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Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award Winners
MLK Award Winners Embrace Time to ‘Shine’
Posted on 10/21/2016
Chloe and Shineika

Seniors Chloe Murphy and Shineika Fareus represented STMHS/NLHS proudly at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Trust Scholarship Dinner on Thursday, October 20th. The following is the article that appeared in 'The Day' newspaper. 

In a video before Tayla Willson’s speech accepting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, Willson called her mom, Angela, to tell her that she had received the award.

In the video, played before an audience of hundreds of people at the Mystic Marriott on Thursday night, Tayla holds a phone to her ear and breaks the news. Her mom’s scream could be heard through the phone.

“We were so happy and very excited,” Angela Willson said before the event. “She’s worked hard.”

Sitting beside her mother in a room at the hotel Thursday, Tayla Willson said she saw the event as a way to celebrate people of color.

“It’s just giving them an opportunity to shine,” she said. “Don’t just look at one view of us — look at who we are and what we do.”

In her speech, Willson said she has fielded questions about her identity as the daughter of a black father and a white mother.

“Growing up, I was always asked the question ‘what are you?’” she said.

King’s example taught her to answer that question not with her race, but with an explanation of who she is as a person, she said. 

Willson was one of six local high school seniors to receive a $20,000 scholarship from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund, founded in 1968 by former teacher and New London Mayor Eunice McLean Waller and her husband, William DeHomer Waller. The Wallers created the award after King's death, starting it with a $100 award to a student who exemplified King’s ideals.

The organization has given out 40 scholarships since its inception, and this year delivered six scholarships to seniors at Norwich Free Academy, Ledyard High School, New London Science and Technology Magnet High School and Fitch High School.

The annual award dinner serves as the organization’s major fundraiser. Fifty people applied for the scholarship this year, James Mitchell, the fund’s president, said Thursday.

In addition to Willson, Thursday’s winners included Ledyard High School senior Lauren Hipplewitz, a varsity track athlete who leads anti-bullying workshops; New London Science and Technology Magnet High School senior Shineika Fareus, an Advanced Placement student and member of Shiloh Baptist Church’s prison ministry; Norwich Free Academy student Junior Dufort, a class treasurer and former Norwich finance department intern; Fitch High School senior Krystina Waters, a marching band member who plans to be the first woman to travel to Mars; and New London STEM Magnet High School senior Chloe Murphy, the vice president of her class and a Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock employee.

Mitchell said the organization has continued to emphasize the prestige of the award by selecting a number of eighth-grade students to attend the annual dinner.

“I still talk to people who are upset when their kids are not selected as eighth-graders,” he said.

Especially in a year when a nominee for president of the United States has characterized the lives of people of color as “living in hell, because it's so dangerous,” Mitchell said the scholarship dinner is an example of how wrong that characterization is.

“He has never come to an event like this,” Mitchell said. “This event is what’s happening all across America — it’s the most successful way to push back against the naysayers."

Fareus said she saw the event as an opportunity to shine.

After all, she said, “you can’t spell Shineika without ‘shine.’”

Published October 20. 2016 10:15PM | Updated October 20. 2016 10:19PM

BMartha Shanahan  Day staff writer


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