We believe that the Princeton Prize in Race Relations is an important project that benefits both the award recipients and the University. As such, we believe that more prizes of a similar nature should be created to commend high school students who have done outstanding things in various areas of civic engagement. Prizes in fields such as education, public health, LGBT and gender activism and poverty alleviation would attract a wide array of talented students that may also be interested in Princeton.
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations allows Princeton to attract talented high school students. In contrast to the generic emails and fliers that high school seniors field daily, this prize is a sincere way of identifying well-rounded prospective students and giving them a more in-depth introduction to Princeton. Many winners of this prize have gone on to become Princeton students, and it is possible that this positive interaction with Princeton played a role in their decision.
More prizes of a similar nature would allow the University to identify accomplished high school students early on in their high school careers — students can apply for the prize as early as their freshman year of high school. Not only would the University be identifying and nurturing the talents of some exceptional students, it would also be forging strong connections with these students. While race relations are an extremely important field and an impressive challenge for any high school student to take on, this prize only applies to a very limited number of students. By increasing the number and diversity of prizes, we can reach more high school students nationwide. While these prizes obviously cannot replace other means of contacting prospective students, they are a valuable means of augmenting traditional recruitment methods.
This award is a commendable way for the University to connect with communities and to promote important work that is being done by high school students. It sheds a positive light on the University, while investing in future leaders. For example, one of this year’s winners, Michael Wattendorf, the first white president of his high school’s Black Student Union, said that he will give his prize money to the Black Student Union in order to continue a mentorship program that he founded.
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations is a laudable project that allows the University to identify talented and interesting prospective students while investing in young leaders. However, this program impacts a limited number of students and would better serve both the University and communities around the nation if it were expanded to include prizes in other areas of civic engagement.