Samantha Morinville, Shawnee Mission North High School sophomore; Naudia Thurman, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School sophomore; and Holly Jackson, Shawnee Mission West High School senior; were honored with a Certificate of Accomplishment for their thoughtful efforts to improve the climate at their school by the Greater Kansas City Committee for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
Samantha Morinville is the secretary of the Black Student Union (BSU) at SM North. This year she was a coordinator for the 18th annual Black History Month program that featured a variety of speeches, songs, dances, poems, art, and music.
“It’s important to share and celebrate black culture at our school and inform our students and community,” Morinville noted.
Morinville is very active in academics, clubs, and activities at North. She is a member of the Overland Park Teen Council, which focuses on community service, volunteering, and getting to know more about Overland Park. She enjoys the Kansas Youth and Government program where Kansas students go to the state capitol and debate over written bills. It's a chance to see how the house and senate actually work.
“To me, being recognized with a Princeton Certificate means that no matter what you do, people are watching, and people care,” Morinville shared. “I hope contributions show others that there's never a job that's too big if you're willing to sacrifice for it.”
At SM Northwest, Naudia Thurman initiated the start of her school’s BSU when she was a freshman. The BSU promotes racial understanding and equity around the school and at the district level with the district Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Thurman was at the forefront of organizing the Black History Month Assembly, a required event for all students, to help initiate positive change. This year’s theme was “Being Unapologetically You.”
“The BSU has given voices to silence populations at SM Northwest,” Daniah Hammouda, BSU co-sponsor and Language Arts teacher said. “The BSU has provided students, who would not usually take part in extracurriculars, a space to discuss ideas which matter to them and build relationships with people who have shared.”
Thurman helped organize a panel where she and other BSU and Couguar United members spoke to staff about their experiences as African American students.
“The panel was very powerful and introduced conversations on race prior to our Deep Equity training as a staff,” Sheila Young, BSU co-sponsor and English Language Arts teacher noted.
Both Hammouda and Young agree that Naudia is truly the embodiment of servant leadership. She takes ownership of all aspects of the organization, whether that is in victories or setbacks, We are very proud of Naudia and are looking forward to seeing her incredible initiatives continue even beyond her time at Northwest.”
Holly Jackson, senior, is the vice president of the Multicultural Leadership Club and founder and president of the Black Student Union at Shawnee Mission West.
In her first years at West, Jackson noticed that the diverse range of backgrounds among students weren’t represented in many of the school’s activities. She approached Dr. Janet Carter, Spanish teacher and Multicultural Leadership Club advisor, to see if they could measure attitudes related to diversity at West.
Jackson developed a School Culture survey for students and staff and presented the results at a staff meeting. She shared six focus areas for improvement which included; discipline, increased parent involvement, school spirit, increased student participation, student-teacher relationships, and improved student-race relations.
Jackson is a Link Crew mentor for freshmen and serves on the school’s Site Council. She will be attending Pepperdine University in the fall where she will be majoring in theatre, music and film. Pepperdine reviewed over 12,500 applications this year and extended admissions to approximately 890 incoming students (7% acceptance rate).
“She is not just a great student, accomplished artist and performer, and a wonderful leader who is involved in her community, but Holly is much more,” Carter emphasized. “What sets Holly apart is her commitment to helping bring about positive change in her community. She is one of the most intrinsically motivated students I have ever met and had the pleasure of working with outside of class.”
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations (PPRR) recognizes and rewards high school students who through their volunteer activities, have undertaken significant efforts to advance racial equity and understanding in their schools and communities.