Princeton Prize winners 2018

Princeton Prize in Race Relations honors high school students for promoting understanding, respect

High school students from around the United States were honored with the 2018 Princeton Prize in Race Relations during a symposium held April 27-28 on the University campus.

Twenty-eight high school students from around the United States have been named recipients of the 2018 Princeton Prize in Race Relations. The students were honored during the annual Princeton Prize Symposium on Race held on the Princeton University campus.

The awards recognize young people who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the cause of positive race relations and who have worked to increase understanding and respect among all races.

The winners participated in a two-day program on campus that included presentations and a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the founding of the prize. The Princeton Prize carries cash awards up to $1,000 for students in grades 9-12 in 27 regions around the country. The 2018 winners by region are:

Alabama (Irondale): Madeline Shackelford, a senior at Shades Valley High School, represented the YWCA of central Alabama’s Social Justice Department on planning the Alabama Youth Alliance Summit. For nearly 10 months, she met with youth leaders from various groups to organize the program, which focused on equal access to education and equitable solutions to educational issues in the state.

California (Los Angeles): Sheila Milon, a senior at John Marshall High School, worked extensively to serve her community through the Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change Leadership Council, which emphasizes racial unity through humanitarian projects. She also created an Intersectional Feminism Club that features programming for girls of all backgrounds to discuss gender norms and women’s empowerment. Further, she participated in Project Bridge, which stemmed from the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots and seeks to foster understanding and unity between minority groups. 

California (San Diego): Luz Victoria Simon Jasso, a junior at High Tech High School in Chula Vista, designed and implemented an Ethnic Studies course at her school. Since it was first taught in fall 2016, the course has grown in size, added two advisory teachers, and expanded the Ethnic Studies Leadership Team from one to four students.

California (San Francisco): Sho Sho Leigh Ho, a junior at Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, was an intern at the Literary Lab’s project at Stanford University, where she explored representations of race and ethnicity in American fiction from 1789 to 1964. In 2017, she founded Unleashed, a student-run organization that highlights racial issues for conversation and examination by middle-schoolers nationwide. She is also co-leader of her school’s Diversity Club. Further, she founded a political action club, Bay Area Consortium for Ideas and Inquiry, which organized an Immigration Awareness Day and studies migration, gentrification and the role race plays in the division between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

Colorado (Denver): Solliana Kineferigh, a junior at Denver School of Science and Technology: Stapleton, has since middle school participated in Students Taking Action Making Progress (S.T.A.M.P.), a citywide conference that trains high school students to develop and teach classes to middle-schoolers about issues facing students, especially those of color. She is now one of its curriculum developers and teachers at her school. She also founded POC POV (People of Color, Point of View), which encourages students of color and white students to build connections and understanding.

Colorado (Denver): Iftu Abdi, a junior at Denver School of Science and Technology: Stapleton, has participated in Students Taking Action Making Progress (S.T.A.M.P.) for two years as a curriculum developer and teacher. In that role, she has focused on the immigrant student experience. She also established “Heart of Immigration,” a social project through Urban Youth of Denver to explore the complex identities of immigrants through storytelling.

Connecticut (Farmington): Sydni Scott, a senior at Miss Porter’s School, serves as head of diversity. In this role, she plans lectures and conversations on race and diversity. She also developed AWARE (Affinity for White Anti-Racist Education), which organized affinity groups to hold nuanced discussions about race.

Florida (Miami): Tiana Headley, a senior at Maritime and Science Technology Academy, studied the history of her school and published information that challenged many ideas about its progress in combating desegregation. She also created a monthly Social Justice & Sandwich discussion forum and was instrumental in involving her school in the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” program.

Georgia (Atlanta): Syd Pargman, a junior at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, founded the Race Against the Lines Project, which demonstrates the positive impact team sports can have on race relations. In this work, Pargman interviewed athletes, created a video and planned a quiz bowl to give non-athlete students the opportunity to join a team with members of different races.

Illinois (Chicago): FanXuan Peng, a junior at Northside College Preparatory High School who is originally from China, has focused her race relations activities out of her own experience as an immigrant and English Language Learner (ELL). She started the DREAMers & Support Club to help the faculty and student body understand the ongoing struggle of immigrant students and their families. Peng also works with her community as a KINETIC Youth Leader at Asian Americans Advancing Justice to promote racial and educational equality across Chicago through policy-changing.

Kansas (Kansas City): Lauren Winston, a junior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, is the founder and leader of Bridges KC, a nonprofit organization that teaches students about bridging the gap between people of different cultures. Winston is also a student representative on the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the Parent Teacher Student Association. Beyond her school, she helps lead a county library-sponsored bus tour about the historical racial housing dividing line in Kansas City.

Maryland (Frederick): Olivia Hiltke, a junior at Linganore High School, designed a “Life Around the World: Cultural Diversity” event to promote understanding among different cultures. The event included a range of speakers who shared their stories with groups of teens, prompting follow-up discussions on cultural awareness.

Massachusetts (Boston): Adonis Logan, a senior at Melrose High School, is president of the Do the Right Thing Club, which was created to focus on racial dialogue among students and staff. Logan also led a workshop called “Stereotype(m)e” as part of his school’s annual Teach-In Community Day. Further, he has served as vice president of the Keystone program, a youth leadership program of the Boys and Girls Club, and as a member of the Melrose Alliance against Violence.

Michigan (Detroit): Maren Roeske, a senior at Grosse Pointe South High School, is the founder of SEEDS (Student Empowerment: Education for a Diverse Society), an anti-racism education program that targets individual and interpersonal racism. She also co-founded RATE (Restorative Action Through Exchange) to foster connections between her school and University Prep High School in Detroit.

