Kwasi Bonsu of Baldwin was named the winner of Newsday's 10th annual Marcus A. Henry Award as the top scholar-athlete for the 2022-2023 school year. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

In the coming weeks, Kwasi Bonsu will begin packing for Duke University and the exciting next chapter in his young life. Inside those bags, he will be cramming as much gear emblazoned with the name “Baldwin” as he’s able.

“I’m taking it all with me: every single jacket, every single hoodie, every single hat,” he said. “I’m going to wear it proud because I am never going to forget this community and all it means to me.”

Bonsu, a Baldwin wrestling and football standout, has been invested in his roots as few high school athletes are. Away from school, he sought to inspire and guide Baldwin’s next generation away from societal pitfalls with his work in the Athletes Helping Athletes program and as a volunteer instructor with the Baldwin Bombers youth football program. And he was a leader in the school community, both as class president and as a captain on his athletic teams.

This week Bonsu received Newsday’s Marcus A. Henry Award, an honor bestowed annually to Long Island’s top high school student, athlete and citizen. It is named for the former Newsday sports reporter, who was both a dedicated journalist and respected community leader before his untimely death in 2014 at age 41.

“It’s surreal to have won this award,” Bonsu said. “Marcus Henry was from Baldwin. I am from Baldwin. And Mr. [Gregg] Sarra told me a little bit about him, how he [struck] a balance in his life between sports and the classroom and how he was embraced. This is such a great honor.”

The five other finalists for the award were Nicholas Badilla of Pierson, William Francois of Longwood, Katherine Killian of Wantagh, Erin McMahon of Bayport-Blue Point and Katelyn Simpson of Baldwin.

“The award doesn’t just belong to me, it belongs to everyone in our community,” Bonsu said. “It goes to everyone who said ‘hello’ back to me when I said ‘hi,’ everyone who [returned] my smiles, every teacher, every coach and every classmate.”

Athletic director Dr. Ty Scarlett called Bonsu “a born leader” and added “he is a great representative of the school and a great example to other students.”

When asked about his influences, Bonsu said his dedication to his studies, on-field performance and community was instilled by his parents, Henry and Gloria, immigrants from Ghana.

“My mother taught me how to carry myself and to always set high standards,” he said. “My father showed me what leadership is with his commitment to community and effort to always help others.”

“I learned that [all manner of] hardships can be overcome with a commitment to education and [aspiring] to achieve as much as you can in school,” said Gloria Safo-Bonsu, a pharmacist. “He is an excellent student, but we could also see there was something special inside of him that attracted people to him.”

“Family and relationships are very important to us,” said Henry Bonsu, a hospital administrator. “Riches don’t bring happiness — connection to other people is more important. Kwasi grew up in Baldwin and knows the people and cares about them.”

Bonsu is the second winner of the Marcus A. Henry Award from Baldwin, joining Kelsi King, who won in 2017.

Bonsu next becomes a scholarship wrestler at Duke but leaves behind a considerable wake of achievements.

In the classroom, he finished with a 113 weighted grade-point average and scored 1,320 on his SAT. On the wrestling mat, he was 41-3 this season, reached the state semifinals in the 189-pound weight class and was a Newsday All-Long Island second-team selection. The Nassau chapter of the National Football Foundation anointed Bonsu, a defensive tackle and fullback, with the Jay Fiedler Award as the county’s top scholar-athlete.

And this past weekend, the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame recognized him nationally as a member of its 2023 Team of Distinction based on his academic achievement, athletic accolades and community involvement.

The Marcus Henry Award is a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary high school career. Bonsu hopes it can be a beacon for the youngsters whom he has been guiding as well as those who will come after.

“My hope is that everyone here will be able to look at this, see my name on it and [view] this as a symbol of what hard work can do here in Baldwin,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the younger kids accomplish. They now have representation that this can happen here.

“[Ours] is a very diverse school and sometimes we don’t have the unity because of those differences . . . We can’t lose sight of what’s really important. We have to come together . . . I’d like them to see that there can be unity in the diversity and someone can thrive [as a result of] it.”

MARCUS A. HENRY AWARD PAST WINNERS

2014: JOE PERCIVAL, St. Anthony's

2015: THOMAS CUTINELLA, Shoreham-Wading River

2016: LIVINGSTONE HARRIOTT JR., Central Islip

2017: KELSI KING, Baldwin

2018: ALEXANDREA HARRIOTT, Central Islip

2019: KENNETH WEI, Mount Sinai

2020: EMMA WARD, Babylon

2021: FAVOUR OKODOGBE, St. John the Baptist

2022: ABIGAIL ROLFE, Port Jefferson

GOLDEN ELEVEN

Bonsu was named the National Football Foundation’s Nassau County Chapter Jay Fiedler Top Scholar Athlete as part of the Golden Eleven for his numerous accomplishments as a student-athlete and his community service last December. The remaining Golden Eleven included Manhasset’s Matt Cargiulo, Bethpage’s Nicholas El Chami, Farmingdale’s Trevor Gayron, MacArthur’s Rocco Hogan, North Shore’s Nicholas La Rosa, Long Beach’s Jack Miller, Plainedge’s Shane Mosia, Cold Spring Harbor’s Caden O’Connor, Garden City’s Sawyer Olson and Wantagh’s Anthony Reale.

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