On January 21, seven extraordinary Kalamazoo-area students were recognized by the Kalamazoo City Commission for their achievements in racial justice, community service, volunteerism, and leadership. Every year, Social Justice Youth Awards are presented to deserving students that have demonstrated commitment to these ideals. Each award is sponsored by a local organization or business, with the Dr. Lewis Walker Award sponsored by the City of Kalamazoo to honor Dr. Walkers legacy as a trailblazer for the progression of racial equity in Kalamazoo.
The awards are presented as part of the annual community celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are proud to share this year's award winners below.
(left to right: Adonia Alexopoulos, Dr. Lewis Walker, Princess-J’maria Jean Monique Mboup, Aaron C. Dickason, Chanel Wilson, Derea McCoy, Kearney Miller, Chloe Carlson)
Kearney Miller (Kalamazoo Central High School) was recognized with the Consumers Energy Social Justice Youth Award.
Kearney’s commitment to our community is evident in her leadership addressing important societal issues. She is working to address the urgent problem of climate change and is a leader of the Kalamazoo Central Climate Advocates Club at KCHS. She is one of two of this year’s award recipients to have has been a featured speaker at the 2019 Day of Climate Action in Downtown Kalamazoo, a panelist at the Peace Jams Youth Leadership Conference, and a presenter at the Drawdown MI Climate Conference in Grand Rapids. Kearney's work alongside Chloe Carlson’s has been instrumental in developing a partnership between Kalamazoo Public Schools, Consumers Energy, and the US Green Building Council to turn KPS into a “Green District,” which will help reduce energy use by the district and reinvest savings into other programs for students. A resolution declaring a climate emergency was drafted, making Kalamazoo Central the first school in Michigan to have done so. Her work around climate change is viewed through the lens of social justice, looking out for those disproportionately affected by climate change. Kearney also serves as a Link Crew Mentor, is a member of the KCHS Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America, and volunteers for community events including Safe Halloween, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Candy Cane Hunt, and the Egg Hunt.
Adonia Alexopoulos (Loy Norrix High School) was recognized with the Fifth Third Bank Social Justice Youth Award.
Adonia has made a commitment to volunteering in our community. She easily triples the 15 hours of community service that National Honor Society members are asked to do. She volunteers her time helping with recycling and the school blood drive at Loy Norrix, but also dedicates her time to causes like the SPCA, the Edison Literacy Project, clothing and food drives, UNICEF, and volunteering her time with children in the hospital. She has leadership roles with Loy Norrix PeaceJam and Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, where she volunteered to teach a robotic class to younger scouts. Adonia has been able to provide a personal example to these young girls that they might have opportunities to succeed in areas they might not have thought possible.
Adonia mentors students of all races, ethnicities, abilities, and refugee statuses, and works to help refugees find a place of acceptance in our community. She is always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone.
Chloe Carlson (Kalamazoo Central High School) was recognized with the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War Social Justice Youth Award.
Chloe is our second Social Justice Youth Award recipient to be a leader on climate and social justice issues, and a leading member of the Kalamazoo Central Climate Advocates Club at KCHS. She has been a featured speaker at the 2019 Day of Climate Action in Downtown Kalamazoo, a panelist at the Peace Jams Youth Leadership Conference, and a presenter at the Drawdown MI Climate Conference in Grand Rapids. Chloe's work alongside Kearney Miller’s has been instrumental in developing a partnership between Kalamazoo Public Schools, Consumers Energy, and the US Green Building Council to turn KPS into a “Green District,” which will help reduce energy use by the district and reinvest savings into other programs for students. A resolution was drafted declaring a climate emergency, making Kalamazoo Central the first school in Michigan to have done so. Chloe views climate change as a social justice issue, as poorer members in our community will not have the means to adapt to the new challenges it will bring. Her efforts have led her to be featured on National Public Radio and earned her a spot on a climate leadership committee among representatives from colleges, universities, the Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, and Extinction Rebellion.
Chloe is also an accomplished athlete and was elected National Honor Society President her senior year. She has been a leader of Link Crew for two years, which supports younger students as they transition to high school.
Derea McCoy (Kalamazoo Central High School) was recognized with the Life EMS Social Justice Youth Award.
Derea is a compassionate young leader with a strong desire to help others in the medical field. Particularly interested in assisting those with physical and mental disabilities, she has participated in the WMU pipeline program as well the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk and Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma foundation. Derea has a passion for health awareness and works continuously to encourage all people to live healthier and more sustainable lives. Derea celebrates diversity and equality within our culture and in our community, believing that all people deserve equal rights regardless of lifestyle choices. This point was well supported by Derea when she stated, “it doesn’t matter what color people are or what their orientation is, they have a heart, so I am going to love and respect them like I want to be”. Living by this golden rule, Derea is driven by love speaking out to things she views as unfair. She is quick to ask questions and eager to find solutions to the problems of others. A natural giver, Derea finds a way to make sure all are welcome and included in her day to day activities.
Derea fills time through her involvement in programs such as the American Red Cross Stocking Drive, Girls on the Run, March of Dimes Bread Lift, MLK Day of Service, Homeless Shelter Food Distribution, Kalamazoo Black Arts Festival, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Aaron C. Dickason Jr. (Kalamazoo Central High School) was recognized with the Lodge-Dennis Social Justice Youth Award.
Aaron is committed to serving others. He has given back through his service with the Gospel Mission, Kalamazoo YMCA, Kalamazoo Black Arts Festival, CAPS leader, Flint Water Drive, Peer Mentor & Tutor, Goodwill, the American Heart Foundations, and Heart and Breast Cancer Walks. Through his volunteer work he embraces the diversity of everyone around him and acknowledges the importance of valuing differences.
Aaron influences his peers as a leader who wants to help those around him be the best they can be. He always makes sure everyone is treated fairly.
Chanel Wilson (Loy Norrix High School) was recognized with the Schupan & Sons Social Justice Youth Award.
Chanel heads the financial department of DECA at Loy Norrix and won at the state championship for leadership & teamwork. She is an executive board member at Loy Norrix and a youth leader at her church. Chanel embraces diversity by challenging stereotypes and creates spaces for minority youth to engage in activities that historically have few people of color. Chanel engages in conferences and training, increasing her understanding and appreciation of different cultural backgrounds, so that she might be a better advocate. Chanel is the only minority teenager on the steering committee for the Women’s March 2020, a march whose mission is to ‘eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities.’ The strength of Chanel’s character makes her a strong voice for equality and justice.
Princess-J'maria Jean-Monique Mboup (Loy Norrix High School) was recognized with the Dr. Lewis Walker Social Justice Youth Award.
Princess Mboup is a great example of putting Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision into action. As a member of the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, Princess organized, created, and led the Multicultural Student Organization. It was created to encourage minority students to embrace and show pride in their culture and to give the general student body an avenue to discuss intercultural and interracial issues through understanding, respect, acceptance, and appreciation.
Princess has participated in many activities such as the MyLead program, the Blue Lake International Tour Scholarship Program for Diversity, and the recruitment of middle school students to KAMSC.
As a leader, Princess has facilitated discussions in her school about diversity and inclusion and is an advocate for change within her peer group. She is quoted as saying “We all become better human beings, as well as more educated and wiser, when we experience different cultures. With education comes power and since knowledge accompanies diversity, diversity is power.”