Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2014
Nikunj Jinan was born in India and moved to the United States with his parents when he was 5. Upon entering high school, he says he observed the social isolation that occurs between groups of students.
“I was shocked that in all my freshman classes, students automatically segregated themselves – the Caucasian kids sat on one side of the class while the Hispanic and black kids sat on the other,” Nikunj said.
That provided the inspiration to create the after school program “Kids Teach It Forward,” for underprivileged and underperforming students at Mimosa Elementary School in Roswell.
Because of his work, Nikunj was awarded a certificate of accomplishment in the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. Alison Earles, a member of the Princeton Prize Committee, described Nikunj as “visionary, a leader, courageous.”
Sheri Smith, Nikunj’s IB Business and Management teacher, recalled him as “diligent, hardworking, dedicated and helpful.”
Nikunj says he created this program because he “wanted to help students better their scores… and their opportunity.”
But, just like its founder’s dexterity, “Kids Teach It Forward” does a lot more than just work to raise students’ standardized test scores. The program also helps build stronger bonds between racially diverse students, and promotes a greater understanding of different cultures by pairing tutors with pupils of different ethnicity. “He was motivated as he saw a racial divide in his class,” Earles said.
Princeton University awards the Princeton Prize in Race Relations annually “to promote harmony, understanding, and respect among people of different races, by identifying and recognizing high school age students whose efforts have had a significant, positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities,” according to its website.
Smith says she was proud, but not surprised, to learn of his achievement. “He always contributed to class discussions in a way that you could tell that he went home and reflected … and came back with additional support.”
To learn more about Nikunj’s program, visit www.kidsteachitforward.org.
Nikunj will attend Purdue University this fall to study computer science and statistics. He hopes to be involved with “Kids Teach It Forward” while in college, and to see its expansion to other schools, stating that he is “pleased and blessed with the opportunity.”
This article was reported and written by Elizabeth Lamar, a student at Riverwood International Charter School.