California Teen Chelsea Dern Wins Princeton Prize in Race Relations for 2010

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Chelsea Dern, a Los Angeles high school junior, is a winner of the prestigious Princeton Prize in Race Relations for 2010 for her project called 'The Change,' created for Jenesse Center, a non-profit organization in South Los Angeles for women and children victims of domestic violence. Chelsea and her project partner, as Jenesse volunteers, noticed that, besides abuse, the families had racial and ethnic hatred and stereotypes. They created activities to expand their cultural understanding and foster unity. Their puppet show features a "friendship fruit salad" as a metaphor for cultural diversity.

Los Angeles, CA PRWEB) May 27, 2010 -- Chelsea Dern, a junior at Marlborough School (Class of 2011) in Los Angeles, Calif., is a first-prize winner of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for 2010 for her project called 'The Change,' created for the Jenesse Center, a non-profit organization in South Los Angeles that supports women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Launched in 2003, the Princeton Prize in Race Relations is an awards program for high school students in grades 9 through 12 in 23 regions throughout the country who do outstanding work to advance the cause of race relations and whose efforts have had a significant, positive effect in their schools or communities. As winners, Chelsea and her project partner, Bryson Rouzan-Thomas, each received a cash prize and a trip to the Princeton University campus in New Jersey April 30-May 1, 2010, for the Princeton Prize Symposium on Race, a two-day conference at which Chelsea presented a speech describing her winning project.

When Chelsea and Bryson began volunteering at the Jenesse shelter three years ago, they assumed the biggest problems the families faced would be trying to rebuild their lives after leaving an abuser. However, the more they worked with the children, the more they noticed that, although domestic violence had brought these women together, it was not without racial and ethnic hatred and stereotypes. 'We did not want these limiting ideas to be passed on to the children,' Chelsea stated, 'so we began to create activities to expand their cultural understanding and to foster unity.'

Chelsea and Bryson created 'The Change,' the youth group of Jenesse Center, beginning with a home-cooked, shared Thanksgiving dinner and storytelling, and, last year, devising a multiracial puppet show, written and directed by Chelsea and co-directed by Bryson which featured a 'friendship fruit salad' as a metaphor for cultural diversity.

'As a result of the show, the kids began to play together with fewer racial slurs,' continued Chelsea. 'The children acted as a bridge for mothers who had often been too stressed and agitated to take the time to bond with one another. However, once they saw their kids getting along, it forced them to stop, speak, and eventually even befriend the other mothers.

'Through the children becoming closer, there is much more of a family atmosphere at the shelter. The kids have passed on their knowledge and have become role models for the mothers.'

Outside the shelter, awareness of 'The Change' has expanded to other high schools, and the original two-person team has grown to twenty committed student volunteers.

Chelsea has attended Marlborough School since grade seven, and attended elementary school at the UCLA lab school (formerly Seeds UES). For two years, she co-produced and co-hosted an Internet radio interview program with her mother, children's lifestyle expert and author Lisa Dunn-Dern. Chelsea's father is prominent entertainment attorney Dixon Q. Dern, general counsel and chief negotiator for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for 33 years, and the 2009 recipient of its prestigious Emmy statuette, the Syd Cassyd Founders Award, presented for a lasting and significant contribution to the Television Academy.

For more information about the Princeton Prize, visit http://www.princeton.edu/pprize/.

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