RHS Student Honored by NAACP
Natasia Walker Wins NAACP Award
by David Brighouse
On Friday, November 8, senior Natasia Walker received a very prestigious honor, being named the Rahway NAACP’s Youth Community Service Honoree. The award recognizes qualities of leadership, service, and devotion to social justice, in keeping with the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, America’s oldest surviving civil rights organization.
This year’s 85th annual awards banquet was held at the Hamilton Stage in downtown Rahway and featured an esteemed gathering of professionals, politicians, and community activists. The evening’s honorary chairs included Michellene Davis, an attorney and Executive President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for RWJ Barnabas Health, and Rahway’s mayor, Raymond A. Giacobbe.
The president of the Rahway NAACP, Lori E. Caughman, called the awards night a time when we honor “those members of the community who have worked to move the City of Rahway, the State of New Jersey, and the greater United States forward. It is our great pleasure to honor these most deserving of individuals.”
Natasia initially came to the attention of Ms. Quanae Palmer Chambliss, 1st vice president of the Rahway NAACP, as a result of her involvement this past summer with TeenWorks, a six-week Rahway summer youth program, run by RHS graduate Matthew Kowal. TeenWorks is an employment program that seeks to connect Rahway’s young people to various educational and professional resources, while cultivating community awareness as they intern at Rahway City Hall.
After the summer concluded, Natasia immediately took the skills gained from TeenWorks, along with her natural leadership qualities and talents, and put them to work. She founded with her friend, senior Jourdyn Mitchell, Rahway’s Revolution X (RRX), a grassroots dance and majorette team that performs at school, sports, and town events. Natasia also co-sponsored No Opportunities Wasted, an initiative to improve participation in scholarship and college applications.
Natasia called the news that she had won the NAACP youth award, “a shock.” She said, “I just thought, oh wow. This has really put me over the top, given me a new confidence. It has provided me with a new sense of purpose, and I’m very honored to receive this award.” She thanked God, her mom, the RHS community, Ms. Palmer Chambliss, Ms. Davis and Mayor Giacobbe, who presented her with the award, and the officers and committee members of the NAACP.
Natasia’s school counselor, Mr. Robert Zech, was not a bit surprised that the NAACP would choose to recognize her in this way. He said of her, “Natasia has always demonstrated an ability to both lead and work cooperatively. She possesses the integrity, social poise, and a quiet determination that will ensure her continuing success.”
Ms. Palmer Chambliss, recalling their time together in the summer, said, “Natasia distinguished herself over the summer as a participant in our TeenWorks Program under the Department of Recreation. She was selected to intern in the City Clerks Office where she impressed our clerk and other leaders in the city. In addition to her natural leadership abilities, Natasia demonstrated that she also had an interest in social justice and was not afraid to speak up and give a voice to the voiceless. These are the qualities that produce future civil rights leaders and why she was chosen as youth of the year.”
Along with Natasia, two other notable 2019 honorees associated with the Rahway schools were our very own Master Sergeant Gregory Mintz (look for our coverage of Master Sergeant Mintz coming soon), who has served as an instructor with the high school’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps for over 20 years, and 2015 RHS graduate Darius Singletary, currently enrolled at NJIT and just hired at age 21 by the Rahway Police Department. Sergeant Master Mintz received the Armed Services Award and Darius earned the Community Service Award.
Congratulations to all our honorees. You continue to make the Rahway Public Schools extremely proud.