The Great Lakes Bay Region celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy this week by awarding scholarships to youths and honoring area leaders for community service.
The virtual regional event was held on Jan. 18 at Saginaw Valley State University in conjunction with the Bay Area Community Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, and Saginaw Community Foundation.
Jacey Pomaville, a Pinconning High School senior, received one of the regional scholarships. The scholarships are given to high school seniors who actively embrace King’s dream of improving racial harmony and social justice.
Cassandra Grotelueschen of Bay City Central High SchoolPomaville is president of her school's National Honor Society, president of the Business Professionals of America at the Bay-Arenac ISD, vice president of Rotary-Interact, and participates in student council and as a peer mentor. She's a student representative for the Northern Bay County Fund committee and spent two summers volunteering at Idaho Food Bank while visiting family.
She is considering attending either the University of Michigan or Wayne State University to study journalism and politics. “I have always been interested in politics and government, and I love public speaking and writing - any career involving that would be amazing,” Pomaville says.
Even before she graduates from high school, Pomaville is making her voice heard. She wrote an essay about her experience as a young Black person in a predominantly white community. The Pinconning Journal published the article. Click here to read her essay.
Pomaville also answered several questions from Route Bay City:
Route: What about Martin Luther King Jr. inspires you?
Pomaville: What inspires me most about MLK is the lasting impact his beliefs and his voice has on society. The fact that his voice carries through to every generation and will most definitely continue to, for the rest of time, is so inspirational and motivates me to follow my dreams and use my voice in order to enact even a facet of the change he has. His dedication to the racial equality movement is something he died fighting for, and I wish to carry out my dreams until the end as well.
Route: You wrote a first-person article for the Pinconning Journal that got some attention from local leaders. Can you explain what you said and why you felt compelled to take such a public stand?
Taylor Parker of Bay City Western High SchoolPomaville: The article I wrote was an extremely personal glimpse into my life. I never expected it to be published in my town's newspaper, and I was apprehensive at first about the publicity. However, I have been so lucky to have people read and enjoy what I have written, and it gives me hope that I will have a successful writing career. I wrote about the experiences that I thought most white people would not expect or think of, that someone like me has had to endure. I wanted to bring to light the racism that some people don't recognize, and the racism that is so obvious as well. I also wanted to touch on the impact other people's hatred toward my race has impacted my own view of it.
Route: What do you love about your community and high school?
Pomaville: I have definitely had a love-hate relationship with my community and school. That being said, the familiarity that comes with being in a small town is comforting and the local support I have received is phenomenal. School is one place I have always felt my best at, and it has taught me so many things outside of academics. The several clubs I am in have given me various skills and leadership opportunities that are irreplaceable.
Route: I know college graduation feels far away, but what could this community do that would encourage you to return here to begin your career?
Pomaville: I would love to see more action from my town in regard to racial equity and racial tolerance. Education about different cultures is something very lacking, and there is little to no diversity. I always dreamed of growing up and moving somewhere with much more tolerance and diversity – if that became the case for Pinconning, I would love to return. However, I think to reach the full extent of my goals toward political journalism, I may have to stray far from my hometown.
William Ozdych of John Glenn High SchoolOther Bay County students who received scholarships during the Jan. 18 event include:
- William Ozdych of John Glenn High School, who has been vice president for school government all for years of high school, is the captain of the football team, a member of the Just For Kids Charitable Organization Youth Board and has volunteered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region.
- Taylor Parker of Bay City Western High School joined the Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute in 2019 after she witnessed protests about confederate flags at her school. She also created a council at her school for students to express their feelings about diversity and problems in the school. She also has been the class vice president of her student council for four years, is the assistant editor-in-chief for the yearbook, a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region, and soccer team captain.
- Cassandra Grotelueschen of Bay City Central High School is her school's student council treasurer, a district finalist for her essay "Audre Lorde: Overcoming Oppression to Pave the Way for Modern Feminism," and a participant of Title VII: Indian Education Program through Bay City Public Schools. She has volunteered for Covenant HealthCare and the Great Lakes Bay Animal Society.
In addition to students, several community leaders were honored at the event. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award for community went to Charles "Charlie" Brunner.
When nominating him for the award, NAACP Bay City President Darold Newton stated, “Charlie is a longtime member of the NAACP Bay City Branch who has supported our work financially and with his time and talent. He is always looking out for the club’s best interests. When we ask him for help, he is there for us without hesitation. They don’t come any better than Charlie.”
Charlie BrunnerBrunner has a lifetime of acts that demonstrate his commitment to service and serving. He started out as a public school teacher and served in that capacity for 30 years, seeking to empower youth. He was a founding member of the Northwest Citizens District Council in Bay City. Upon his retirement from teaching, he turned his efforts to being a public servant full time. He served as city commissioner before being elected mayor. He then moved on to serving three terms as a Michigan State Representative. He worked to make sure all voices were heard when he was in Lansing.
“He’s not out in the forefront of the public eye now as a retiree, but he is still there for us. When the NAACP Bay City awarded him the Crusader for Freedom award, we were shocked to learn it was the first time he has ever received an award. He truly is an unsung hero,” says Newton.