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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Suraj Kulkarni

Suraj Kulkarni

Corvallis, Oregon

Suraj Kulkarni, 18, of Corvallis, Oregon, a senior at Corvallis High School, created a website where young people of diverse backgrounds can share their experiences, perspectives and culture with one another, along with online conferences that have involved young people from more than 13 countries. As an Indian American, Suraj had to get used to school mates joking about his name, making fun of his lunch food, and humiliating him in other ways because of his background. As a result, “I felt ashamed of my own culture and heritage,” he said. When the Black Lives Matter movement brought topics of race and discrimination to the forefront last year, Suraj felt the need to provide all teens who identify as minorities with a platform to talk comfortably about their cultures, their unique struggles and experiences with prejudice, and to understand that all of their individual qualities matter.

He recruited a half-dozen friends to help him set up a website and begin writing and publishing posts on the site, which now features more than 20 articles by minority students plus interviews with notable minority public figures. Suraj and his team also established a presence on Instagram, and started hosting online awareness conferences to connect students all over the world. In addition, Suraj organized an “Awareness and Acceptance Week” in his hometown of Corvallis, during which hundreds of students watched videos of minority teens discussing prejudice and ways to counter systemic discrimination. “Especially in today’s climate, it’s so important to be understanding of each other’s struggles,” said Suraj.