Kemi Tela '23 is a 2023 recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. This award recognizes high school students who, through their volunteer activities, have made significant efforts to advance racial equity and understanding in their schools and communities.
Kemi's involvement at Father Ryan is vast, but it is her continued work through the Multi-Cultural Student Union that she was chosen for this award. Serving as a leader of the MCSU, Kemi has pursued an advocacy project that aims to lift the voices of minority students through a collection of testimonials regarding minority students' experiences with microaggressions. Kemi's goal with this project was to combat ignorance through education and respectful conversation and to continue creating a positive culture on campus for all students.
The Princeton Prize Committee receives submissions from high school students in the Middle Tennessee area, and Kemi was chosen as the only winner this year. With this award, she will receive scholarship money and the chance to attend a three-day symposium on Princeton's campus, where she and her fellow award recipients will continue the discussion on their work and race relations.
To have applied for this award, Kemi needed to be sponsored by an adult involved with the project or who directly witnessed the outcome of the student's project – for Kemi, that was Mr. Scott Shaver. As a moderator of MCSU, Mr. Shaver has spent the last year watching Kemi advocate for minority communities across campus. He described Kemi as a humble leader who flies under the radar and avoids the spotlight. "When change happens, it'll be due to the work Kemi has done here at Father Ryan," said Mr. Shaver. "She has turned negative experiences into a positive opportunity for change, and it has been incredible to witness her leadership on campus."
For Kemi, the Multi-Culture Student Union has "served as a safe haven for minority students to share their experiences on campus and relish in the support of a welcoming community.” She says, “this club reminded me of the importance of championing marginalized communities and provided me with the vital support to rediscover my voice in an advocacy context," Kemi said.
Additionally, Kemi has been accepted to Princeton in the Fall, and while she has yet to decide where she will attend college, no matter the destination, her positive impact will be felt.
We are so proud of Kemi's continued service and dedication to the Father Ryan community and those communities outside of Father Ryan.