The following article was published in our Fall 2023 Communique. Read the Communique here!
Each May, at the end of the academic year, St. Joseph High School hosts underclassmen awards, honoring students who have not only achieved high academic standing, but who have dedicated their time to community service, and have made a difference within our school. One such honor is the “Students Who Make a Difference Award.” This award is bestowed upon a group of students who have exhibited gestures of kindness and altruism without expecting any recognition in return. They are selected by the faculty and staff and handed their certificates by our beloved faculty member, Betsy
In May 2023, freshman Cadet, Gabriella “Gabby” Wayman, was presented with this award. As a first-year student, Gabby stood out from her peers with her cheerful disposition, positive attitude, work ethic, and dedication to her school and her community. She joined multiple clubs and successfully ran for a position on the Sophomore Class Student Council. During her camapign speech, Gabby highlighted the many activities and non-profits she supports throughout the school year.
“It all started when my mom, my siblings, and I moved from Delaware to Bridgeport,” Gabby said. “I was about nine years old and to me, everything was different – my neighborhood, my friends, my school – and I became very shy and introverted. That was when my mother ‘voluntold’ me to join an organization called C.L.T.I, which stands for Children’s Leadership Training Institution.”
The C.L.T.I. is an organization that seeks to educate and excite children about their participation in civic life and as school and community leaders. Since Gabby had nearly aged out of the program and was older than most of the other children, she found herself serving as an Assistant Teacher, helping the other students and spending her days learning to find her voice once again. After a year, when the students were set to graduate from the program, Gabby was invited to be the keynote speaker, which prompted her journey toward community service.
Using her newfound public speaking talent and harnessing her ambition, Gabby chose to run for Vice President of the NAACP Youth Chapter in Bridgeport. “I tried to run for secretary first,” she said, “but I didn’t get elected. So the next year, I thought, why not? Let’s go for something bigger. And I actually got elected as V.P.!”
As part of the NAACP Youth Chapter, Gabby and her peers go out into the community, volunteering, advocating, and striving to create a society in which all individuals have equal rights. As their V.P., Gabby was honored when she was asked to give a speech for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
She took the time to work closely with her aunt to create a poem titled, “I Still Believe,” which incorporates many of Dr. King’s quotes on equality and justice. Little did Gabby know when her Mom recorded the speech and posted it to YouTube, it would jumpstart an even greater leap forward. Gabby’s speech caught the attention of the organization, Blessed Girls, which promotes learning, entrepreneurship, and a courageous lifestyle that produces strong, motivated young women. After watching her speech, Blessed Girls wanted to recognize Gabby with the 4C Youth Civility Award, inviting her to Philadelphia to give a speech. This then led Gabby to become a 4C Youth Civility Ambassador (the 4C’s stand for Civility, Community, Climate Change, and Creativity).
“One of the greatest aspects of being a 4C Youth Ambassador is that I get to travel the world as part of the organization’s Pads & Panties Project, which distributes an assortment of hygienic items to young women and girls in poverty.”
This past summer 2023, Gabby was fortunate enough to join Blessed Girls on their 4C Youth Civility Tour to Kenya! The Blessed Girls visited the Sekenani Girls School and distributed sanitary pads and hygiene items to almost 800 young women.
“Being in Kenya was such an eye-opening experience. Just seeing the different lifestyles and how no one ever complained about what they didn’t have; they were just grateful to be with their family and share their culture with others. Serving as part of the Pads & Panties Project felt amazing. I was able to help young girls who didn’t have hygiene products and make them feel confident in themselves.”
We are in awe of how much Gabby has already accomplished before her sophomore year had even begun! In addition to all of her extracurricular activities at SJ, Gabby is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Jr., which meets twice a week to discuss new ways that the group can serve their community. As part of the NSBE, she also gets to travel annually across the country to attend STEM Youth Summits. Gabby is also the Secretary for Jack and Jill, an organization for both parents and children, which focuses on nurturing African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving, and civic duty. We are so proud to count Gabby among our SJ Cadets. She’s truly a young leader on the rise!