Four Students and a Teacher Honored at Black Heritage Celebration


The West Haven Black Heritage Committee honored four West Haven High School students in recognition of their leadership and academic achievement at the 27th annual Black Heritage Celebration at City Hall on Feb. 16.

Seniors Ayannah Obas and Jo’Vante Witter, as well as juniors Malachi Calhoun and Dana Davis, were brought on stage one at a time to accept their certificates from the committee chairman, Steven R. Mullins.

West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and West Haven High School Principal Dana Paredes gave the opening remarks before presenting the students with their awards.

In addition, State Representative Treneé McGee gave each of the students a $500 academic scholarship, which surprised the students and many others present.

Teacher Jason Thomas, was also honored at the event, a tribute to his being the school’s first ever African-American choral director.

The WHHS Bel Canto Choir, which was also invited to the celebration, gave a performance of “Ain’t Going to Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” This liberation song later became a national anthem for civil rights, and ended the event with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Mr. Thomas, the choral director, said he was completely caught off guard by the recognition he received at the event.  He thought he was simply there to direct the Bel Canto Choir.

“My goal, like many of my colleagues that I am lucky to work with here in West Haven, is to make a difference in the lives of all the students that I am privileged to teach,” he said. “I hope that I am remembered by my kindness to others, by my passion for teaching music, and by the level of excellence in which my students perform. Being black is a bonus! I certainly am honored, appreciate the recognition, and hope to have a significant impact in this wonderful community.”

Davis, one of the student recipients, said she was also surprised and honored by the recognition.

“When I won it, it made me realize it’s okay to step back and acknowledge the accomplishments I’ve made so far, so it was a great honor.”

At the West Haven City Hall, banners and posters featuring significant Black leaders and role models from around the world were  hung on the wall in honor of Black History Month.