Shady Side Academy senior Caroline Benec has been selected as the regional winner of the 2017 Princeton Prize in Race Relations, awarded by the Princeton Alumni Association of Western Pennsylvania (PAAWP). As a regional winner, Benec will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid weekend trip to a national symposium on race at Princeton University on April 28-29, 2017. She will receive her award and speak at the PAAWP Annual Dinner on Tuesday, April 25, at the Allegheny HYP Club.
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations recognizes and rewards high school students who have had a significant positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities through their volunteer efforts. There are 27 regional committees across the country, each of which chooses one prize winner each year.
At Shady Side, Benec has been a member of the Senior School Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) for two years, helping the group to become more active in campus life than ever before. Together with 10 students and two faculty mentors, Benec helped to conceptualize, create and deliver a series of presentations for freshmen and sophomores on cultural identity, microaggressions, effective ways to communicate about race, and recognizing the impact of language and seemingly harmless jokes. As a follow-up to the presentations, she helped to lead smaller group workshops on race and identity. She also created and taught a lesson plan to three sophomore health classes on white privilege and being an ally. In addition, she contributed to institutional change by voicing the DLC's desire for the Academy to establish an administrative position for diversity and inclusion, meeting with the Senior School head and speaking at a meeting of the Board of Trustees' Community Life Committee. Due in part to her advocacy, the Board approved the creation of a new Director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Relations position at the Academy for 2017-2018.
Benec's application for the Princeton Prize included a supporting recommendation from Senior School history teacher Pam Boehm, who serves as a faculty advisor to the Diversity Leadership Council.
"I am so thrilled and very humbled to receive this recognition," said Benec. "I believe that I have contributed to long-term, sustainable change that will trickle down to the everyday interactions and culture of the student body. I believe that this award is also a testament to all of the positive work that the DLC has done in our school's community."