When Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were high school students, they realized that a topic had been missing from their curriculum — despite it being prevalent in their daily lives. “During our sophomore year of high school, we had a class discussion about current events that had happened over the summer — things like police brutality and racial profiling. That moment stood out so much to us because we realized it was the first time we’d ever had a real discussion about race in our classroom,” Winona tells HelloGiggles. “Research shows that kids develop signs of stereotyping around 3-4 years old — so it was absolutely insane that we didn’t have that conversation about race until tenth grade, even though race has been a huge part of our lives.”
Their experience in that classroom would change the course of their post-high school graduation careers.
Priya adds, “We recognized the power that teachers have as people who are able to transform the lives of students and inspire new generations of activists and outsiders.”
Soon, Priya, an Indian American woman, and Winona, a Chinese American woman, launched an online platform called CHOOSE, where their peers could share their stories about how race guides their movement in the world. Then, with the help of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies, Priya and Winona turned this collection of testimonials into a racial literacy textbook called Princeton Choose: The Classroom Index, in order to provide the resource that had been missing for their entire school lives.
Priya tells HelloGiggles, “When we first saw the need for educators to have some sort of resource to talk about race in the classroom, we thought, ‘We’re two young 16, 17-year-olds. How can we make a difference? There are already professionals who are creating resources; there are larger organizations.’ But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that being high school students was our triumph.”
Recent high school graduates, Priya and Winona are now working on their second textbook, The Race Index.
Their biggest goal? Taking racial literacy beyond the school space.
To create this new textbook, the incredible young women traveled across the 50 states to gather testimonies about race and intersectionality.
The goal of The Race Index is to provide knowledge about diversity that results in social justice actions in everyday life. “We’re hoping it becomes a nationwide measure for racial literacy and competency,” says Winona. “We hope that anybody who has read through research in our book now understands race and racism in a historical, contemporary context. Now, they can have an idea of what we should do for a more equal society — actual steps that we can take moving forward.”
Now, you can watch these brilliant minds present a TEDTalk about turning our country into a racially literate one as they share their journey creating The Race Index.
Priya and Winona tell HelloGiggles that they are using their new platform to not only lift up their own voices — but the voices of others: “As Asian Americans, or the ‘silent/model minority,’ we’ve stumbled upon this experience — that’s at times challenging and at other times beautiful — of finding our own voice while still trying to focus on uplifting the voices of those who have suffered more. As girls living in a privileged town, we’ve tried to climb out of its culture of silence, hopefully bringing members of our community with us.”