Hundreds of community members gathered at Villa Milano on Monday morning, January 15, for Westerville’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Celebration. This year’s theme was Never Lose Infinite Hope.
Westerville City Schools Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg presented Fouse awards, which are given to Westerville-area K-12 students who most effectively exemplify the characteristics demonstrated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s recipients are students Olivia Haines, Kate Clark and Jada Walls.
Haines, a third grade pupil at Fouse Elementary, was said to be a true friend to everyone within her class and school. She never excludes anyone from playing and wants to make sure everyone has a friend. She also organized a group of children to clean up the playground and surrounding area, and is passionate about keeping the environment as clean as possible because “it is the right thing to do.”
Clark, an eighth grader at Walnut Springs Middle School, has been instrumental in starting the YouBeYou Club, designed to be a safe space for students who want to make the building a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all, regardless of background. She has thoroughly researched issues of LGBTQ acceptance and works hard to educate her peers. She uses her strengths to empower others and make them feel safe at school.
Jada Walls is a senior at Westerville South High School, where she serves as an ambassador for herself and other African American students. She is actively involved in the school’s Black History Month productions and takes great pride in her culture and heritage. She is an outstanding leader on Student Council and in the community, serving as a strong and positive role model for younger students. She never waivers in her commitment to excellence and always stands up for herself and others.
Fouse awards are named for William H. Fouse, the first black graduate in 1884 of the two-year high school in Westerville. He earned a degree from Otterbein College and eventually became an educator, earning a Master’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati and an honorary doctorate from Otterbein. He had a goal of being a “bridge builder for the youth who will have to cross the broad, deep chasm of ignorance.”
Lula Abdul Mohamed Barnes received the 2018 Alston Award, given to a Westerville business or community member who most effectively exemplifies the characteristics demonstrated by Dr. King. She was presented by Westerville Chief of Police Joe Morbitzer. Barnes brings, gives, and promotes respect between and among cultures in her role as a liaison to the Somali community for the Westerville School District. Her nominator wrote, “Generous to a fault with her time, I have seen the benefits to multiple communities, including her native Somali as well as the local and greater Columbus immigrant and educational communities, of greater tolerance and increased kindness simply by spending time with Lula.”
The award is named in honor of Miriam Alston, who stipulated that the slaves she inherited in 1851 were never to be used as slaves again and were to be taken to a free state. They arrived in Ohio on May 15, 1859, and went on, with their descendants, to become property owners, educators, lawyers, musicians and veterans of almost every war.
Dr. Charles E. Booth, senior pastor of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, delivered the keynote address. He was introduced by Pastor Vaughn Bell from Triumphant Church of God. WBNS-10TV news anchor Angela An served, once again, as emcee. Westerville City Council member Diane Fosselman led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance and Pastors Mark Ledford and Edward Solano, from the Westerville Church of the Nazarene, offered an invocation. The Triumphant Worship Ministry performed Lift Every Voice and Sing. Leadership Westerville program manager Matt Lofy gave closing remarks.