Nisha Khan ’17, a boarding student who grew up in Saudi Arabia, and Katie McCarthy, a day student, received certificates of achievement from the Princeton Prize
committee of central and southern New Jersey at a ceremony at Princeton University’s McLean House on Wednesday evening. The committee is part of the Princeton University Alumni Council.
Nisha, an American citizen who grew up in Saudi Arabia due to her father’s work, is vice president of the School’s Middle Eastern Society. Last year, she was one of the organizers of Hafle at Hun, a celebration of Middle Eastern culture that raised more than $2,000 for Save the Children to aid those caught in the Syrian crisis. This winter, Nisha, along with members of the Hun Diversity Club, organized a discussion of regarding President Trump’s executive immigration order.
“The discussion was rich,” said Nisha, who said she seeks to promote knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern culture and issues on campus.
Hun’s second winner, Katie McCarthy ’17, became interested in diversity issues when she attended the national Student Diversity Leadership Conference in December 2015, in Tampa, Florida. The conference offers workshops to high school students about cultural identity, cross-culture communication skills, and social justice practices on school campuses.
“That was the moment that I knew I wanted to be involved in diversity work, hearing so many people’s different stories,” said Katie, who learned at the conference about “how you identify yourself, and what position you have in society.”
Back on the Hun campus, Katie attended the 2016 Martin Luther King Day Summit, held each January, that aims to facilitate a dialogue among students and others on campus about social identifiers. This past January, Katie, attending for a second time, was a student leader at the conference. Last summer, she visited the Blackfoot Nation in Montana to help rehab buildings on the reservations while learning about their culture.
“At Hun, I like to try reaching students who don’t think diversity issues are aimed at them,” Katie said.
Hun Director of Cultural Competence and Global Diversity Otis Douce applauded both students for their award.
“I’m so proud of Nisha, who has done a lot to raise the visibility of the Middle Eastern students on campus,” said Mr. Douce. He said her work had been the inspiration for bringing Amirah Sackett, a break dancer, onto campus last fall. “Her work has really freed us to be more intentional about programming around conflicts arising from the presidential election.”
Of Katie, Mr. Douce said “as a white female student doing anti-racism work, you might get a lot of questions as to, why does she care? She is extending herself socially in a way that’s really hard, and this award validates her work.”
Linda Blackburn, chair of the Princeton Prize committee recognizing the students, said the program was started in 2003 to “promote harmony, respect and understanding among people of different races by. . .recognizing high school students” who further that effort.
“We want to support these students; we understand this work involves conflict, courage, and standing up,” said Ms. Blackburn, who was among the first women to attend Princeton University in 1969. “People who win this award take this with them the rest of their lives, and may feel strong enough to do this kind of work in college, in graduate school, and beyond, even in their jobs.”
There are twenty-five Princeton Prize committees, composed of Princeton alumni, around the country.