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Model of Justice honoree recalls service as opportunity to work together as a team

Chaminade senior Bryce Boldenone of 30 area teens to receive award

In the summer of 2017, Bryce Bolden and two dozen high school teens visited Money, Miss., as part of a trip with Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-based program that trains the next generation of civil rights leaders.

While there, they stopped at the site of the former Bryant’s Grocery Store, where 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 allegedly whistled at the white store owner’s wife. Till was later abducted and murdered. The murder helped propel the civil rights movement, drawing attention to injustices happening against African Americans.

The teens from St. Louis discovered that a historical marker at the site had been vandalized. They quickly jumped into action, constructing a temporary sign with notes and hand-drawn pictures. They also alerted authorities so that the sign could be repaired.

“We knew this was an act of hate and somebody trying to cover up history,” Bryce said. The moment was an opportunity “put up the truth” to ensure that Till’s “legacy does not die down. We are still aware of acts of hate and violence that happen in our country. This part of our history is still prominent today.”

The senior at Chaminade College Preparatory School will be one of 30 area high school students honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Model of Justice Award Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The awards ceremony is a highlight of the 43rd annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice, which commemorates the birth and legacy of Rev. King.

Bryce’s involvement with Cultural Leadership is among a long list of community endeavors the 17-year-old has been involved with since high school. Beyond his involvement with Cultural Leadership, which facilitates learning about social justice topics from the perspective of Jewish and African American cultures and history, Bryce also was a member of the FOCUS St. Louis Youth Leadership Program, which provides high school juniors with tools to become civic and community leaders.

FOCUS opened the door for Bryce to participate in Sites of Conscience St. Louis. Within that program, he and a team of teens spearheaded a “fishbowl” activity at the Missouri History Museum on education and equality and the school to prison pipeline. The activity coincided with the Civil Rights exhibit at the museum.

Bryce also also has volunteered with other organizations, including St. Louis Area Foodbank, Ranken Jordan Hospital and BJC Hospital. He also was involved with Better Family Life, a local organization that works with underserved communities. He helped with the intake process that connects teens and young adults with jobs. “We helped young adults, ages 16-24, to get jobs and to have a positive impact in their lives and get their lives on track. Better Family Life is very much focused on the community and direct action.”

He spoke about the influence of his parents, neither of whom went to college. “They’ve always instilled a hard-work ethic,” Bryce said. “They know the way they have come to success is unique and does not come for everyone. They’ve always wanted to show me, this is not the life that everyone is able to live and it does take work. There can be a lot of adversity in the process. They wanted to make sure I was well rounded and exposed to different people.”

Bryce said Rev. King was “someone who was resilient, someone who didn’t give up, someone who was not afraid of backlash — and who was willing to fight for justice, when even at the time (it) was not a popular opinion. He was someone who served all people. I try not to limit my service to one group of people, but spreading my horizons.”

Volunteer work has showed Bryce that “having a strong support system is key. We all helped rectify the Emmett Till sign. When I was leading conversations on sexism or the school to prison pipeline, we were doing it together. We’re a stronger force when we are together.”

Bryce also has learned that “no impact is too small. And always be willing to make the change — you just have to try.”

2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Model of Justice honorees

Catholic school honorees

Anna Laine, Barat Academy

Emily Hernandez, Bishop DuBourg

Marian Montiel, Cardinal Ritter College Prep

Bryce Bolden, Chaminade College Prep

Grant Tebeau, Christian Brothers College

Kate Schoen, Cor Jesu Academy

Maxwell Conway, De Smet Jesuit High School

Emily Noonan, Duchesne High School

Zoe Webster, Incarnate Word Academy

Brianna Chandler, Nerinx Hall

Sophia Vaccaro, Notre Dame High School

Alexis Robles, Rosati-Kain High School

Nicholas Bone, St. Dominic High School

Audrey Baumstark, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School

Ethan Bopp, St. John Vianney High School

Maggie Hannick, St. Joseph’s Academy

Connor Hanzlik, St. Louis Priory School

Austin Sexton-Warner, St. Louis University High School

Justin White, St. Mary’s High School

Emily Chavez-Cortes, Trinity Catholic High School

Anna Gonsalves, Ursuline Academy

Alivia Bauman, Valle Catholic High School

Clare Eisenbeis, Villa Duchesne

Parish honorees

Justin Goeke, All Saints Parish in St. Peters

Madeline Stewart, Assumption Parish in O’Fallon

Hallie Schlereth, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Ferguson

Jared Hallahan, St. Alban Roe Parish in Wildwood

Jasmine DuMaine, St. Alphonsus Liguori in St. Louis

Andrea Lowe, St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis

Lacci Gibbar, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Perryville

43rd annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice

WHAT: The Mass commemorates the birth and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20

WHERE: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue

MORE INFO: Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will be the main celebrant; Father Art Cavitt of the St. Charles Lwanga Center will be the homilist. A reception and awards ceremony for the 2019 Model of Justice honorees will take place after Mass in Boland Hall. For more information, call the St. Charles Lwanga Center at (314) 367-7929.

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