Westerville North High School senior Maya Chaffin is the recipient of the 2022 MLK Fouse Award, which was announced during the 17th annual Westerville Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Monday.
The city-wide event, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, also recognized the 2022 Alston MLK Award winner: James Prysock, director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism at Otterbein University.
“Just knowing William Fouse and his impact on the Westerville community and knowing that I get to be honored for what he did for the Westerville City School District is just really, really important to me,” Chaffin said. “And knowing that I’m being someone who is speaking up for the voices who often feel voiceless and often aren’t heard is very important.”
In addition to a rigorous class schedule, Chaffin participates in a number of extracurricular activities including several focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. She is part of the district’s Equity Team and The Ohio State University’s Voice of Change program and serves as the co-director of the Black History Month Club.
“She is an asset to each of the groups she is a part of,” Jen Bowers, who teaches African American Literature, wrote in her nomination of Chaffin. “The changes Maya is working to create will help current Westerville students as well as the future students of our district.”
The MLK Fouse Award recognizes Westerville students in grades 6-12 who have demonstrated tolerance, respect for others and/or bravery in the face of adversity; or whose actions have inspired change in their school community and beyond. The award honors the memory of William H. Fouse, the first Black graduate of Westerville’s two-year high school in 1884. He earned an undergraduate degree from Otterbein College, a master’s from the University of Cincinnati and, later, an honorary doctorate from Otterbein. Fouse became an educator, serving as principal of the Paul Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
Meanwhile, the Alston Award recognizes a community member who exemplifies the characteristics demonstrated by Dr. King or takes action in the face of injustice. The award honors Miriam Alston, who inherited nine slaves in her husband’s will in 1851. She managed to obtain 21 more from his four nephews and sent them north to be freed. Their descendants became educators, lawyers, musicians and veterans of almost every war.