Urbana High School junior Dabitha Taylor has been named a 2019 recipient of a Student Peace Award of Frederick County.
The award honors students who have aimed to make the world a better place by promoting the values of peacemaking, conflict resolution and respect for all. All 11 public high schools as well as two private high schools each select a student to receive the award. Taylor was named as UHS’s award winner.
“Honestly, I was quite shocked,” Taylor said. “I didn’t really expect (the award) but I am really happy about it.”
The idea for the award was brought before the spiritual life committee at Friends Meeting School five years ago. A committee member had seen a program in Virginia that gave student peace awards and thought it could work in Frederick, too.
After getting information about the program, including ideas on sponsorships and guidelines for winners, the group started the awards for Urbana, Linganore, Oakdale high schools and Friends Meeting School. The next year, the awards expanded to include the entire county.
The committee sends each school guidelines, and each school chooses the student in different ways. Annette Breiling, award committee member, noted some schools will have guidance counselors meet with teachers to discuss nominees. “We’ve gotten some very lovely nominations from different schools,” she said.
While many schools honor students for academics and/or athletics, Breiling noted one recipient was thrilled to be recognized for peacemaking skills as it is not a common accolade. “I would like to see more attention going to peacemaking,” Breiling said. “I think we have so much attention on upholding solutions of force and violence to problems rather than upholding peaceful approaches to our conflicts. … It seems increasingly important to (recognize peace). We have so much violence surrounding us nationally and hate speech and people being hurtful to one another. We want to counter that by promoting cultures of respect for one another and caring for one another.”
For the past two to three years, Taylor has worked with Mount of Prayer Apostolic Ministries to raise money for local homeless shelters. “They are just really kind and encouraging people,” she said. “The things they do, the volunteer work that they do, I really appreciate it. I like what they do.”
The group raises money through donations and an annual bake sale. Taylor said the money donated might be the little boost someone needs to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The 17-year-old also volunteers at Frederick Regional Health System (FRHS) and Homewood retirement community.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of the health profession.”
Working the front desk at FRHS, she does clerical work and sometimes escorts patients to destinations. On Saturdays, she volunteers at Homewood, helping take residents to different activities, and loves to listen to the stories of their lives.
“I always feel like it is necessary to give back to the community,” the Urbana resident said. “I just think it is a good thing. I feel happy. I feel like I have done something worthy of my time when I give back to the community, when I help, when I volunteer. … I get to help others without them paying me back.”
Each award winner receives a $200 check for themselves and $100 contribution to the charity of their choice. Taylor, who is also on UHS’s Step team, is saving her check to help pay for future college expenses and asked that her contribution be given to Mount of Prayer.
Each winner met at a Pizza for Peace event in mid-February and were formally recognized at a ceremony at Friends Meeting School in late March.
“I appreciate the award,” Taylor said. “Honestly, I am just happy that the little things that I do, just simple volunteer work could give me such an amazing opportunity to have this award.”