Concord Academy Junior Wins Princeton Prize in Race Relations

Thursday, May 17, 2007
by Princeton University

BOSTON, MA — Kaitlin Lynch, a junior at Concord Academy in Concord, MA and Boston resident, has been awarded the 2007 Princeton Prize in Race Relations for her efforts to improve race relations in her school community.

Ms. Lynch will receive the $1,000 award at a reception held at the Massachusetts State House Grand Staircase on Beacon Street in downtown Boston, on Thursday, May 17, 2007, from 6 to 8 p.m. William G. Bowen, award-winning author, former president of Princeton University, and president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a nonprofit that provides $210 million in grants annually, will deliver the keynote address entitled "Race and Educational Attainment." The event will be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Princeton Association of New England.

Kaitlin is being honored with the Princeton Prize for her leadership, when she sprang into action, in the fall of 2006, after discovering a race-based threat of violence scrawled on the wall of a restroom at school. Kaitlin was the first to report the incident and arranged to address the student body and community at a meeting held by the dean to discuss the incident the following day. As she describes it, "I felt the pain of the student body, and I felt like I needed to take action."

In her address, Ms. Lynch revealed how the incident had affected her personally, as a woman whose mother is black and father is white. She described how the author's hateful and intolerant words had "nearly broken the community into jagged pie pieces along already perforated lines," as racial tensions had been growing following the loss of the school's head of diversity and increasing intolerance for cultural diversity among the school community. However, beyond her own self-awareness, Ms. Lynch spoke for and to the community, in what faculty member Abigail Laber described as "true oratory." A short excerpt from her speech is below.

While we usually lean on the side of cautious political correctness here at CA [Concord Academy], understand me when I say that I cannot accept this of people who are so intelligent and capable ... I ask you not to leave this in silence but to take it up in your spare moments and your dinner discussions. This is real life, and your education cannot get any more real than this. Let us educate each other with respect and tolerance and hopefully acceptance ... Let us remember that while this person's vile actions forced us to confront a tear in our community, the tear has been there for a while. It was there the first time someone closed their mind and stopped listening to an opposing opinion. Every time someone has made a derogatory joke towards any group, be it defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or socioeconomic status ... The only solution I can see is to be honest with ourselves and with each other ... to listen and provide a space where genuine and raw emotion and feeling can be shared without fear and alienation ... Each conversation may help us to reconnect the threads, if we start now. Be a fiber in bandaging our wound, and we will affect a new patch on the quilt of the CA community.

After the "graffiti incident," Kaitlin recognized that the community needed a sustained effort in the area of race relations. She worked with sponsorship from MOSAIC, the student multicultural alliance, to compile "The Graffiti Journal." The book is filled with thoughts, feelings, ideas and emotions of various community members and will have a permanent place in the school library, once published. Kaitlin, co-founder of the Multi Ethnic Student Organization, is also working to develop a speaker series that aims to bring culturally diverse speakers to the campus.

Ms. Lynch's work has left a deep impression with the faculty, staff, students and families of the Concord Academy community. In addition to her passion for speaking out against racial injustice, Ms. Lynch is known by her community as an exceptional student who is a gifted writer as well as a natural leader who is respectful of her peers. The faculty and staff of Concord Academy earnestly support Kaitlin’s efforts, congratulate her achievement, and feel that she is deserving of the highest recognition.

The prize committee is also awarding certificates of accomplishment to the following students:

Porschea M. Battles, a senior at Monument High School in South Boston, Mass., for her leadership as President of the Student Government, which included creation of the First Annual Multicultural Day — an awards ceremony, multicultural talent show and potluck luncheon;

Adelina Fontes, a senior at Boston Latin Academy in Boston, Mass., for her leadership role in the Violence Prevention Summit that created dialogue among youth of various races in Boston;

Adriel Hsu-Flanders, a senior at Commonwealth School in Boston, Mass., for his leadership as founder and president of the Diversity Committee that established the First Annual Diversity Day;

Jillian Hubbard, a senior at Newton North High School in Newtonville, Mass., for her leadership in developing the “Race in the Classroom” curriculum, nomination to and participation in the Leadership in a Diverse Society class 2006-07 and member of the METCO program;

T. Patrick Noone, a junior at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass., for his leadership as planner of the Fall Mix It Up Day, membership in the Multicultural Students Association, moderator of roundtable discussion forums and organizer of Martin Luther King Day tribute;

Tiffany Smalley, a senior at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., for her leadership in planning and serving as a student facilitator at the Race Culture Retreat, membership of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Youth Group and reestablishment of the local Youth Council affiliated with United National Indian Tribal Youth network; and

Tara Venkatraman, a senior at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., for her leadership as co-head of the Common Ground Board, organization of a film series and student panel, and development of a Student Social Justice Conference and Social Action Curriculum and Resource List.

Founded in 2003 in the Washington, D.C., and Boston metropolitan areas, the Princeton Prize in Race Relations recognizes high school students for their efforts to improve race relations in their schools and communities. During the 2006-07 school year, the Princeton Prize awards program was available to students attending school in the greater metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., as well as in three areas of New Jersey: Princeton; the northwestern part of the state; and Essex and Hudson counties. In coming years, the University plans to extend the Princeton Prize to other communities around the country, with the ultimate goal of establishing the Princeton Prize programs in all 50 states.