Tayonna Lee, a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, has been named the winner of this year’s Marc Wesley Hardy Human Rights Award by the First Congregational Church of Westfield. The award is given annually to a young person who has distinguished him- or herself in the area of human rights.

Tayonna has been an active member of the Black Students Union (BSU) at her high school for four years. She directed and choreographed a film depicting some of the problems faced by minority students in their school.  The video went on to include conversations around human rights. She also proposed a large display of Black History influences in honor of Dr. King’s holiday and hosted a contest for students to answer questions about important figures in Black History.

She is also a member of the Social Justice Matters group, which provides a platform for youth and adults to engage in discussions and help bridge the generational gap on social issues.  Both the Social Justice group and the BSU have partnered to host two Teen Summits, involving students of all ethnicities to discuss topics of community concern.

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In addition to her schoolwork and extracurricular activities, Tayonna is involved in many community organizations.  She volunteers at an after school enrichment program, provides entertainment at nursing homes during the holidays, and raises money for the “Relay for Life’ event for the American Cancer Society.  

She has maintained her standing on the school’s Honor Roll or High Honor Roll every semester from 9th-12th grades. Tayonna plans to attend Kean College, with hopes of transferring to the School of Visual Arts in NY, to pursue a Graphic Design Degree, working towards her career goal of becoming a Marketing Specialist, Art Director, or Commercial Designer. 

Tayonna received her award, consisting of a check and a certificate, during the April 30 service of the First Congregational Church of Westfield.  The Marc Wesley Hardy Human Rights Awards was created in memory of Marc Hardy, a member of First Congregational Church who was a talented performer and promising young student when  he lost his life in a car accident in his senior year at Westfield High School in 1990.