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Two Bishop’s School students earn accolades from Princeton Prize in Race Relations

Daxton Gutekunst, David Thompson Jr. and Elias Herrera
Bishop’s School students Daxton Gutekunst (left) and Elias Herrera (right) stand with David Thompson Jr., Bishop’s director of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, after the students received certificates from the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
(Courtesy of Kerri Gutekunst)

Two students at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla have earned certificates from the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for projects to help improve race relations in their community.

Daxton Gutekunst and Elias Herrera will receive their certificates at a ceremony in Point Loma on Sunday, May 22.

The prize recognizes high school students in 28 regions in the United States who, through volunteer activities, have worked to advance racial equity and understanding in their schools or communities, according to the prize’s website.

The prize is run by Princeton University alumni volunteers who make up a selection committee.

“Schools are where you could have a major impact. There is immediacy with the students because these are the peers they spend their time with,” said San Diego committee chairman and 2009 Princeton alumnus Javier Hernandez. “So it makes sense to start from there. Students want to start something in their schools and it expands.”

This year, the San Diego regional Princeton Prize winner is University City High School student and San Diego Unified School District student trustee Zachary Patterson for founding and leading the California Student Board Member Association. Four students were recognized with certificates of accomplishment.

Daxton, a junior at The Bishop’s School, earned his certificate for founding Kid by Kid, which provides tutoring sessions to elementary and middle school students from refugee and immigrant families. The tutoring is given by other students.

Daxton Gutekunst, a 15-year-old sophomore at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, is working to ensure that his nonprofit, Kid by Kid, continues to provide tutoring services to those who need it most, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“One thing we don’t often look at is how kids can help other kids,” Daxton said. “Kids are an untapped resource that is often more powerful than what adults can do. It’s a mentoring program, but it is also an opportunity for friendship and getting a gateway into each other’s lives, which is a unique experience. That peer-to-peer relationship is what makes it successful.”

He said it is “fantastic” that his work was recognized by the Princeton Prize. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and I realize this is not something you might think of right away when you think of race relations. But offsetting the education gap and providing support for refugees and immigrants are huge steps.”

Hernandez said Daxton’s project stood out because “we saw this project as a way to bring more understanding into race relations because one of the biggest hurdles is communication and opening that door.”

Elias, a Bishop’s senior, was recognized for his role in founding the Regional Student Diversity Summit, which first took place virtually in February 2021. The summit on race relations and social justice brought together more than 300 students and faculty members from schools in three states.

Students from La Jolla’s The Bishop’s School and La Jolla Country Day School have helped organize the first Regional Student Diversity Summit, a virtual two-day conference scheduled for Feb. 27-28.

“It was great to learn more about the different students and see how many were willing to come together and engage in active discussions,” Elias said. “Everyone there knew there was great value in sharing experiences with one another and learning how to promote every voice. We were able to consider different perspectives beyond what we shaped in our early life.”

He said one of the takeaways was “learning how to hear the ‘why’ someone is saying something rather than just disagreeing with them. We learned the importance of recognizing the value of thinking critically and equitably. We tried to remind our participants that it’s not just about giving opinions, it’s about hearing them.”

Hernandez said the summit project stood out because “it wasn’t just sitting down and listening to a program, it was interactive between students and faculty and speakers, and we liked that it is planned to be a continuing thing.”

The 2022 summit was held Feb. 26 at The Bishop’s School. Information about future summits will be posted at rsdsummit.com.

Elias said he was “very happy” and felt lucky to receive a certificate but noted the other local students on the founding team: Marwa Al-Naser, Emma Araya, Maia Carlson, Lila Chitayat, Alexcia Doak, Jaiv Doshi, Sean Kim, Zoë McNeil, Connor Qiu, Simrin Ramchandani, Nicholas Simpson, Scott Vu, Carson Walker, Isabella Walther-Meade and Sophie White.

“There were so many great submissions, so I feel honored to be part of that group,” Elias said.

Learn more about the Princeton Prize in Race Relations at pprize.princeton.edu.