Park City High School senior receives University of Utah’s youth leadership award
When Nina Williams stumbled upon the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Award last fall, she added it to her ever-growing pile of scholarship and college applications to complete. But as she sat down to knock out another essay for the application, she paused to reflect on how leadership and service opportunities have shaped her life.
Then, while standing shoulder to shoulder with eight other teens from around the state who were being recognized as award winners, it sunk in even more. She knew her future would consist of leading the fight for social justice.
Williams, a senior at Park City High School, was recently named a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Award. The award, given by the University of Utah, recognizes students from grades seven to 12 throughout the state who are leaders in their communities.
She first heard about the award when she and her mother, PCHS English and Latinos in Action teacher Anna Williams, were searching for scholarships online. Nina Williams read through the award description and was moved by the award honoring Dr. King’s service decades ago.
“I thought that it was really cool that they would have a scholarship that’s so devoted to continuing his legacy of service, as well as recognizing leadership,” she said.
In order to apply, Williams had to have a teacher nominate her, and four teachers ended up submitting her name to the award committee.
Then, she wrote an essay about how marginalized communities are represented in the media. She said part of her essay focused on what she hopes to do with her life. Her No. 1 goal is to continue the work her mother does to promote equal opportunities for all, she said.
Williams attributes her passion for service to her mother. She grew up participating in service projects with her family, and she joined groups like the National Honor Society and the suicide prevention group HOPE Squad when she arrived at the high school.
Her mother also instilled in her the importance of pushing for equality. Williams said she has sought out classes and groups at the high school to fuel her interests in social justice issues. She attributes her winning the award partly to the experiences she has had in Park City.
So, when the email arrived congratulating Williams on being a recipient of the award, she was ecstatic.
“I was incredibly honored to have even been considered for that award, because I just do my best, but I wasn’t expecting any recognition for it. So that was pretty cool,” she said.
Williams was presented her award at a ceremony on Jan. 23. She was even more surprised that she won when she heard about the accomplishments of her fellow winners.
“Everyone there seemed like a genuinely good person, and a person who was going to go on and do amazing things in their lifetime, so I was pretty honored to be a part of that crowd,” she said.
She said being around other students who are dedicated to improving their communities convinced her that she could do more to incorporate service in her everyday life. Receiving an award with Martin Luther King Jr.’s name on it inspired her even more.
She plans to be a champion for social justice through her daily actions, but she also wants to have a bigger impact. She hopes to attend college in the fall and study political science, and perhaps pursue a degree in law and “change the system from within.”