students posing with state rep

(Photo by Michael P. Walsh)

– Four West Haven High School students were honored for leadership and academics at the 27th Annual Black Heritage Celebration on Thursday, February 16 in the Harriet C. North Community Room at the West Haven City Hall.

The student award presentation began with opening remarks from West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and WHHS Principal Dana Paredes. The students – seniors Ayannah Obas and Jo’Vante Witter, and juniors Malachi Calhoun and Dana Davis – were then called to the podium one-at-a-time to receive a Black Heritage Committee certificate of achievement from committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins,  before Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro wrapped up the presentation with closing remarks.

Additionally, to the surprise of the students and many in attendance, State Representative Treneé McGee presented the honorees with a $500 academic scholarship.

The WHHS Bel Canto Choir was also invited to the celebration and performed “Ain’t Going to Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” a freedom song that became a national civil rights anthem in the 1960's, before wrapping up the event with the "The Star-Spangled Banner." Jason Thomas, the new Choral Director, was recognized as being the first-ever African American Choral Director at West Haven High School.

To read more about the Black Heritage Celebration, visit the City of West Haven website by clicking here.

Below are the short blurbs about each student honoree from the Black Heritage Celebration program for those that were unable to attend:

Ayannah Obas is a Haitian American student who grew up in America along with her three other siblings and loving parents. By day, she is often running around school very busy with different tasks that come with being an academic scholar. Tasks like managing 6 AP classes along with a college class at Yale University, attending Student Council meetings as vice president, attending Student Government meetings as president, as well as GRAC meetings, all while working part-time at the local Dunkin Donuts. Even with this hectic schedule, she likes to set time aside to read books and watch different crime documentaries as she aspires to be a lawyer in the future and give back to the West Haven community.

Jo’Vante Witter, a senior at West Haven High School, currently has a GPA of 4.3. His extracurricular activities include being a Peer Advocate, a member of the school Chorus, a member of the National Honor Society, and a part-time employee at the Yale Peabody Museum. He intends to pursue a field in Mathematics and Computer Science. He has already been accepted into the prestigious Howard University and is waiting fo the results of the other schools that he has applied to.

Reserved, goal-oriented, and driven are the words that best describe Malachi Calhoun. Academically, Malachi excels, ranking in the top 11% of his junior class. He has earned high honors every quarter, is enrolled in 3 Honors or AP level classes junior year, and because of his facility with math and love for arts, he will pursue studies in a STEM major such as architecture or zoology. He lives with both parents and is the youngest of 3 brothers, all of whom will have attended 4-year colleges. He is kind and thoughtful: one of his most gratifying involvements was community service at the senior housing complex in town delivering food to the residents, and he also volunteered hours working for a local political campaign. In his down time, Malachi enjoys drawing and sketching, playing video games with his friends, and going to the movies.

Top-achieving, diligent, and bicultural are adjectives that come to mind in describing Dana Davis. The eldest daughter of Nigerian immigrants who grew up hearing her parents speak Igbo at home, Dana ranks in the top 3% of the junior class, has earned High Honors every quarter, and has completed every core class at the highest level offered. She is on track to attend a highly selective university then plans to attend medical school and serve the community as an obstetrician or a dentist. Dana spends her discretionary time wisely: she has served the West Haven community as a volunteer at the public library, especially enjoying executing their programs for young children. Since last summer, she has worked part-time every weekend at Dunkin’ and when she is done with her homework and activities, she de-stresses by spending time with her equally high-achieving friends or by listening to music.