Princeton Symposium on Race honors the largest group of high school students in the program’s history

by Advancement Communications
May 10, 2024

Princeton University celebrated 36 Princeton Prize in Race Relations (PPRR) award recipients — the most ever in the program’s 21-year history — during the annual Princeton Prize Symposium on Race held on campus April 25-27. The high school students from across the United States were recognized for demonstrating leadership in advancing racial equity in their schools and communities.

“In this particular discourse of racial justice, in conversations of improving racial equity and so forth, it’s the young people who are the experts,” said Shirleen Robinson ’95, PPRR regional chair of Connecticut, during the symposium. “We’re having these courageous conversations because they themselves had the courage to disrupt and to call out many of the racist incidents and instances of inequalities that they have seen.”

Since PPRR’s inception in 2003, Princeton has recognized more than 2,000 high school students across 29 U.S. regions and three at-large regions with the prize and certificates of accomplishment. Each Princeton Prize awardee received $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the University for the symposium. Thirty-one of the 36 awardees attended the symposium.

“It’s such an inspiration every year to watch these young leaders share their stories with each other and form bonds that carry forward after the symposium,” said Steven Marcus ’10, PPRR advisory council chair and a Nashville, Tennessee-based attorney.

Highlights from the weekend program included a workshop on race and privilege by Jason Klugman, senior director of College Preparation Initiatives in the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity; a conversation with Princeton Prize recipients and current Princeton students; a session on crafting a racial autobiography; and networking opportunities in which the prize recipients received feedback from alumni on how to move their projects forward.

Symposium participants also had the opportunity to experience the life of the campus, including a lecture from Laurence Ralph, professor of anthropology, on “Valuing Repair: A Vision of Radical Empathy.”

“I’ve learned so much from all the open conversations with the other prize recipients here,” said Flematu Fofana, Baltimore region Princeton Prize awardee and founder/president of the NAACP Youth Council in Carroll County, Maryland, which is fighting to reverse a series of book bans by the school board. “And it makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone in this work.”

“In this line of work, you’re always going to have people tell you what you’re doing isn’t important and won’t have any impact,” said Hermela Shimelis, a Boston region PPRR award recipient who founded the 2 Blocks project, which provides opportunities and career exposure for underrepresented students in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “In the face of the naysayers and all the barriers in your way, you have to focus on the work, because what you’re doing will help so many people and have a generational impact moving forward.”

The Princeton Prize in Race Relations is supported by more than 400 Princeton alumni volunteers, all dedicated to an inclusive and supportive society that addresses issues of racial inequity and develops better racial understanding.