2024 Social Justice Youth Award Winners

Published on January 23, 2024

A photo of the 2024 Social Justice Youth Award Winners

On January 22, 2024, the City Commission recognized nine extraordinary youths for their achievements and leadership toward 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, two awards were 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):

Clark Atkinson

Award presented by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Iota Sigma Omega

Clark is not only a high achiever, with a grade point average of 3.5, but he is also a well-rounded young man with significant involvement in academics, sports, and community organizations. He is a strong leader and shares that quality through mentorship. Clark is a member of the Jeter’s Leaders Organization, where he facilitated and organized events of service in the community. He is vice president of the Kappa League Organization, a member of the Young Men’s Mentor program at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Men of Purpose Organization, and a recipient of the NAACP Dr. Charles Warfield Youth Community Service Award in 2023. He understands that being respectful is key to solving and preventing conflicts by maintaining an attitude of respect for others, being open-minded, and being willing to compromise.

Mayalena Alvarez

Award presented by Consumers Energy 

Mayalena is an exceptional young leader in our community. She is a bilingual tutor at El Concilio and a member of the Loy Norrix Latinx Club. She also volunteers for Blood Drives and Key Club. Mayalena is also part of Youth in Government, and she is the only youth member of the Kalamazoo Plant it Forward Plant Swaps and a member of the Green Club at school. On top of the volunteering and social justice work, she continues to excel in the classroom as a member of the National Honor Society and a frequent volunteer too.

Layla Wallace

Award presented by Fifth Third Bank

Through her entrepreneurial and impassioned spirit, Layla embodies this award by devoting her time and resources to help eliminate homelessness “one sweet at a time.” Layla was nominated by Dr. Karika Parker, who highlighted Layla’s unwavering commitment and dedication to serving the poor. Layla owns and operates Layla’s Cool Pops, a dessert shop as well as Sweets 4 Homeless, a four-unit apartment building in Kalamazoo. Proceeds from Layla’s Cool Pops provide financial and social support services for all occupants of Sweets 4 Homeless. She is now a freshman at Western Michigan University, where she is a member of the Women’s Track & Field team. Layla’s advocacy and commitment to the underserved and under-resourced is deserving of celebration.

Annalise Ransom

Award presented by Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War (KNOW)

In the community, Annalise volunteers with a number of organizations that seek to support success for diverse populations. She volunteers with RAWK, or Read Write Kalamazoo, which provides opportunities for students to gain experience in expressing themselves through writing and sharing their writing. She has also volunteered with Girls on the Run and as a literacy volunteer with Head Start. Annalise has had a number of leadership roles as well. She is a member of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) at Loy Norrix and serves as secretary. She has a paid internship with Circa Design, where she is gaining skills in marketing. Annalise serves as committee chair in management for the Kalamazoo Youth Advisory Council of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. As a part of the National Honor Society Annalise has served on the executive board, worked on the organization’s food drive, volunteered at the blood drive, and helped distribute blankets.

Ohmaz Clark

Award presented by Life EMS

Ohmaz Clark is a compassionate young leader who has an outstanding focus on community service and a desire to treat all people with respect. As treasurer of the Kalamazoo chapter of the Kappa League, a delegate to the Loy Norrix business club, and a member of the LINK crew, Ohmaz is no stranger to hard work. Even with his active extracurricular involvement, he remains academically strong and retains a laser-like focus to attend either Wayne State or Michigan State University. His goals following his college experience include honoring his Kalamazoo roots by returning to the area to help shape our community for the better. Ohmaz has demonstrated his leadership by assisting with various activities including planning his senior luncheon, serving as a student-to-student mentor, and participating on the executive board for the class of 2024. Through his participation in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), he has worked to expand the world of business to people of all races and ethnicities. DECA is a business-based club that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools around the globe. Ohmaz understands in his heart, and shows through his actions, that we, as a society, must not accept anything less than equality for all.

