The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education Presented to Brittany Henderson, Ernnisa Williams, Najah Johnson and Ibn Days
The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders honored four high school seniors from Newark who were selected by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) to receive 2012 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education. Brittany Henderson earned her Governor’s Award for Excellence in Jazz; Ibn Days received his award for Excellence in Music; Ernnisa Williams won her award for Excellence in Acting; and Najah Johnson was awarded hers for Excellence in Musical Theater.
The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education program began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of award winners. The awards are presented to students selected by national and statewide organizations for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theater and visual arts, as well as to leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education. The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates whose leadership has helped to nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.
Each year, NJPAC selects five deserving students to receive Governor’s Awards who have participated in one of the following Arts Training programs offered at NJPAC: Summer Youth Performance Workshop, The Young Artist Institute, NJPAC/NJ Youth Theatre Summer Musical, NJPAC Jeffrey Carollo Music Scholarship and Wells Fargo Jazz For Teens. Participating students must first audition for, and be accepted into one of the programs, and upon successful completion of the program they are evaluated by a committee comprised of the program directors to determine the respective honorees.
Brittany Henderson, an 18-year old senior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth and outstanding vocalist, was selected by NJPAC to receive a 2012 Governor’s Award in Arts Education for “Excellence in Jazz”, having participated in the NJPAC Wells Fargo Jazz For Teens Program since 2009 and other NJPAC programs since the age of 11, including the Young Artist Institute. She was also awarded full scholarships in 2011 to a 1-week program at The Price Claus Conservatory in Groningen, The Netherlands, and to the Berklee College of Music’s 5-week Summer Performance Program in Boston, Massachusetts. Brittany’s talents were further recognized when she was selected to perform at the welcoming party for athletes attending the 2010 NCAA Regional Basketball Tournament in Newark, and with the opening act for WBGO’s Benefit Concert 2010. She was also a featured vocalist in NJPAC’s pre-concert Prelude series, and performed for the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders during its 2009 Women’s History Month Celebration. At Benedictine Academy, Brittany has been involved in a multitude of activities, including: Students in Action, track and basketball, choir, theater, and the Literary Arts, Art and Ecology clubs. Brittany will attend Berklee College of Music in the fall; she is the daughter of her proud parents, Mark and Sheril Henderson, and the older sister of Bryanna and Brea.
Ibn Days, a 17-year old senior at Newark’s University High School and an outstanding baritone vocalist, was selected by NJPAC to receive his Governor’s Award for “Excellence in Music”, having participated in its Young Artist Institute since 2009. He has also taken performance classes at The Newark School of Arts, Stagedoor Manor, Essex County College and Gallman’s Newark Dance Theatre. He is a member of the University High School Track Team, the Advanced Chorus, the Future Educators’ Association, and participates in a variety of other school activities. He was the First Place winner of his high school’s 2011 Talent Showcase, and is a past participant in Steve Adubato’s Stand and Deliver program. In addition to his school activities, Ibn is a member of Newark ACT-SO, an affiliate of the NAACP, and is currently a finalist in the NJ Shoutdown Drugs competition, which will be performing at NJPAC on May 24, 2012. Ibn will attend Rutgers University in the fall, where he plans to study Theatre Performance to focus on all aspects of performing: acting, dance and singing/music. He is the son of his proud parents, Sallie and Victor, and the brother of his siblings, Naimah, Pamoja, Victoria, Muhammad and Zakia.
Najah Johnson, an 18-year old senior at Newark’s Arts High School, was selected by NJPAC to receive her Governor’s Award for “Excellence in Musical Theater”, having participated in the Young Artist Institute since 2009. She has also received training at the Manhattan Theatre Club (scene study), the Papermill Playhouse (movement, stage combat and Shakespeare), Kean University (movement/dance), the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory (acting) and the Alfred Gallman School of Dance (modern dance, Hip-Hop). In addition to appearing in the Arts High production of “Juliet Lived the Musical”, she has appeared in many other productions performed in New Jersey and New York at such venues as the Metropolitan New York Library, Theater Row Studios (through which she became a member of Actors Equity Association), New Federal Theatre, The Growing Stage Theater, Newark Symphony Hall and the African Globe Theater, in addition to roles in commercials and short films. Najah was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society as a 7th Grader, and into the National Honor Society her senior year at Arts High School, where she has been on the Honor Roll since 9th Grade and where she ranks in the 20th percentile of her class. She also serves as a “Big Sister” for Sisterhood Mentoring, a mentoring program for 7th Grade students at Arts High. Najah will attend Drew University in the fall where she plans to study Theater. She is the daughter of her proud parents, Sahirah and Thomas, and the sister of her siblings, Thomas and Samir.
Ernnisa Williams, a 17-year old senior at Newark’s American History High School, was selected by NJPAC to receive her Governor’s Award for “Excellence in Acting”, having participated in its Young Artist Institute since 2009 and the Summer Youth Performance Workshop in 2011. She has also been a pioneering member of Wu-Ka-Ki Theatre at the Boylan Street Recreation Center, a performing arts and TV production group that has hosted varied performances, TV shows and art workshops for students throughout the City of Newark. Ernnisa is ranked 5th in her graduating class at American History High School, where she has a 3.53 G.P.A. and was among the first students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes. She is a member of the National Honor Society and has also been a member of the Gilder lerman Book Club, the Dance Club, the Drama Club, the Choir, the N.A.A.C.P. Club and the Girls Basketball Team. Outside of school, she has participated in the Rutgers Geosciences Scholars Program and the Drew University Summer College Program. She has also mentored young girls ages 7-13 as a member of the Daughters of Sarah Mentoring Program at Renaissance Church of Newark, and has participated in the R.Y.A.N. (Reaching Young Adults Now) Program at the Boylan Street Recreation Center, which provides a multitude of workshops on filling-out job applications and preparing for job interviews, etc. Ernnisa will attend Rutgers University - Newark in the fall, where she plans to study Broadcasting and Communications. She is the daughter of her proud mother, Qwenetta Daniel, and the sister of her siblings, David, Keshawn, Paul and Mercy Williams.
The ceremony was highlighted by performances by each of the four students: Brittany Henderson sang “Centerpiece” (music by Harry Edison, lyrics by John Hendricks); Ibn Days sang “The Sweetest Sounds” by Richard Rodgers; Najah Johnson sang “I’m Here” (from the Broadway play “The Color Purple”); and Ernnisa acted an intense interpretation of Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth from the famous “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” hand-washing scene.
The Commendations for the four students were co-sponsored Freeholders Blonnie Watson, Rolando Bobadilla, Rufus Johnson and Donald M. Payne, Jr., all of Newark, and presented to them by Freeholder President Watson and Freeholder Bobadilla during the ceremony.