Free State senior named recipient of 2023 Princeton Prize in Race Relations

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Free State High School senior Wendo Kimori has received a prestigious award that recognizes young leaders pushing toward racial equity in their communities.

For her involvement in the Lawrence school district and leadership as president of the Lawrence NAACP Youth Council, Kimori has been named the 2022 Princeton Prize in Race Relations recipient for the Kansas City area, according to a bio about Kimori on the award website. The annual recognition rewards high school students who, through volunteerism, have advanced racial equity in their schools or communities.

“Recipients of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations have stood up to intolerance, worked toward advancing racial equity, and encouraged racial comity in their school or communities,” according to the award website.

Kimori provides student input on important issues as a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, and she has participated in school board meetings as a student board member, according to the award website. As one of two students on the district’s Equity Advisory Council, she helps identify and correct district and school policies, procedures and practices that perpetuate racial achievement disparities. 

Kimori is also the founder and president of the newly revived Lawrence NAACP Youth Council. The council, which is now the official youth branch affiliated with the NAACP Lawrence Branch, has regular meetings, participates in community partnerships, and empowers young people to get involved in local antiracism work. Through Kimori’s leadership, the group has hosted several meetings and community events, such as a discussion during Women’s History Month that delved into intersectionality.

NAACP Youth Council members from left to right are Wendo Kimori, Elsie Murrugarra, Caitlin Sand and Thayu Kimori. (Contributed photo)

“Having a group specifically for youth has been transformative for the longevity of the NAACP, and also gives Lawrence youth an organized forum for promoting civic engagement with regard to race relations,” the award website said of the Lawrence NAACP Youth Council.

In response to ongoing homelessness concerns in Lawrence, the group in February held a community event to target food insecurity. They ended up donating between 200 and 300 meals to the Winter Emergency Shelter and Willow Domestic Violence Center.

During Black History Month, Youth Council members visited Lawrence elementary schools and read to students books written by Black authors and about Black people. The children then learned lessons and completed crafts created by Youth Council members, which “gave hundreds of elementary schoolers a positive, thought-provoking first experience with learning about the civil rights journey in America,” according to the award website. The group has continued to visit elementary schools to read.

As part of the honor, Kimori receives an award of $1,000 as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the Symposium on Race on April 27-29 at Princeton University in New Jersey. Read more about the award and see the full list of 2022 award recipients at

Read more about Kimori and the NAACP Youth Council at this link. Kimori was unavailable for an interview for this story.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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