Extraordinary Teen Awards 2022
Life during Covid didn’t stop these graduates from achieving remarkable things. In some cases, it inspired them to reach even higher.
Washington-Liberty High School
As an International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate at W-L, Kimiko Reed made an unsettling observation: The more advanced classes she took, the fewer students of color she saw.
Sometimes she was the only student of color in her class. She grew frustrated every time she had to explain why she felt racism was the most pressing issue in the U.S., or why certain comments about people of color were hurtful. When protests erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death, she felt she had to do something.
“I realized that me being silent about microaggressions and macroaggressions was an act of conformity,” says Reed, 18, who is biracial. “I thought that this was probably happening to other people like me.” So she founded Students for Racial Equity, a community-wide youth organization dedicated to empowering culturally and linguistically diverse students. After interviewing students of color about their experiences, she led professional development workshops for some 95 educators aimed at removing barriers to student learning.
The program expanded to include 45 student ambassadors representing high schools in Arlington and Fairfax counties. A $500 grant from the Arlington Youth Philanthropy Initiative paid for a website and a Zoom subscription.
“Kimi has this doggedness about her,” says Elizabeth Burgos, W-L’s resource teacher for gifted students. “She’s kind, compassionate and empathetic.”
Reed also served as vice president of her school’s Math Honor Society, recruiting tutors for struggling students and applying the equity lens in that context, too. Upon hearing about a minority student who was failing precalculus during Covid because she didn’t know how to access the online textbook, Reed intervened and talked to the girl’s counselor. Within a week the student had the textbook. Her grade shot up to an A.
Reed finished her senior year with a 4.47 GPA and now heads to Columbia University to study biomedical engineering. She’s fascinated by the idea of using gene editing to address racial disparities in the treatment of certain diseases—an interest she says was sparked by her father’s prostate cancer diagnosis. (Black men in the U.S. have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer and are more likely to die from it.)
“The impact in my own family,” she says, “made me realize that better treatments are an important form of social justice advocacy.”