After discovering that their classmates did not have a real understanding of racial injustice, then-tenth graders Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi set out in 2014 to start a conversation and initiate change.
Today Guo and Vulchi are co-founders and co-presidents of Choose, an online community where people can share their stories of inequality, and the creators of the textbook Princeton Choose: The Classroom Index.
The textbook is now on its third edition and has been sold to about 500 schools and individuals across 15 states. Now seniors at Princeton High School in New Jersey, the girls are looking at their next steps for the textbook and the online community.
Their goal? Ensure K-12 students in schools nationwide “develop the historical and sociological toolkit for racial literacy” — a knowledge base they hope will ultimately help young people recognize racial justice and inspire them to create a better world.
Guo and Vulchi recently sat down with Teen Vogue to discuss the project and their goals for the future. Here’s an excerpt of their chat:
Teen Vogue: What were some of the challenges faced when creating this project?
Winona Guo: Starting off I think a lot of it was just overcoming this personal inertia to get involved in this work because the work is difficult and it’s been emotionally challenging for activists around the country, both of us included. We weren’t sure when we started, if we wanted to commit our time and energy to this work but we decided that it is worth it. In the end, I think there is nothing more important than social justice and equity and equality, and harmony for people of all backgrounds across the united states. That is really what we committed our lives to and for the past two years and the rest of our lives to. With Priya being Indian American and myself, Chinese American, this is something we have been struggling to grapple with. We are asked why we care about this issue to which, we have many responses but we feel like we are always seen as this “model minority” or “silent minority.”
Priya Vulchi: So another struggle has been that there’s not many Asian American activists that we found or can look up to so a struggle has been figuring out our role in this whole movement. Also, in terms of just creating a textbook, it was a huge learning curve in terms of how to publish, copyright, and laying out the design etc. All of that was a huge learning process for us.
TV: How does the idea of racial literacy go beyond the classroom? In what ways does racial literacy impact larger cultural discussions, such as the election?
PV: Why we thought it was important for kids our own age and especially younger than us to start developing racial literacy is because it’s equipping students to have contact with the world beyond the classroom. So current events and even the election. When we first started what inspired us was Eric Garner and the events that we were discussing in our AP History class. It enables students to enact change, it inspires activists so students leave the classroom not only equipped with other literacy such as math, reading, and science to make a difference in the world ,but they are equipped now with a will and a fight in them for social justice.
WG: In so many schools and districts across the nation social justice and social literacy education is still so lacking and social justice education we feel is everything. We want all students to be equipped with this toolkit and the reality of society and the United States and the inequality in society and the United States. There are studies out there that show that kids start recognizing racism as young as 3 and 4 and these kids are recognizing these issues and not talking about them in the classroom and that is totally not okay.
Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.