Jordan Pritchett

Award presented by Lodge-Dennis

Jordan is a definite leader at Loy Norrix High School and in our community. She is currently the co-chair of the Loy Norrix Student Senate. She has helped lead actions to improve the student experience at Loy Norrix High School including having a student-led approach to reducing suspensions. She has served on the Kalamazoo Public School Equity Task Force and has led the charge of surveying Loy Norrix students on changes to equity at Loy Norrix. Jordan organized community town hall meetings to foster open dialogue and raise awareness about critical global matters and she was one of the first student members of the KPS Equity Task Force and helped deliver an interim report of the task force's findings directly to the school board. Jordan is the class of 2025 Executive Board treasurer and has been for two years and is a leader in the KRESA EFA Dance Program. She is a strong believer in equity and bringing all voices to the room to help advance that cause. She is a leader in her class and feels the need to put in additional efforts to ensure all voices are heard as she improves the school community.

Mahalia Guidry

Award presented by Schupan & Sons

Mahalia is an active youth ambassador in our community and works hard to be a champion for different events in the Kalamazoo community. Mahalia was nominated by her parents, Garyl & Thomasina Guidry, who have watched her provide exceptional service in the community. She is an active participant in the Turn 2 Foundation meetings and discussions, working well with her peers and adults alike. Mahlia also volunteers for RAWK (Read And Write Kalamazoo) and worked with the Boys & Girls Club and Merze Tate Explorers as well. Her leadership skills are highlighted by her courage. Mahalia is respected by her peers and the adults she interacts with. She speaks out against injustices she observes in Kalamazoo and the world. Her involvement and assistance to the director of Merze Tate Explorers helps young black women in Kalamazoo seek different opportunities and events so they can attend and grow.

Sadaya Hamby

Award presented by Dr. Lewis Walker, sponsored by CSM Group 

Sadaya has been on the honor roll throughout her high school career. She is very talented, very caring, very dedicated, and very focused in her pursuits. She is consistently seeking ways to improve her leadership skills, an impressive quality in itself. Her accomplishments to date show that she is willing to work to help create a world where the ideals of equity and justice are a reality for everyone. For nearly four years, she has been an active participant in the Jeter’s Leaders Program and involved with many community service events in the Kalamazoo area. Sadaya has over 400 documented hours as a volunteer with the Jeter’s Leaders alone and will be graduating from the program this summer after four years. She truly believes in diversity and inclusion, and she chose to play an important role with the Jeter's Leaders research group, which focused on understanding diversity and inclusion in America. The research findings will be presented to young people from across America at the next Jeter's Leaders Leadership Conference. In addition to being a site mentor at the Boys and Girls Club, Sadaya will continue to volunteer at community events, like From the Out of the Darkness: Suicide Awareness, Walk to Charlie's Place, Kalamazoo Central Mock Trial, National Honors Society, and as a youth ambassador at Gryphon Place, helping to decrease the suicide rate among teenagers in our community. To her credit, Sadaya is known for always supporting her peers. Her caring nature and personality allow her to work well with others in a team setting. And her peers in Jeter’s Leaders have recognized and acknowledged her exceptional leadership qualities by nominating her for the Secretary of the Executive Council for the 2022-23 year, and now the Vice President for the 2023-24 program year. 

Avery Pratt

Award presented by Dr. Lewis Walker, sponsored by CSM Group

Over the last three years, Avery has demonstrated a strong commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in various organizations and in the wider community. A review of her impressive record shows that Avery started on the social justice path when she was still in the tenth grade. It was during this time that she was nominated by KAMSC staff to attend a conference at Michigan State University to help develop her leadership potential. Today, she is a strong public speaker and has excellent organizational skills. Avery attends the Gull Lake High School and the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center. For more than four years, Avery has placed her talents and organizational skills on display as a strong worker for social justice. Her skills and talents have been on display in numerous ways. She has been a three-year co-leader of the KAMSC Multicultural Student Organization (MSO), a strong worker as a member of Jack and Jill of Southwest Michigan, and a meeting planner for the Gull Lake People of Color Student Union. She's also the current secretary of the Gull Lake Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Avery has demonstrated a strong commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center (KAMSC), as well as in the wider community. She facilitates evening meetings with discussions where students from various backgrounds can come together each week to talk about various complex topics, such as racial bias. She is known to deliberately plan times for "safe space" discussions, and times for community building. 

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