Metro-East News

Center for Racial Harmony recognizes 49 metro-east students for promoting unity

Racial Harmony Awards 2019

The Center for Racial Harmony in Southern Illinois recognized 49 students from the metro-east area for promoting racial unity in an event on Sunday. The students ranged in age from first grade to 12th grade.
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The Center for Racial Harmony in Southern Illinois recognized 49 students from the metro-east area for promoting racial unity in an event on Sunday. The students ranged in age from first grade to 12th grade.

When Mylah Clay’s principal at Pontiac Junior High School called her a few weeks ago, she was a little confused.

“I’m not really the type to get in trouble,” the 12-year-old said. “I was kind of scared at first.”

But her principal assured Mylah that she was not in trouble and that he was in fact calling to give her some good news: teachers and administrators at her school had nominated her for an award given to outstanding students who promote racial harmony among their peers. Only one student is chosen per school.

In an event Sunday afternoon at First United Presbyterian Church in Belleville, the Center for Racial Harmony recognized 49 metro-east students who were given these awards.

The annual event is called The Gathering and has honored students in Madison County and St. Clair County schools for at least 10 years, Robert E. Wells Jr., the center’s president, said.

“This was the highest amount (of nominations) yet,” Wells said. “It’s mostly due to the increase in nominations from schools and the breadth of the geographical region. This year we have schools from all over the metro-east represented and we welcome them.”

The Center for Racial Harmony is a local organization that’s mission is to “increase understanding, cooperation and communication among all races and ethnic groups.”

At least 120 schools are sent nomination forms every year, said the center’s treasurer and co-founder Paula R. Badger. Principals then give the forms to their teachers and have them work together to decide which student best represents the center’s ideals of community, wellness and citizenship within the scope of racial harmony.

Those teachers and school administrators were present at The Gathering.

“We want to bring attention to the tremendous amount of students who are worthy of being honored and make sure they get some recognition for what they’re doing,” Badger said.

This year, one of those students was Key’Mondre Lee, a 19-year-old at Madison Senior High School. Lee said he thinks he was nominated because he tries to bring happiness to his peers — something that has earned him the nickname “Peacekeeper of Madison” at school.

“A lot of students and I have been through some hard times and I know people who don’t have as much, so I try my best to brighten someone’s day and let them know I’m here for them,” Lee said. “I want to make them feel comfortable in smiling.”

Badger said that the students recognized this year were inspiring in the small acts they do every day to bring people closer together. Students like Mylah, whose teachers wrote “is a conflict resolver and possesses a strong moral compass.”

Badger said that the she hopes when students are recognized for their positive efforts, it encourages them to keep on the right path.

“For us older people, it’s nice to pause and take a breath and really know that we’re leaving the world in good hands.”

Honored were:

  • Aaron Fowler, 4th grader at Laverna Evans
  • Alex Petraborg, 8th grader at Whiteside
  • Alyssa Belvin, 4th grader at Central
  • Ann Merritt, 2nd grader at Shiloh
  • Ashley Schaefer, 6th grader at Henry Raab
  • Cheyenne Brown, 3rd grader at Ellis
  • Cheyenne Davidson, 12th grader at Alton Marquette Catholic
  • Diamonique Freeman-Branigan, 8th grader at West
  • Ellie Doolittle, 6th grader at Douglas
  • Ethereal Hammock Jr., 1st grader at Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • Fallon Hon, 6th grader at Union
  • Isabel Smith, 4th grader at Belle Valley
  • Jadora Pomerlee, 8th grader at East St. Louis Lincoln
  • Jalen Smith, 8th grader at Shiloh
  • Javauhn King, 6th grader at Roosevelt
  • Jazmyn Harmon, 8th grader at Emge Jr.
  • Kahmaree Marrow, 3rd grader at Lalumier
  • Kaiden Edwards, 4th grader at James Avant
  • Kaitlyn Harris, 12th grader at Mascoutah
  • Kalyn Reid, 5th grader at William Holliday
  • Kaytlynn Bray, 4th grader at John A. Renfro
  • Kendall Chism, 5th grader at Wolf Branch
  • Keymondre Lee, 12th grader at Madison
  • Korrie Allen, 12th grader at Belleville East
  • Kourtnie Macon, 8th grader at Joseph Arthur
  • Kristina Leatherman, 8th grader at Mason Clark
  • Kyle Labukas, 6th grader at Franklin
  • Laryia Cole, 3rd grader at Annette Officer
  • Lenora Bryce, 3rd grader at St. Teresa Catholic
  • Logan Roark, 8th grader at High Mount
  • Mahek Bhakta, 8th grader at Central
  • Marlie Amador, 6th grader at Jeferson
  • Marreian Easley, 4th grader at Gordon Bush
  • Morgan Seagle, 5th grader at Westhaven
  • Mylah Clay, 7th grader at Pontiac
  • Myles McGee, 8th grader at Our Lady Queen of Peace
  • Naja Taylor, 12th grader at Belleville West
  • Nevaeh Green, 6th grader at Abraham Lincoln
  • Payton Wiley, 3rd grader at Venice
  • Riley Mitchell, 12th grader at Granite City
  • Rocio Romo, 12th grader at Collinsville
  • Rylee Eapen, 6th grader at Harmony Intermediate
  • Ryleigh Walsh, 4th grader at Illini
  • TaJa’jah Baker, 8th grader at Fulton
  • Taylor Bowman, 8th grader at Amelia V. Carriel
  • Teniya Morris, 7th grader at Grant
  • Trinity Choice, 10th grader at O’FAllon Township
  • Victor Miller, 3rd grader at Dr. Katie Harper Wright

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.