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Honoree Tayonna Johnson WHS ’21 to Attend Howard University in Fall 2021
Baltimore— Western High School Foundation, established to preserve and strengthen the shining legacy and excellence of the nation’s oldest all-girls public high school, announced Tayonna Johnson as the 2021 recipient of the Lois and Irving Blum Social Justice Fellowship at Western High School.
The scholarship program is funded by the Lois and Irving Blum Foundation through Carolyn “Patty” Blum (WHS 1967), Clinical Professor of Law, Emerita at Berkeley Law, University of California, who founded and directed the International Human Rights Law Clinic, and her family. The $5,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a Western senior demonstrating social justice activism in the city or state.
“The Western High School Foundation’s mission to preserve and strengthen Western’s legacy dovetails perfectly with my family’s plan to create social justice activism scholarships at the Baltimore high schools each family member attended. The scholarships honor our parents’ values and recognize the schools where we had grown intellectually and developed lifelong friendships,” said Professor Blum.
In addition to family members, Blum’s close family friend, Margaret “Peg” Cohen (WHS 1966), serves as a member of the selection committee for Western. As Western’s second Blum Scholar, Johnson plans to attend Howard University this fall.
Founded in 1867 with its motto of Excellence in Truth and Service, Howard University is nationally ranked #2 among the Top Historically Black Colleges and Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
Johnson, was selected by the Blum selection committee for her talent, passion and community engagement, said Professor Blum who noted, “It is truly uplifting to see the special girls who are graduating under Principal White’s leadership.” Principal White has been frequently honored for her leadership in education.
Even at her young age, Johnson is certain of her life direction: motivating youth through music. She was featured recently for the Healing City Baltimore Summit 2021 singing “Save Me,” which is about her thinking process as she was getting through trauma. Johnson’s frequent, consistent partnering with Healing City and Heart Smiles has given her the opportunity to help youth who struggle with issues unique to inner city life by setting a personal example of pursuing dreams.
In March 2021, Johnson was featured on PBS NewsHour focusing on her work with Hip Hop Public Health’s “Community Immunity” video to ensure its authentic reflection of Baltimore City. The video exposed common vaccine myths and misconceptions to help influence communities in making better decisions during the pandemic.
After college graduation, she plans to return to Baltimore to establish a building for inner city young artists where they can record their music and learn more about the music industry.
Johnson said, “It’s very important to help young people who have so much talent to reach their full potential. I want to be that person who can set an example for others; I want others to be able to say ‘If Tayonna can do it, so can I!’”
Johnson has been influenced by Western’s motto “We have received light, let us give light.”
Professor Blum’s life has been a testament to the value of giving light, according to Carolyn O’Keefe (WHS 1974), president of the Western High School Foundation. “Patty sets a strong example of philanthropy for other Western alumnae and, importantly, for every citizen committed to social justice. After all, every day, Western works to advance gender and racial equity in real time, with immediate and long-term positive impact on young women.”
Founded in 1844, Western High School is the oldest all-girls public school in the nation. Its notable alumnae include: Henrietta Szold; Etta and Claribel Cone; Judge Sarah T. Hughes; Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman; Dr. Nancy Grasmick; Anna Deavere Smith; and Maryland State Senator Jill Carter.