Black excellence at West: Waad Dafalla, Trinity Myers and Juju Manson

In the fourth installment of the Black Excellence at West, Waad Dafalla ’26, Trinity Myers ’25 and Juju Manson ’26, are highlighted for their achievements at West and beyond.
Waad Dafalla 26, Trinity Myers 25 and Julian Manson 26 pose for a photo
Waad Dafalla ’26, Trinity Myers ’25 and Julian Manson ’26 pose for a photo
Josephine Schwartz

The Urban Dictionary defines Black excellence as “Someone that is Black and portrays great qualities and abilities that make the Black community proud.” This definition is accurate, however, Black excellence goes beyond just great qualities, it also represents someone who is breaking the barriers set by systemic racism.

At West, Black students represent 24.1% of the student body, the second largest demographic after White students, comprising 49%. To celebrate their achievements and highlight their contributions, West Side Story has initiated this series dedicated to showcasing the excellence of Black students at West.

As of 2024, West High School is ranked the number one public high school in the state of Iowa. For years its motto has been “Where Excellence is Tradition.” Here are some current students who have exemplified Black excellence throughout their time at West and beyond.

Waad Dafalla ’26 poses for a Black Excellence photo. (Josephine Schwartz)

Waad Dafalla ’26

Waad Dafalla ’26 stands as a beacon of academic excellence. With an unwavering dedication to her studies and extracurriculars, Dafalla has consistently excelled. Setting a high standard for herself and inspiring her peers to strive for greatness. Not only does Dafalla’s talent shine on the Debate stage, but her persuasive rhetoric has propelled her to success.

Dafalla started Debate her freshman year. “I started debate officially my freshman year here at West but I knew that I wanted to be a part of a Speech and Debate club since sixth grade. I would hear about it on TV shows, and it seemed like such a fun club.”

It’s only her second year of debate, and Dafalla has seen huge improvement ever since joining the varsity pool. She even was one of the two people to qualify for nationals in her events during both her freshman and sophomore years.

Although Dafalla is an excellent debater, her color affects her ability to excel in the field. “I have to be extremely cautious of my audience all the time. The amount of times I’ve had to ask around about a judge before a round to confirm their political and racial stances is too high. The fact that I often have to edit my speeches to not risk being voted down for my opinions on race and politics is also very tough.” Despite this, she doesn’t let that get to her head.

She’s hardworking and is efficient at achieving her goals. Even if a round doesn’t end the way she wants, she doesn’t let that keep her down.

— Ellie Chen '26

Not only does Dafalla excel in the debate space but academically as well. “My parents came to America specifically so they could ensure we get the strongest education we can. I want to do well in school so I can make them proud and prove to them that they didn’t just leave everything behind for nothing. I want to do my best so I can go as far as I can and gain as many accomplishments as I can. I can’t predict my future but through school, I can set myself up to have the best life that I can.”

The debate space isn’t the only place where Dafalla, as a Black woman, has to go beyond her peers. “Even at school, I feel like I often have to prove myself. I’ve had to prove my “competence” to multiple teachers before,” Dafalla explains.

On Feb 9., Dafalla qualified for the National Speech & Debate Tournament held in the summer from June 16-21. “The first time I qualified I was put in an event just to fill up spots, I’d never done it before so when I found out that I had somehow qualified I truly didn’t believe it. This year however I got to debate in my preferred event and I just knew that if I worked hard enough I could qualify. Thankfully I did so I’m very grateful to be heading to Des Moines for nationals this year. Both times I qualified the first thing I did was text my family.”

Hard work is always rewarded. Whether it’s instantaneous or it comes later on, all the hard work you pour into something will benefit you one day.

— Waad Dafalla '26

Trinity Myers ’25 poses for a Black Excellence photo with her wrestling awards. (Josephine Schwartz)

Trinity Myers ’25

Trinity Myers ’25 exemplifies Black excellence in athletics, particularly in wrestling, at West High. As a standout wrestler, her dedication and skill have set her apart. Myers’ achievements not only inspire her teammates but also serve as a powerful example of resilience and determination as a Black woman.

