has even been able to reach across the ocean. In partnership with the Wotesawa Domestic Workers Organization she aided three girls in Tanzania in attending a trade school which will provide them with lifelong skills necessary to open and run their own tailor and dress shops.
In regards to diversity, Brittany has stepped up to learn about the poetry of African Americans of the past, even performing one of the works she studied for the State’s Poetry Out Loud competition.
Realizing the importance of women of color in the world she also wrote an article on the life of WMU graduate Dr. Merze Tate for Girls Can! Magazine. The life of Dr. Tate has inspired Brittany to pursue an interest in the field of nursing where she can positively impact the underprivileged, who often receive inadequate healthcare. Brittany hopes that obtaining her registered nurse degree will inspire others to recognize that their hopes and dreams are attainable and that their skills and talents are not something that can be taken from them even in the face of adversity. Brittany’s own words reflect this desire and inclusivity when she stated, “I want to be a role model to all kids when they come to the doctor”.
She is quick to ask questions and eager to find solutions to the problems of others. A natural giver, Brittany will find a means to make sure all are welcome and included in her day-to-day activities and to that end has organized events such as the Community Halloween Party at Crossroads Mall. A service project under the Merze Tate Explorers, Brittany took the lead in registering nearly 200 youth ages 8 and under for a free, safe event that included a costume contest, candy, games, and face painting.
Brittany fills her free time through involvement with her church, school teams, and extracurricular organizations such as the Merze Tate Explorers, ensuring that she someday she will most certainly attain her dream to work in the healthcare field where she can serve others as a lens of equity while ensuring those in her care are treated equally and without prejudice.
Brittany was nominated by Sonya Hollins who serves as both her mentor and the Executive Director for the Merze Tate Explorers.
Mr. Jackson Bergan
award presented by Lodge-Dennis
Jackson is a definite leader in our community. He is in the National Honor Society and serves at the Kalamazoo Center for Youth and Community where he serves those without homes. He created a GoFundMe to help the homeless population, and he serves at Inter-City Youth for Change where he’s done numerous community service projects including a fun day for students and food drives. His concern for people spans internationally. He went to Sierra Leone to help children.
Jackson is also a leader as a student athlete. He has been the captain on the football team and plays a variety of sports including basketball, golf, and tennis. He is a leader at his church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and believes he’s serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ when he serves others.
Jackson has won multiple teacher choice awards from Loy Norrix High School and received two nominations for this award. One from his principal, Christopher Aguinaga and the other from Rev. Morris Brooks, director of family ministries at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Mr. Jaydon Kelley
award presented by Schupan & Sons
Jaydon is an active youth ambassador in our community and works hard at being a champion for different events in the Kalamazoo community. He has the habit ‘of just showing up’ at community events addressing BLM protests and marches and dinners honoring Women of Color. Sometimes, he has to walk himself into town to get there, but that does not deter him from participating. Jaydon strongly believes in setting an example as a strong leader at school as well. He documents social justice efforts via his photography but also rolls up his sleeves to be an asset when needed. Jaydon has poise and is comfortable with varying age groups and cultures.
Jaydon is a member of the Loy Norrix business club and student council as well as the Young Democrats Club. He is drawn to individuals that may want to get involved but are unsure how to participate. Jaydon works closely with Stephanie Moore to ‘get out the black vote’ in Kalamazoo with activities leading up to the November 2020 election. He has also participated in Planned Parenthood fundraising events.
Jaydon is the epitome of whom everyone should aspire to be—someone with a loving heart, hard-working hands, and tolerance for others.
Ms. Morgan Scott
award presented by Dr. Lewis Walker and sponsored by the CSM Group
Morgan’s accomplishments to date demonstrate that she has a vision of a world in which everyone can thrive, and the ideals of equity, justice, and liberation are a reality for all people.Morgan has almost a perfect 4.0 grade-point average at Kalamazoo Central High school, and she has been able to let her brilliant light shine through her leadership in numerous organizations; a few of them are:
- NAACP Youth Programming
- UGoGirl Program, sponsored by Links, Inc.
- Delta G.E.M.S, Group Homes for Youth
- Galilee Baptist Church, youth leadership team, Youth Choir
- Kalamazoo Central Choir, four years
- Women’s Ministry Thanksgiving Basket Drive where she helped distribute fruits and vegetables to needy citizens of Kalamazoo’s Northside community.
Her efforts to feed those in need has not been confined to Kalamazoo. In 2018, Morgan was recognized for her mission work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she worked feeding the homeless population in the downtown area.
In October of 2021, Morgan was the recipient of the NAACP Dr. Charles Warfield Youth Community Service Award for her involvement in many local community-service projects, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Gospel Mission, Kalamazoo Black Arts Festival, Black Lives Matter, and several others.
In sum, Ms. Morgan Scott has logged hundreds of hours serving her community. She is a high achiever and a true believer that all people should be treated equally, without prejudice. She has a beautiful vision of a world in which everyone can thrive, and the ideals of equity, justice, and liberation are a reality for all people.
Morgan was nominated by Ms. Sadie Miles.