2020 - OHIO
Elizabeth Metz is a senior at Beachwood High School in Beachwood, Ohio. She is the executive vice president and student body president-elect and the multimedia editor of the student news organization, the Beachcomber. During her freshman year, racial tensions and a lack of administrative action to discipline racist student behaviors inspired her to search for a student-led approach to spark conversation and action. Elizabeth held two open forums, the first addressing racially motivated gun violence and the second addressing tensions among students caused by students. Attendees discussed how to progressively advance as a student body, including making suggestions to administrators. These forums became an integral part of a more inclusive development titled "The Breaking Barriers Project," a platform for students across the United States to create conversation on topics of diversity, inclusion, race, gender, sexuality and religion. In the 2019-20 school year, the Breaking Barriers Project has launched a digital web series entitled "What I Wish You Knew," which utilizes perspectives of diverse students to promote understanding and learning across a broader audience. Members of the Breaking Barriers Project have attended seminars and training on how to respectfully mediate conversations about race, and urge participants to think about new perspectives and scenarios that may challenge one's access to equity and equality in our society. While racial harmony would be ideal in her school, Elizabeth says, "Approaching negative race relations requires patience and the acknowledgement of long-standing, systematic privilege and inequality; for that reason, we must note that any takeaway and experience from the Breaking Barriers Project still counts as progress towards a more unified and inclusive community." Outside of the classroom, Elizabeth is a member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., which focuses on developing African American leaders, and NCSY, an international Jewish organization that inspires and connects Jewish teens through service and leadership activities.