The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission has honored Austin-East junior Tylan Baker with the 2023 Knoxville Youth Award.
The group recognizes individuals annually, and this is the first year the Youth Award has been presented to a member of the Knoxville community.
“I think it’s an honor,” assistant principal Rukiya Foster said. “It’s the first youth to ever get the award, so that’s very special. He has set the precedent and the path for youth to come.”
The MLK Commission chose to honor Baker and others based on “their commitment to continuing the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” according to their website.
“I think it’s one of the many awards he’ll be getting,” Jeff Black, another Austin-East assistant principal, said of Baker. “I think he’s driven, and he’s a great leader.”
Baker works with a number of local organizations to volunteer around his community.
“I honestly believe that I earned the award just for the service I’ve done in the community,” he said. “It was really a surprise. I didn’t know I was getting it. I just know it’s big.”
The 17-year-old is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, Youth Leadership Knoxville, the Urban League’s National Achievers Honor Society, National Honor Society, 100 Black Men, Young Life, Project GRAD, and the Austin-East Roadrunners football team. All of these groups allow Baker to give back in different ways.
“It’s just wanting to see the best for everybody, wanting a better community,” Baker said. “As we look to the future, the people that’s coming behind me might want to do the same thing I’m doing. I want to set a good example for them.”
AE’s head football coach, Antonio Mays, also gives credit to Baker’s parents for his success. “I know the supportive structure that they have put in place for him,” Mays said.
The Austin-East administration thinks highly of the junior, describing him with words like mentor, intelligent, powerful, empathetic, responsible, focused, gentle giant, conscientious, well-rounded, Roadrunner.
“I think it’s a manifestation of the legacy that those have laid before him, and he just picked up the torch to continue the tradition of excellence and high achievement,” said Kamau Kenyatta, an assistant principal. Visit the MLK Commission website to see the other award recipients.