KALAMAZOO, MI – In the athletic arena, it’s easy to see how Parchment’s Kofi Barima and Vicksburg’s Maya Peters stand out above their peers, with the former using his combination size and speed to dominate on the football field, basketball court and the track, and the latter using her strong arm and hand-eye coordination to excel on the softball diamond.
But the two class of 2022 seniors also share an intellectual curiosity that separates them from the average student, and it’s why the pair have been selected as the recipients of this year’s Jack Moss Scholarship.
The $1,000 grant is awarded annually to two high school seniors, one male and one female, in the Kalamazoo area who have excelled in athletics, academics and community service. The recipients must plan to attend Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College or Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
The scholarship, established in 1985 by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, is named after former Kalamazoo Gazette sports editor Jack Moss, who served in that capacity for 35 years and wrote for the newspaper for more than a half-century. A tireless supporter of prep athletics and champion of all things sports around Kalamazoo, Moss died in January 2019 after a 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Barima is heading to Western Michigan University, where he plans to study paper engineering, after a visit to the Kalamazoo campus opened his eyes to the field.
“Engineering gives me a way to use my creative ideas, and it helps a lot of people,” he said. “Without it, you wouldn’t have buildings or be able to go into space and all these great things. Paper engineering stood out because it’s so different. Before this year, I had never heard of paper engineering, but once I started looking into it, I figured that it would be really interesting. It’s a mix of biochemical engineering, mechanical engineering and a bunch of other fields, so if paper engineering doesn’t work out for me, I can always branch out into another engineering field.”
As a senior, the 6-foot-6 Barima helped Parchment’s football team post its first winning season since 2017, earned all-conference honors for a Panthers basketball squad that went 21-2 and qualified for the state track meet in the high jump, while also excelling in the classroom and graduating with a 4.0 GPA.
“It meant a lot,” he said of being one of 14 Parchment seniors to graduate with at least a 4.0 GPA. “It showed the hard work I put in through the last four years, and especially doing that through two years of COVID, it’s a big deal to me.”
Barima has aspirations of being a student manager on WMU’s men’s basketball team, which is a significant chunk of responsibility for a new college student, but his experience juggling athletics with academics have him well-prepared heading into his new journey.
“It has made me really work on my time management, like scheduling, when to do my homework, when to study,” Barima said. “I was a three-sport athlete, so usually I’d come home really late and would always have homework. I know some student-athletes don’t make time to do their homework, but I’d always try to make time to finish my homework or get it done before school.”
Like Barima, Peters excelled in the classroom, graduating Vicksburg with a 4.172 GPA and earning the Advanced Placement Capstone Award by scoring at least a 3 on six AP tests, including AP Seminar and AP Research.
She was also the first Vicksburg student to be honored by the College Board through the National Hispanic Recognition Program and the National Rural and Small Town Program, which caught Peters off guard.
“It was actually a little surprising,” she said of receiving the two awards. “I just kind of applied without really realizing what it meant, but once it happened, it was really cool, and I was able to do a lot more introspection on the hard work I’ve done that has really put me out there, and I feel like I’ve definitely grown as a person and that I am moving in the right direction.”
Peters will continue her education and softball career at Kalamazoo College, where she plans to study psychology, a field that piqued her interest during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she found it especially hard to disconnect from social media and saw its detrimental effect on her mental health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was about the time that my mental health kind of hit a wall, and I know that I was working really hard to try to pick myself back up, but I found myself constantly in like a rut of five or six hours passing on my phone and wondering where my time went,” Peters said. “My dad and I sat down and watched a Netflix documentary about screen time called ‘The Social Dilemma,’ and when I heard some of the things they were saying, it was eye-opening to see that this time that’s flying by for me, it’s not just a ‘me’ issue, and it was something I wanted to look more into and find a way to help other people if that was also causing them issues.”
That inspired Peters’ capstone project for her AP Research course, in which she designed a study looking at social media habits of Southwest Michigan high school students and prepared a 20-minute presentation of her findings and a recommendation that apps implement reminders for users to take a break – something that Instagram recently rolled out.
“Witnessing something similar to what I researched being implemented has been incredible,” Peters said. “Ultimately, participating in this process has left me eager to continue research in college and onto a psychological field that I am positive will impact the well-being of people around the world.”
“Based on what I faced mental health-wise, I’d really like to focus on the neurological side of psychology and continue to do research for people who have faced some of the same hardships I have,” she added. “Whether that’s trauma or different things like that, I’d like to offer support and solutions so that other people don’t have to struggle the way I did. I think everyone deserves their own shot at things in their own way, and I’d like to be able to provide that chance for people who might not feel like they deserve that light in their lives.”
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