Submitted by AAYAA Committee
After two years online, the annual African American Youth Achievement Awards returned to the stage Feb. 9 with a ceremony at Evanston Township High School.
Thirty-seven students from District 65 and 202 schools were honored for keeping the visions and legacy of African American pathfinders and pioneers alive. Awardees are students who excel academically in their classrooms or socially in their extracurricular activities. They have excelled in character, civility, community service, leadership, scholarship and/ or sportsmanship through their initiative and perseverance.
Also honored with AAYAA’s Trailblazer Award was Robin Rue Simmons, founder and executive director of FirstRepair, a national organization that informs about local reparations. Rue Simmons, a former 5th Ward Alderman, worked with a coalition to pass the first municipally funded reparations legislation in the country for Black Residents. Rue Simmons currently chairs the City of Evanston’s Reparations Committee.
The AAYAA committee receives nominations from each District 65 school and each grade from ETHS.
The 2023 honorees and their schools are:
Chute Middle School: Evyn Bell and Kynia Hunt
Dawes Elementary School: Serenity Smith and Landon Wellington
Dewey Elementary School: Joshua McPherson and Soliel Reed-Brown
Haven Middle School: Sean Foreman and Norah Afrik Williams
King Arts School: Tiffany Arthurs and Justin Henry
Kingsley Elementary School: Christina Gomez and Jesse Paddyfoot
Lincoln Elementary School: Casey Houston and Aiden Pruitt LevyLincolnwood Elementary School: BiSola Adeniyi and Jeremiah Hudson
Nichols Middle School: Jana Cabrera and Jaren Davis
Oakton Elementary School: A’shadieeyah Adebiyi and Tristan Payton
Orrington Elementary School: Haley Cibull and Jaden Watson
Rhodes School: Sir Elon McKinney and Bitaniya Tesfamichael
Walker Elementary School: Anaya Chubaka and Peyton Goodnight-Taylor
Washington Elementary School: Miles Wright
Willard Elementary School: Aniya-Milan Rhone and Micah Thompson
ETHS 9th Grade: Jeremy Wesley Marshall and “Darasimi” Oluwadarasimi Ogunkola
ETHS 10th Grade: Enijel Timothy Shelton and “Ari” Arielle Sushinski
ETHS 11th Grade: Kennedi Leigh Dillard and Brandon Jamal Rosemond
ETHS 12th Grade: Aailya Rae Enteen Weheliye and Skyler Tristian Lee
The 26th Annual AAYAA ceremony was sponsored by Byline Bank, Chessmen, C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Evanston/North Shore Alumnae Chapter, Ivy Pearl Foundation, Delta Chi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Family Focus Evanston, The Joe “Butch” Martin Fund, McGaw YMCA, NAACP, Northwestern University, Omega Phi Zeta of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Shorefront, Gerri Sizemore, Soul Creations, and in conjunction with Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and School District 202.
For more information about this award program, email the AAYA committee at AAYAAwards@gmail.com.