Myers started wrestling her sophomore year but it wasn’t until this year when she really started seeing improvement. “I started to see myself improve after a tournament earlier in the season where I got my first medal. I realized after those matches that I have to go out there and genuinely give it my all without doubting myself,” Myers said.

One of Myers’ greatest mentors has been her coach, Elijah. “I love all of my coaches and mentors equally, but I feel that he has gone the extra mile to ensure that feeling of confidence in the foundation of my wrestling. He has made me tougher mentally and physically and always been there when I step off the mat, regardless of the outcome of the match. My love of the sport genuinely comes from the passion that he has put into every single one of us wrestlers.”

Myers not only excels in her department but also shines in the classroom and other settings as a person and student.

Trinity is a great example that hard works pays off in the classroom and on the wrestling mat.

— Michael Mettenburg

One of Myers’ most recent achievements was qualifying for the IGHSAU state wrestling tournament by placing second in her weight class. “Qualifying for me meant that the hard practices, the prayers before my matches and the times where I didn’t want to be there but went anyway, were all worth it. It means that God was there with me every step of the way, and I have so much more to accomplish knowing that I can hit goals I set for myself.”

Myers stands as a shining example of breaking barriers not only in women’s athletics but also in Black women’s athletics. When asked what it means to be Black she explains. “Being Black, as well as female, to me has just meant that I might have to take one more step or challenge than the people around me, and I am completely okay with that. I don’t think that I necessarily have it harder than anyone, but I could. That to me means that I should never take any opportunities for granted and should always be grateful of what I’m able to do today.”

She not only enjoys wrestling, but in her free time, Myers dabbles in weight lifting. “I like to workout a lot, I wasn’t always someone who was really in shape so I always like to make sure that aspect is always in check.”

Myers has a lot more to come on the road, and she is ready to take on whatever the world brings to her.

Julian Manson ’26 poses for a Black Excellence photo. (Josephine Schwartz)

Julian (Juju) Manson ’26

Juju Manson ’26 is the epitome of excellence both on and off the field. As a distinguished black student, he not only excels in academics with a 4.0 GPA but also dominates the sporting arena.

Manson is involved in many athletics and is on varsity for every single one of them. “I started basketball when I was about five, football when I was seven, and track in only seventh grade.”

He started seeing improvements in his athletics throughout the years but especially during his high school career. “I saw the most improvement in basketball in high school because I had to step into a big role early into my high school career. For football, I’d say this past year as well. I’ve also been getting looks from many D1 schools in football after last season. Last track season was also an eye opener for me because I helped contribute to a great team that did well at State last year.”

Manson is known to be a great athlete, but his skills extend beyond just athletics. “Doing good in school has been the standard set by my parents and me because it is important for us Black people to break generational cycles society has put upon us. As a Black person, it feels like an expectation for me to be good at sports, but the complete opposite in the classroom.”

His greatest mentors have been his community and, most importantly, his parents. “My greatest mentors are my parents because they always have my best interests in mind. I talk to them about everything because they are knowledgeable about far more things than I am.”

Manson’s excellence in academics and in sports is not only for him but for the black community as well. “Being Black to me is knowing that I have to well represent a group of people that is looked down upon by many so that we can break stereotypes.”

His impact extends far beyond the realm of academics and athletics; his warm demeanor and genuine kindness leave a mark on those around him. Manson effortlessly creates a sense of comfort wherever he goes. Whether on the court, track, or in the classroom, Manson’s inclusive nature and willingness to uplift others create a supportive environment that encourages collaboration and friendship.

Juju is very personable and makes people comfortable around him, he always has an open mind and is always ready to learn about new ideas and perspectives.

— Ijin Shim '24

Leave a Comment
Donate to West Side Story
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of West High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase Scholarship Yearbooks, newsroom equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
Donate to West Side Story
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All West Side Story Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *