All boarding, grades 9-12 in Alexandria, Virginia
Esther Kim '19 Earns Princeton Honor for Her Work on Race Relations
When Esther Kim ’19 left her small, predominantly white town in western Tennessee to attend Episcopal, she says she had little sense of what diversity means, or of its importance. Yet four years later, her work to make diversity a focus at EHS has earned her a Certificate of Accomplishment from the prestigious Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
The Princeton program honors high school students nationally who lead efforts to improve race relations in their schools or communities. Esther, a Korean American, played a pivotal part in each of the School’s first three MLK Jr. Day Symposiums, helping to run workshops on race, the #MeToo movement, and MLK’s religious progressivism. This year, as an officer with Spectrum, a student club that promotes diversity, she helped organize a packed-house political forum in which students from the left and right discussed gun control, abortion, and other hot-button issues.
“She is one of the most prominent voices in shifting the student culture here,” says Joel Sohn, director of the office of community and equity. “She is not only wicked smart and sweet and kind, but she can push us to have courageous conversations in a way that shows she cares about the community. She’s very powerful.”
Esther says she arrived at Episcopal with little exposure to racial matters. “I was one of two Asian students in my school, one of maybe five students of color,” she says. But encountering many Episcopal students of different backgrounds and perspectives sparked a deep interest. At the close of her first year, she did a major research project on bias and discrimination, with a focus on EHS. During her sophomore year, she attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, a gathering of independent school students nationwide. Inspired, she and her classmates returned to campus determined to create more awareness.
“I could see that diversity was something that people were talking about all over the country, and that it should be important to our school,” she says.
Esther, who will attend Harvard University in the fall, plans to study a mix of government, international relations, and economics. She also wants to take Asian studies courses and get an academic perspective on a part of the world she knows largely from family. Soon after Episcopal’s graduation on Saturday, she’ll make her first trip Korea in 10 years.
“I’ve already got a list of monuments and historic sites I want to visit,” she says.