2019 – NEW JERSEY (CENTRAL & SOUTH REGION)
Kayla E. Webster is a senior at Washington Township High School (WTHS) in Sewell. She is president of the school's African American Culture Club and co-founder and vice president of the second high school chapter of the NAACP in New Jersey. Kayla also holds the position of community service chair in her school's Student Council and is an active member of St. Matthews Baptist Church youth ministry, where she is on the Youth Leadership Team. As the president of the African American Culture Club, Kayla is always aware of her school's climate. In 2018, racial issues occurred at her high school. Tensions from hidden biases worsened, and students began acting on their thoughts and feelings towards African American students without fear of repercussions. This behavior became so intolerable that Kayla and a few friends decided to hold a protest to bring allies together to tell the school administration that the students would no longer accept the school's apathy on this issue. The protest included over two hundred students and resulted in the installation of the Anti-Defamation World of Difference Institute, a new program titled, "No Place for Hate", and the chartering of the second High School Chapter of NAACP in the state of New Jersey. Additional outcomes included the creation of the school's Equity Coalition Team, Kayla's appointment to the Principal's Student Leadership Team, and a new course, "Social Justice and Humanitarian Studies." Kayla was selected by the school's administrators to facilitate workshops with the staff about how to recognize conscious and unconscious biases they may hold. These activities initiated a long overdue dialogue about race relations within the Washington Township School District. As Kayla graduates, she will pass the torch to an underclassman who has the same passion for racial equality.