Two Central State Students Receive a Leadership Award from a National Park for Spearheading a Letter-Writing Campaign

CSU Students Sydney Johnson and Kristin Johnson with Attorney Benjamin CrumpWILBERFORCE, OH. – Two Central State University students received youth leadership awards from the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument for spearheading a letter-writing campaign in support of recognition for Colonel Young.

 The Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park may be 2,300 miles away in California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains, but the impact that Colonel Young made there in the summer of 1903 is still being remembered today. A California Assemblyman is sponsoring an effort to rename a road leading into the park for Colonel Young, the namesake of the National Monument located in Wilberforce. Through the efforts of Kristin Johnson and Sydney Johnson, more than 180 letters were written and sent in support of that effort.

On March 15, the two students received the Brandon Billips Youth Service Leadership Award, named after Billips, who was a CSU graduate and the first intern at the Charles Young Monument. The event was a celebration of Colonel Young’s 154th birthday. Also, Attorney Benjamin L. Crump received one of two Trail Blazer Awards.

Dr. Joy G. Kinard, Superintendent of the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, said the two sisters received the honor because their volunteer-efforts exceeded expectations.

Both work at the Charles Young Monument. After hearing about the campaign, the two built a strategy to solicit as many letters as possible. Sydney Johnson, a CSU Junior, said it was fun “creating a small piece of history.” More than half of the 180 letters came from CSU students and employees, she said.

Colonel Young was the first African American superintendent of a national park. He also was the third African American man to graduate with his commission from the US Military Academy at West Point. While commanding a black company at the Presidio of San Francisco, Young received orders to take his troops to Sequoia National Park. Their task - complete the first road to the Giant Forest, making the grove with giant sequoia trees easily accessible for the first time. On the day the road opened, modern tourism began in Sequoia National Park, according to the Park.

Sydney Johnson said it was an honor to receive the award. “I was more humbled by the award not because of the task I was given…but because I was given an award named after Brandon Billips. He created such a love for me of Central State University,” she said.

Also at the March 15 event, the University’s Student Government Association was named Volunteer of the Year for helping to recruit student volunteers for the National Monument, and Mr. Gorgui Ndao was named Volunteer Educator of the Year for his work with the Seed to Bloom Ag-STEM Institute Camp. Cadets from CSU’s Marauder Battalion were also recognized for helping out at a Buffalo Soldiers Pep Rally during Black History Month.

About Central State University:

Central State University, located in Wilberforce, Ohio, is a regionally accredited 1890 Land-Grant University with a 131-year tradition of preparing students from diverse backgrounds and experiences for leadership, research and service. The University, which has been named 2017 HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest, fosters academic excellence within a nurturing environment and provides a strong liberal arts foundation and STEM-Ag curriculum leading to professional careers and advanced studies globally.

* Photo Credit: Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Photo ID: L to R: CSU Student Sydney Johnson, Attorney Benjamin L. Crump, and Kristin Johnson

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