Congratulations to senior Eesha Narain who has been honored with a Certificate of Accomplishment by the Connecticut Committee for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for her demonstrated commitment to advancing race equity and fostering positive race relations within the greater RCDS community. Eesha’s leadership through her program the Coalition of Differences earned her this prestigious honor. The now-two-year-old student-led initiative promotes civil discourse and diversity of thought through facilitating conversations around complex and charged topics.
During her years in the Upper School, Eesha has been passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion, and public purpose. The summer before her sophomore year, she was selected as an RCDS Community Engagement Fellow, partnering with Mount Vernon Boys and Girls Club to incorporate a drama program into their daily summer camp for students ages 7-13. This project was a continuation of the work of former Community Engagement Fellow and Princeton Prize in Race Relations recipient Faith Hardy ’19. Eesha was selected again as Community Engagement Fellow the summer before her junior year, and she built on her work the previous year to a performing arts program at the Mount Vernon Boys and Girls Club.
In her junior year, Eesha launched the Coalition of Differences to advance the productive exchange of ideas on campus. The idea was to provide students with space to practice engaging respectfully across differences and around complex topics characterized by debate and disagreement. She developed community norms for the group, including being fully present, speaking from an "I" perspective, leaning into discomfort, treating the candidness of others as a gift, taking risks, and being self-responsible and self-challenging, among others. In proposing the Coalition, she and peer collaborators wrote, "When students leave the RCDS community, a critical skill we should cultivate is having conversations with people who aren't exactly like us, even if it is on a subject that feels uncomfortable to talk about." Also in her junior year, Eesha was one of six students selected to represent Rye Country Day School at the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Seattle. The conference helped 1,600 student delegates from across the U.S. and abroad build diverse networks, develop cross-cultural communication skills, and examine a broad range of social justice issues. Following the conference, Eesha and the other five delegates shared their takeaways with the RCDS community as part of an effort to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School.
In the spring and summer of 2020, Eesha organized opportunities for students to share their perspectives on systemic racism, and she worked to increase awareness around racial injustice through the Action Against Racism initiative, a group of students and faculty coordinated by Director of Public Purpose Rebecca Drago and Director of Diversity & Inclusion Ali Morgan.
When her senior year began, Eesha hit the ground running with Coalition programming. As the nation grappled with a contentious election where race was a central topic, Eesha stepped forward in the RCDS community to facilitate spaces for respectful dialogue. Teaming up with Mr. Morgan and Ms. Drago, Eesha assigned all upper schoolers to small discussion groups no larger than nine participants and trained 31 teachers and employees to serve as facilitators. Students discussed a range of topics including democracy, the tense election, the electoral college, civil rights, young voter turnout, the role of social media, and the value of debates, healthcare and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the supreme court, among others. The Coalition held a similar meeting following the insurrection at the Capitol in January of 2021.
"Eesha has been essential to the conversation around race and DEI at Rye Country Day and beyond. She has been a thought leader and changemaker in our school," shares Director of Diversity and Inclusion Ali Morgan. He continues, “She has already left an indelible mark on the RCDS community, and I know she will continue to accomplish great things after she graduates.”
Eesha is an outstanding student and exemplary citizen. Her dedication to building awareness and facilitating discussions around race and equity have made the Rye Country Day community stronger and better. We are extremely proud of Eesha, and we are grateful for all that she has contributed to our community. —Head of School Scott Nelson
Eesha is the fourth Rye Country Day student to be awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, joining Ami Diane '17, Patricia Bautista '19 and Faith Hardy '19.