Fouse award winner Ellie Reash, Westerville Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg, Fouse winners Kennedy Kandi and Mali Wilkinson, and Alston award winner Cynthia DeVese.
More than 350 community members braved frigid temperatures bright and early on Monday morning, January 21, to attend the 2019 Westerville Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Breakfast. The event was held at Villa Milano and this year’s theme was “Remaining Awake.”
WBNS 10TV morning news anchor Angela An hosted the gathering, where keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart encouraged attendees to “remain awake” and vigilant in seeking justice for all. Fisher-Stewart currently serves as the assistant pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Prior to accepting the call to ordained ministry, she retired from the Metropolitan Police Department as a captain and then taught at the university level. Her area of special interest is the history of policing as it intersects with race in America.
Three Fouse awards were given, named in memory of William H. Fouse, who, in 1884, became the first black graduate of Westerville’s two-year high school. He earned an undergraduate degree from Otterbein College, a master’s from the University of Cincinnati and, later, an honorary doctorate from Otterbein. He became an esteemed educator, serving as principal of the Paul Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
Fifth grade Wilder Elementary student Mali Wilkinson earned her Fouse Award by quietly doing what is right and being a friend to all. Her nominator, school counselor Elizabeth Wolfgang, said Wilkinson has a “moral compass wise beyond her years.” She is kind, easygoing, empathetic, and is a good listener. She is a member of the Safety Patrol and is active in the Kiwanis K-Kids club. “Her inner light is full of tolerance, patience and acceptance for others,” said Wolfgang.
Ellie Reash, an eighth grader at St. Paul School, has a purpose to help others, according to her nominator, teacher Angela Kuhn. She is a mentor to youngsters who are new to the building, serves at Mass and funerals, and organizes events to support W.A.R.M. Most recently, Reash initiated “Sew Love,” a student service club that makes pillowcases for refugees and homeless people, turbans for women who have lost their hair from chemotherapy, no-sew blankets and environmentally friendly sandwich wraps. Kuhn said, “She is well respected by students and adults alike.”
Fouse award winner Kennedy Kandi is a senior at Westerville Central High School, where she models unfailing respect for all individuals. Kyle King was the teacher/advisor who nominated her for this honor, saying she is continually reflective and evolutionary, bringing these qualities to everything she does. “Her hard work and thoughtfulness shows in all of her work,” he said. “She consistently reaches out to others, just as Dr. King did.” Kandi is the leader, coach, and choreographer of Central’s Drill and Dance Team. She also excels academically. King is awed by the “respect she has for other people and a work ethic that is rarely seen in a student her age.”
The Alston Award was given in honor of Miriam Alston, who, in 1851, inherited nine slaves in her husband’s will. She managed to obtain 21 more from his four nephews, and sent them all north to be freed. Their descendants became educators, lawyers, musicians and veterans of almost every war. The Alston Award is given to a Westerville business or community member who most effectively exemplifies the characteristics demonstrated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year’s recipient is Cynthia DeVese. Westerville City Schools Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg nominated her for this award, saying, “Her graceful, thoughtful and persistent leadership style has earned her the trust and respect of staff, students, and families across our community.” DeVese is the first-ever Coordinator of Minority Student Achievement in the Westerville City School District. “Cynthia’s outstanding work, in collaboration with other leaders, has touched the lives of many students and helped them to ‘step up to the dream’ of equity in education,” said Dr. Kellogg. “She is a blessing to the Westerville community.”