Seven Princeton University students and one recent graduate have been named co-winners of the Martin Luther King Journey Award, which recognizes efforts to continue the journey to achieve the civil rights leader's vision. The award was presented Monday, Jan. 18, at the University's Martin Luther King Day celebration in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall.
The Journey Award for Special Achievement, which highlights work to empower students from diverse backgrounds, was given to the student leaders of the Princeton Hidden Minority Council (PHMC). The current PHMC co-chairs are Class of 2016 members Julie Kwong and Brittney Watkins. The original founders of the group are Class of 2015 graduate Tula Strong and Class of 2016 members Kujegi Camara, Thomas Garcia, Kevin Lopez, Dallas Nan, Lea Trusty and Watkins.
The PHMC was established in 2013 to support, advocate for and share the stories of lower-income and first-generation college students at Princeton. The student group has spearheaded initiatives to create a network for first-generation and lower-income students, and to educate the broader University community about the needs of these students.
"We are delighted to present the Martin Luther King Day Journey Award to a student organization that exemplifies the ideals championed by Dr. King," Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun said during the ceremony. "The work of the Hidden Minority Council has made us a better university."
Kevin Hudson, associate director for college opportunity in the Office of the Provost, nominated the PHMC founders for the Journey Award. In his nomination materials, he said the students "have made Princeton better" by challenging the University to consider how it may best meet the needs of all students.
"Princeton has made a commitment to expand the socioeconomic diversity of the University," Hudson said. "While laudable, it requires an understanding of the needs of the broad range of students that come with different preparation, experiences and expectations of their college experience."
During the past two years, the PHMC has launched a website to share resources with lower-income and first-generation students; worked with University administrators to advocate for the needs of lower-income and first-generation students; organized events for students to network with peers, as well as first-generation faculty and staff; presented the social media campaign "Thoughts" to share the experiences of students with their fellow Princeton community members; and participated in leadership conferences for first-generation students at other Ivy League universities.
"The founding of the Princeton Hidden Minority Council has had a tremendous impact on the lived experiences of first-generation and lower-income students at the University," Khristina Gonzalez, associate dean in the Office of the Dean of the College, said in support of the PHMC's nomination. "[The founders] established much more than another student group — they created visibility of an issue that once was hidden, they generated a supportive community where students had previously felt isolated."
Also writing in support of the award, Forbes College Director of Studies Renita Miller said the PHMC founders "have truly exemplified the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King."
"They have been consistently courageous in their pursuit to not only shine a light on the needs, challenges and even triumphs of this sometimes forgotten or 'hidden' community of students, but they have been powerful advocates that have changed how we as an institution support our first-generation and low-income students," Miller said.
Members of the University community may nominate students, faculty and staff for the Journey Award based on support for King's philosophy and teachings and contributions to the improvement of civil rights, human rights or both, with a focus on work that has affected the University. Members of the MLK Day Committee judged the nominations for the award, which was instituted in 2005.