Young leaders honored at annual Racial Harmony ceremony

News-DemocratFebruary 23, 2014 


— Volunteers, tutors, peacemakers and leaders: the 38 young people honored at the Racial Harmony awards Sunday cover every spectrum of accomplishment.

Racial Harmony celebrated the class of 2014 with a variety of music and dance, which co-chair Paula Jones said was intended to offer "more texture" to the annual event.

"We wanted it to be more kid-oriented," Jones said, with fewer speeches and more performances by the young people.

Among the performances: singers Angel Riley of Belleville West and Molly Thomas of Belleville East; dancing by Bollywood Shuffle of St. Louis; and several pieces by Harambee of Belleville West, telling the story of the civil rights movement through music and dance as well as a tribute to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.

For senior Daymione Cross, it was "an honor," for which he has worked very hard. Daymione, 18, volunteers for fundraisers for Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, is a mentor and peer mediator and volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as playing basketball for Belleville East High School. He plans to attend Xavier University in Ohio next year, studying finance.

Eighth-grader Ver'Onda Reynolds, 13, has straight A's at Cahokia Eighth Grade Academy and is on the high honor roll, which doesn't keep her from helping other students with their school work. "My principal told me she was going to nominate because I've been a good leader," Ver'Onda said.

All the students had comments from their nominating teachers and principals lauding their leadership, dedication to making peace among others and willingness to volunteer in their communities.

Among them:

* Taylor Dalton: "On one occasion she intervened in a dispute between two girls and helped them settle it by talking to them about mutual respect."

* Jacob Shields: "He volunteers as the school's crosswalk guard... helps them understand that helping others is its own reward. When polled, Jacob was the overwhelmingly students' choice to win this award."

* Maya Singh: "Being of biracial heritage, she has been exposed to two different cultures. This experience has made her realize the importance of racial peace and unity."

* Amy Muschler: "She helps them open their minds to seeing things from a different perspective, thereby diverting conflict. She has on two occasions come forward with sensitive information which prevented students from harming themselves."

* Kimberly Haguewood: "She... spent some of her summer in mentoring training so she could help other students."

* Ahzia Word: "Ahzia... geniunely cares about the well-being of others. In a situation seens as a joke to others, but viewed as wrong in her eyes, she stood up to intervene."

In addition to the students, the nonprofit Racial Harmony honored Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier for his work not only with young people, but in helping Racial Harmony throughout the past year as it secured its own building, Jones said.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

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