2023 Amazing Kids - Milwaukie
School: Milwaukie High School
WHY SHE IS AMAZING: Mariah’s strong leadership skills are credited with revitalizing her school’s Black Student Union, leading to commendations from both city and school district officials.
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Mariah Walls, a freshman in Milwaukie, stepped up to the microphone at a city council meeting to introduce a presentation on Black Excellence Month. Mariah and her fellow members of MHS’s Black Student Union went on to further define Black excellence. For city officials, it was clear that the young people represented a living definition of excellence. After a round of applause, city officials invited the Black Student Union members to volunteer for the city and eventually be elected to council positions.
In an interview with Pamplin Media Group after the city council meeting, Mariah said that her BSU presidency was a natural outgrowth of the encouragement she received from fellow BSU members whom she credited with having strong voices for change.
“I just like trying to help, so I try to voice out things that are not often voiced out,” Mariah said.
MHS art teacher Savi Ryan said Mariah is an Amazing Kid because she is stepping into community engagement and student leadership roles through the school’s Black Student Union at such a young age.
“Mariah’s work in this affinity group has been amazing to witness,” Ryan said. “She’s a strong, independent, Black female student who is committed to sharing her love for Black culture, Black community, Black excellence and Black joy with the rest of the school.”
Mariah contacted the school’s art club (facilitated by Ryan) to request collaboration on a Black History Month poster. Ryan said the poster turned out beautifully, adding that Mariah did a fantastic job in helping lead the Black History Month assembly.
“Mariah is also a fantastic visual artist, writer and overall amazing student. I love having her in my art class. She brings so much to the table and conversation,” Ryan said.
Mariah’s poster shows a clenched fist, a traditional Black power symbol, with the word “peace” emblazoned in capital letters on the wrist. Surrounding the fist are dozens of names of Black people who have died in cases of police brutality.
Mariah said she worked with other BSU members to take some names from a “Say Their Names” poster used in the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, they researched other names from history to include lesser-known cases of police brutality in their poster.
MHS Assistant Principal Mariam Higgins first witnessed Mariah’s excellence when she approached the school’s administration in October (as a new ninth grader!), wanting to make the Black Student Union a fantastic and inclusive experience for the betterment of the entire city of Milwaukie.
“She had lots of ideas and energy, and she got to work,” Higgins said. “Mariah stands out for her mature, organized self-initiated hands-on collaboration to make our community a better, stronger, and more vibrant place. Not only did she have a vision and a plan, she eagerly reaches out and works alongside fellow students, student groups, teachers, librarians, administrators, and district and city leaders.”
Mariah is widely recognized for having revitalized MHS’s Black Student Union. In less than a year, Mariah has orchestrated an all-school assembly for Black Excellence Month, has been an MHS student representative at a high-level district needs assessment focus group, and has been invited to city hall to be recognized as a young leader.
“This is a young woman who has everything it takes and is on her way to make our school and world a better, stronger, and more just place,” Higgins said.