Wei Chen

2010 - Philadelphia

As a senior at South Philadelphia High School and a recent immigrant from the People’s Republic of China, Wei was largely responsible for bringing widespread media attention to the issues of student violence in general and against Asian immigrant students in particular. When sporadic violence escalated into shocking assaults targeted at 28 Asian immigrant youth in December 2009, Wei was dissatisfied with the responses of the adults at the School District of Philadelphia. Wei brought the case to the media and organized the assaulted students and others to boycott classes for nine days until they were granted a meeting with the Superintendent on their own terms and guaranteed several added security measures at the school. As a result, Wei was a key figure in coalescing school‐based and city‐wide student groups across racial and ethnic lines to deal collectively with school violence across the city and was the lead speaker at the Philadelphia Student Union rally after a march on Martin Luther King Day. Helen Gym, a widely recognized educational activist and community leader, wrote in her sponsor’s letter of support, "Wei has shown enormous grace in leadership under circumstances almost unimaginable for most young people. He has helped start a movement and a voice for young people that will far outlast him."