Missouri (St. Louis): Sohan Kancherla, a senior at Saint Louis Priory School, founded the Bridges to America program three years ago to support immigrants and refugees and to increase awareness of issues facing immigrants among his fellow students. He has organized various service opportunities, including teaching weekly Citizenship Literacy classes at the International Institute of Metropolitan Saint Louis, leading clothing drives, and organizing fundraising events. He also is a founding member of the Interfaith Quest Youth Council, which organizes panel discussions and other programming to help youth experience interfaith interactions and explore diversity.

New Jersey (Central and South): Rebekah Strauss, a junior at Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, organized a peaceful sit-in with other students in response to a series of offensive social media posts directed at African Americans. The students then organized an assembly to share experiences of discrimination, and Strauss presented her spoken-word poem. The school’s administration responded by creating the Student Coalition for Racial Equality, for which Strauss serves as a leader responsible for creating lesson plans and exercises to assist teachers in providing a broader scope of history and culture.

New Jersey (Northern): Toibat Ayankubi, a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, serves as class president and ambassador for the Minority Achievement Community at her school. She developed the Peer-to-Peer training program to prepare students of color for AP courses, and also created the Mini-MAC program to provide high school mentors to minority middle-schoolers. She also has worked with other students to hold workshops on bias at the school. Beyond her school, Ayankubi is a student leader with 9 Miles, a race relations program that partners with a temple in Milburn.

New York (Rochester): Eman Muthana, a senior at World of Inquiry School, has brought World Hijab Day to her community — a full day dedicated to helping people from all backgrounds to learn about the hijab and the girls and women who choose to wear them. Since starting the program at her school in her first year when new to the United Stated and to the English language, Muthana has since grown the program to more than 20 schools throughout the region.

New York (New York City): Nupol Kiazolu, a senior at Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in Brooklyn, founded the Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter at her school, and has organized numerous initiatives advocating for social justice and racial understanding. These include a voter-registration drive, a “Future of the City March,” and bringing together BLM Youth Coalitions with families of those lost to police brutality. This school year, she organized a “Know Your Rights Campaign.” She was a counter-protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August last year, and wrote about the experience for The Huffington Post.

Ohio (Cleveland): Courtney Reed, a senior at Hawken School in Gates Mill, took an intensive course on identity and became aware about how she had suppressed her own African American identity. This realization prompted her to reach out to other students of color, and she conducted a survey about their experiences that was then presented to the school’s trustees. As a result, the administration added a diversity statement to the school’s website, committed to starting affinity groups, and announced diversity-and-inclusion goals to its strategic plan. Her work also prompted the Student Senate to push for diversity training. Reed also helped organize school events for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month.

Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): Ciara Sing, a senior at CAPA High School, has served as president of the Black Student Union since her sophomore year. In this role, she has led student workshops, organized programming for Black History Month, attended conferences and participated in cultural events in and around Pittsburgh. She is president of the Pittsburgh Public School District’s African American Centers for Advanced Studies Council and serves on a Police and Community Relations Council.  

Pennsylvania (Philadelphia): Jared Elters Dempsey, a senior at Coatesville Area High School, planned a peaceful protest against racism in response to two racially charged events at his school. About 2,000 students and community members joined the protest from a diverse range of backgrounds. Dempsey is also class president and the student school board representative. He is a group facilitator for discussions about improving race relations for student leaders and the general student community.

Tennessee (Memphis): Janiya Douglas, a senior at White Station High School, created Education Justice (EDJ) to organize community-wide campaigns to advance educational justice in Memphis. Education Justice has facilitated workshops for more than 800 youth over the past two years and partnered with organizations such as Black Lives Matter Memphis and Stand For Children. Douglas is also a regional strategy team member and student leader for 9-0-ONE (Organizing Network for Equity). She also has spoken at the National Civil Rights Museum in her city, coordinated a webinar on social justice and service for the National Youth Leadership Conference, and presented on “Education Not Incarceration.”

Tennessee (Nashville): Carrie Elcan, a sophomore at Ensworth School, co-founded “Tearing Down the Walls,” a two-day race relations and leadership conference for independent school students in the Southeast. The purpose of the conference is to empower students from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and to build skills and develop networks. Elcan is also interested in civil rights history and in creative writing.

Texas (Dallas): Cassandra Hernandez, a sophomore at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, co-founded Safe Space at her school, a club intended to build awareness and empathy between students and faculty. She helped develop training and open forums on topics ranging from bullying to immigration. Hernandez also has been active in educating the students at her all-girls school about breast cancer.

Texas (Houston): Alex Nelson-Groocock, a junior at Lamar Senior High School, founded “Speak Up!” — an after-school program to teach public speaking skills to inner-city students. The curriculum also focuses on how to use speaking skills for conflict resolution and how to talk about racial discrimination. Nelson-Groocock is coordinating the work of volunteers and hopes to expand the program to 10 schools next year. He also created materials on debate skills that he is distributing to elementary school teachers for their classrooms.

Washington (Bellingham): Lauren Morales, a senior at Squalicum High School, is president of the United Diversity Club. One of her key achievements is establishing the Multicultural Meals program, a monthly event that brings together community members from many cultures to share a meal and conversation at the school. Morales also showed her creativity when she designed T-shirts on topical race-related issues to be worn by students and staff alike.

Washington, D.C. (Charlottesville): Zyahna Taija-Juan, a junior at Charlottesville High School, founded the Black Student Union in her first year at the school. Under her leadership, the union organized school-wide events on dialogue and diversity, and also partnered with community groups, including the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville Youth Council and the City of Promise neighborhood. She planned events for Black History Month and was active in the debate around removing Confederate statues in the city.