Center for Racial Harmony honors students who 'build bridges through peace'
A Wolf Branch Middle School student who makes a positive "real impact" on her classmates was recognized for her peacemaking efforts by Racial Harmony, a Belleville organization dedicated to fostering harmony and understanding.
Abby Millas, 13, helps anyone she sees in need and also assists in class, says Erin Birk, Abby's teacher.
Birk said, "She's unique... a lot of kids will do things for you if you ask them. She volunteers and she does it with her friends too."
Abby is one of 36 students nominated by teachers from 36 different area schools who have exemplified Racial Harmony's mission of promoting good will among all people.
All the students nominated were recognized at Racial Harmony's annual gathering, which was from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at the First United Presbyterian Church, located at 1303 Royal Heights Road in Belleville. Everyone from the community was invited to attend the awards ceremony.
Jennifer Poirot, principal at Wolf Branch Middle School, said she nominated Abby for the award because of input from Birk.
"Abby is really kind and giving, not only of her time," Poirot said. "Outside of school, she gets up early in the morning to prepare and serve food at her church for the less fortunate."
Poirot said, "She also helped out with the winter clothing drive at school. She not only brought in one thing, but a whole bag of things because she loves to give."
As for embodying the mission of Racial Harmony, Poirot said, "Abby is always emphatic to the feelings of others and encourages her peers to be the same."
Birk, Abby's teacher, who has taught seventh grade at Wolf Branch Middle School for 21 years, said she has never had a student quite like Abby.
"I have seen her grow so much. I've never had a student so involved with everyone," Birk said. "She's friends with everyone. Abby makes a real impact on her classmates."
Four students were nominated for the Racial Harmony Awards from Wolf Branch Middle School. Teachers voted and Abby won because she demonstrated maturity and sensitivity in multiple interactions with other students.
Abby smiled and blushed when asked about winning the award. Birk said everyone at Wolf Branch is very proud of her accomplishment.
Paula Badger, one of the founders of Racial Harmony, said all of the honorees are chosen for their outstanding qualities of character.
"The teachers pick a child who, consistently throughout the year, embraced the values of racial harmony and the mission of bringing kids together," Badger said.
The Racial Harmony Gathering's theme of "Building Bridges to Peace and Harmony" is another timely reminder of what people should strive for, according to Badger.
"You can build bridges through peace and harmony, not through anger and indecisiveness and whatever else we do," Badger said.
The other students honored at the Racial Harmony Gathering are as follows:
- Chelsea Basa, seventh-grader, Shiloh Middle School
- Hayden Brethauer, sixth-grader, Henry Raab School
- Dorian Brown, 11th-grader, O'Fallon Township High School
- Caleb Burton, eighth-grader, Carriel Junior High School
- Brooke Bynum, eighth-grader, Joseph Arthur Middle School
- Lauren Chavis, third-grader, Ellis Elementary
- Zamaria Collins, eighth-grader, Emge Jr. High School
- Tre Conrad, fifth-grader, Governor French Academy
- Dannica Davis, sixth-grader, Lincoln Middle School
- Bryant Davis, fifth-grader, Westhaven Elementary School
- Alexis Davis, 11th-grader, Mascoutah High School
- Billie Jean Elliott, 11th-grader, Belleville West High School
- Hailey Emigh, sixth-grader, Signal Hill School
- Brea Forno, sixth-grader, Harmony Intermediate School
- Livia Franklin, eighth-grader, Central Junior High School
- Elena "Ellie" Geppert, fourth-grader, Roosevelt School
- Luke Gundlach, seventh-grader, Our Lady Queen of Peace
- Alexis Harp-Weck, third-grader, Union School
- Ashley Hines, eighth-grader, High Mount School
- Savannah Jackson, fourth-grader, William Holliday Elementary School
- Andre'a Kilpatrick, fourth-grader, Katie Harper-Wright Elementary School
- Audree King, third-grader, Belle Valley School
- Jala Lewis, sixth-grader, Douglas Elementary School
- Elise Melinder, fourth-grader, Wolf Branch Elementary School
- Courtney Newsome, 11th-grader, Lebanon High School
- Breeana Rauschkolb, seventh-grader, West Junior High School
- Brookes Schoate, second-grader, Abraham Lincoln School
- Maddy Schwemmer, eighth-grader, Smithton School
- Mariah Spencer, fourth-grader, Central Elementary School
- Hannah Teverbaugh, 12th-grader, Belleville East High School
- Breann Walker, fifth-grader, Franklin Elementary School
- Chansalee Winters, third-grader, Lalumier Elementary School
- Breya Woods, fourth-grader, James Avant Elementary School
- Leeyah Yates, second-grader, Illini Elementary School
- Austen Yates, sixth-grader, Jefferson School