2020 - CALIFORNIA (LOS ANGELES REGION)
Sasha Benson is a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles, California. Sasha is student body vice president and a student ambassador at her school. In her work, she wanted to address the issue of stereotypes on women of color and change the perpetuated categorizations that came with being a minority. She also wanted to provide a new perspective on those who knew nothing about discrimination. In response to this, Sasha created a program called A Safe Space to educate younger girls of color on microaggressions, breaking stereotypes, and how to deal with discriminatory situations intelligently. She wanted to create a space where the girls could feel comfortable sharing their experiences with racial/ethnic prejudice and sexism and learn from one another. She presented to a group of around 20 girls at a local school in her community, where the students are predominantly girls of color and foster children. Sasha felt that "each of the girls walked away with a new, empowering mindset, feeling even more ready to take on the world, using their knowledge instead of violence to fight systemic prejudice." She plans to have a friend, who is a junior, take over A Safe Space after she graduates. At school, Sasha noticed her school had cultures from all backgrounds, yet students couldn’t have any ethnic or affinity groups on campus, making the students of color feel misrepresented, and other students did not have the chance to learn from different cultures. Sasha wanted to change this dynamic in a way that was unifying and inclusive. She decided to collaborate with other students to create a workshop focused on topics directly relating to race, ethnicity, and culture. This changed the school environment because Sasha felt that "it began to inspire other students to take pride in our diversity." To continue the legacy of promoting racial diversity in their school community, Sasha and her collaborators will most likely give the activity to the junior students at their school. Outside of school, Sasha is an active Girl Scout and a member of her local NAACP Youth Council.