A’Shaela Chaires Receives Prestigious Community Award


Credit: Williston Twitter

When A’Shaela Chaires found out she won the Ahadi Youth Award, she was confused. A’Shaela, a senior at Williston, had never heard of the prestigious honor before, and didn’t even know that she had been nominated.

“I had never even heard of this thing and I truly had no idea what it was.” She soon realized the magnitude however, once her mother and grandparents became so enthusiastic. “My grandparents and my mom cheered in the living room.”

According to the Springfield Museums, the Ahadi Youth Award is “presented to a young African-American who has excelled in academics and performed admirable service to the Greater Springfield area.”

Although surprised she won the award, A’Shaela is more than qualified for the honor. Off campus she is a math tutor for the Springfield Public School system and a member of the youth advisory council for the nonprofit organization The Encampment for Citizenship. On campus she is on the honor roll, a day student Proctor, an editor for The Log, and a founder of the Multicultural Student Union.

“If I’m completely honest, it’s great that I’m involved in so much, but I truly think MSU is the real reason I won this award,” A’Shaela said. “I felt for a long time that Williston wasn’t supporting me and I knew that there were kids who, coming from my similar situation, needed a support system while here.”

The MSU has quickly become one of the most popular clubs on campus. Senior Elise Dunn just joined this year, and is already excited to see what it has to offer.

“I’m especially interested in the Community Identity Discussions.” Elise continued, “I’m really looking forward to hearing different stories and perspectives.”

A’Shaela stressed the importance of the Community Identity Discussions, telling The Willistonian, “I feel that once we start hearing and listening to each other we will be on a much better path and can become a more inclusive community.”

She especially emphasized the significance of diversity in the club.

“I think people are afraid to come because they see it as the ‘Black club,’ but that’s not its purpose at all.” A’Shaela said, “We want all types of people there because that’s how you learn and understand. We learn from each other’s stories, perspectives, ideals, and morals.”

Many members of the Multicultural Student Union went to the September 16 ceremony, as well as members of A’Shaela’s community.

“We invited basically everyone to the event from elementary school up until now because I grew up with the saying ‘it takes a village’,” she admitted. “At the ceremony I even had family members crying, but their tears of joy touched me because I don’t think I’ve ever seen them more proud of me.”

Junior Molly Solan did not get to attend the ceremony, but still felt excited for A’Shaela.

“It’s so awesome that a student from Williston can get such a big honor. It’s no wonder why, though. A’Shaela is so smart and talented, and really important to the community.”

The award winner is more humble, however. “I’m just a hard worker, determined, resilient, and outspoken. I know where I came from and that inspires me to do better every day.”

A’Shaela feels most grateful for the impact that she can have on the Williston community.

“The work I do isn’t for me. It’s for the people who come in after me and the ones around me, and it feels good to have made a lasting impact at Williston.”