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South Jordan Journal

Middle-schooler urges others to help those in need, receives MLK award

Mar 31, 2023 12:06PM ● By Julie Slama

Mountain Creek ninth-grader Kennedy Hawkins recently received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Leadership Award. (Photo courtesy of Kennedy Hawkins)

A Mountain Creek ninth grader was recently was honored for her leadership and service with the University of Utah Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Leadership Award. 

Kennedy Hawkins was one of 12 secondary school students across the state who was selected for the honor.

“I love that my first big award is something that’s going to help the community out,” Hawkins said. “I know that with this, I can further help more people.”

As part of the selection, Hawkins and others wrote essays, sharing their experiences, advice and actions why they chose to love and support nonviolence when encountering intolerance or hate. It fit with the week’s theme, “Choose Love Over Hate.”

Hawkins, who was urged to apply for the award from a friend, wrote about her volunteering to serve the homeless population.

“I feel a lot of people get the wrong idea about homeless people,” she said. “They think these people are scary or crazy, but maybe they don’t really know why the people become homeless in the first place. I want people to become more aware of why people are homeless and how we can help. There are so many people who need help and likely, there are kids going to school who are homeless or are having a hard time. I want people to come together and help.”

Since she was young, Hawkins has helped at shelters and now, she volunteers at Circles, an organization which aims to reduce poverty in Salt Lake City through providing support such as goal setting, financial literacy and peer counseling while providing job opportunities, transportation and other services.

“I try to help as much as I possibly can. On Thursdays, when I’m free, I go help with families who are in poverty. I also have people donate socks, jackets, clothing, and other items. I put those in bags and deliver it to people in need,” she said. “There’s a lot of hate going around the world and I think especially that it is aimed toward homeless people. No matter your situation, we’re all humans and especially in these times, we just need to choose love over hate. We need to help those people who are especially in need, instead of thinking of them as different and hating them.”

Hawkins said she was “shocked” when she learned she was going to be recognized with the Martin Luther King, Jr. award. She received a plaque and swag in front of her parents and others during an awards breakfast at the University of Utah alumni house.

“I didn’t think that I was going to be recognized like this, but it is a good chance to share the message and be heard,” Hawkins said. “I’m glad that people are listening and stuff I feel that more people will be able to recognize their need and come forward to help.”