During the 12th annual Berkeley Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Jan. 16, students from Berkeley High School, or BHS, Berkeley Technology Academy, or BTA, and Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, middle schools received Next Generation Awards for their engagement in social justice initiatives, honoring the legacy of MLK Jr.
The award recognizes students who promote activism, nonviolent conflict resolution, peace and equality, according to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott.
“These students make a difference every single day in our schools,” McDermott said in an email.
McDermott noted the superintendent and other BUSD staff attended the virtual celebration on Jan. 16. Sponsors of the 2023 event included UC Berkeley’s Office of the Chancellor, Berkeley Black Police Officers’ Association and Berkeley Rotary Club, among others, according to the Berkeley MLK Celebration’s website.
Latyna Butler, a BTA senior, was one of four high school winners to receive a $500 scholarship for her Next Generation Award.
“I think what got me into this award is my participation at the school and the medicine garden,” Butler said.
Butler serves as the lead intern for BTA’s Medicine Garden, according to an email sent by the BUSD.
Butler recalled feeling excited and pleasantly surprised about receiving the award after her teacher and principal nominated her. She said she hopes to study law after high school to increase accessibility to legal resources for members of her community. She encouraged other students to actively participate in their communities as well.
Neveah Dustyhorn, BTA senior and fellow Next Generation Award recipient, attributed her award to her growth throughout high school, as a result of the people around her.
“During my first two years at BTA, I was going through a lot of personal stuff, and I was really struggling,” Dustyhorn said. “And then I grew a lot, and I got help from the staff there, who were super supportive of me.”
Dustyhorn said her interests lie in computer science and the arts, adding that she also works on her school’s website. After high school, she hopes to attend community college and transfer into a four-year program, with the intention of studying computer science to pursue a future career in game programming or cybersecurity.
Dustyhorn noted she will use the $500 scholarship to help pay for college.
Other award recipients include BHS students Tyler Blue and Winta Tesfaldet, Willard Middle School students Jonavin Battle and Nahom Worku, Longfellow Middle School students Kalyse Getridge and Syncere Ferguson and MLK Jr. Middle School students Ray Avila-Mani and Nathalia Velasquez Hernandez.
“We are proud of the BUSD students who were recognized with Next Generation Awards at Berkeley’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration,” McDermott said in an email. “It was an inspiring and affirming event attended by political and civic leaders, community members, and BUSD students, families, and staff.”