Winona Guo usa, 17

project: choose
basic human NEEDS: education

Theme Song: “Imagine” by John Lennon

During her freshman year, Winona and her classmates read Richard Wright’s memoir “Black Boy” as part of their curriculum. Instead of discussing the topic of racism that was pivotal to the book, their teacher avoided the subject altogether. Winona and her peers missed out on the opportunity for a meaningful lesson, and many were left uncomfortable and offended. While the conversation of race in the classroom is challenging, Winona believes it to be vital, and that ignoring this challenge will only perpetuate ignorance and injustice. She and her friend Priya co-founded CHOOSE to address racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education and empowerment. Together, they created The Classroom Index, a 224-page racial literacy textbook and toolbox for K-12 students, administrators and educators.

After conducting hundreds of interviews, Winona and Priya use almost 200 personal stories to drive meaningful conversation on race. This year, the Classroom Index was recognized with Princeton University’s Princeton Prize in Race Relations, as well as Not In Our Town’s Unity Award. After a successful pilot run in Princeton Public Schools, the second edition will be released in 2017 with support from Princeton University and the Princeton Education Foundation. Winona and Priya are working on a third edition that will focus on intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ability and other social topics that must finally be addressed in classrooms nationwide. CHOOSE has grown to a team of 30 students, with 50+ young ambassadors leading meetings and spreading tolerance throughout their own communities.