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By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

January 21, 2016 -- A diverse group of Santa Monica College students earned the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Westside Coalition 2016 Education Awards at this week's celebration honoring King's birthday.

Founded in 1985 as a community partnership with the City, the MLK Westside Coalition each year asks schools, churches, and youth groups to encourage college and high school students to submit essays, poems and other creative work for the awards program.

With the goal of educating children and adults about King's legacy and promote his ideals, the coalition produces the annual MLK Day Celebration in Santa Monica.

Submissions for the coalition's annual youth awards must exemplify the six principals of nonviolence advocated in King's “Stride Toward Freedom,” his memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott.

For her poem, “Don't Let the Six Principals Die,” SMC sophomore Alizana Hobdy-Clayton earned the 2016 Clyde Smith Award for “artistic effort and service making our world a better place to live.” the award is given in honor of MLK Westside Coalition co-founder Clyde Smith.

Home-schooled until she was in the 11th grade, Hobdy Clayton said her father taught her how to read, “and I have embraced literature and expression of such ever since,” she said.

SMC sophomore Terrance Chavez Ware, winner of this year's Saul Morrison Award for his essay, “Peace Requires Defeating Injustice,” is a first-generation college students striving for a master's degree in accounting.

This year's Lillie Bell Blakley Award, in honor of the mother of former Santa Monica Mayor Nathaniel Trives, was presented to SMC student Brenda De Angel for her essay. “Peace Requires Justice.”

Blakely is also the grandmother of Dr. Tony Trives, chair of SMC's modern languages and cultures department.

The Blakely Award is given to an essay that “demonstrates an awareness of tradition, legacy and history.

A “dreamer student,” at age 2, De Angel migrated with her family to the United States. The full-time believes “nothing is impossible, despite my citizenship status.”

The coalition's First Place Award this year went to SMC sophomore Damien Tarelle Butts for his poem, “The Nonviolent Way,” as well as his illustration of King. A member of SMC's Black Collegians campus club, Butts also volunteers as a homework helper at the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica. He's pursuing a career in software development.

“I'm interested in human-computer interactions and the challenges of making computers useful, usable and universally accessible,” said Butts.

Studying to become a history teacher, SMC student Chrisauna Chery received the coalition's Honorary Mention Award for her poem, “A Plea Over Spilt Milk.”

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