Yale honors U.S. high school juniors for their community engagement

May 7, 2018

Fifteen high school juniors have been honored as recipients of the 2018 Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement. The award, which was established in 2016 by the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM) and first conferred in spring 2017, celebrates emerging leaders who have distinguished themselves through a record of creative leadership and public service, academic distinction, interdisciplinary problem solving, and experience addressing societal issues.

The award recipients and 20 semi-finalists were selected from an applicant pool of over 970 students, hailing from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and military and diplomatic stations abroad. 

Our selection committee was overwhelmed by the work of hundreds of amazing high school students who are deeply engaged with their communities, and who are working on dozens of important and pressing issues, even as they excel in the classroom,” said Professor Stephen Pitti, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. “These outstanding juniors gave us tremendous hope for the future.”

The 35 honorees represent 18 states and a variety of commitments and causes of local and global importance. Like the inaugural cohort of Bassett Awardees, the 2018 awardees have earned distinction as scholars and leaders in the classroom, athletics, the arts, and service-related activities.

In their applications, finalists shared reflections about academic and extracurricular experiences that transformed their perspectives on subjects ranging from public education, civil rights, and environmental and social justice to economic equality, gender equity, grassroots and political organizing, and religious tolerance.

I am deeply inspired by the passion and engagement of these students who found ways to make public service not only a part of their lives but in fact a fierce commitment to making a difference in the world,” said Peter Crumlish, executive director and general secretary of Dwight Hall at Yale, the center for public service and social justice.

Bassett Award recipients will receive a book selected by the faculty of the RITM Center and will be invited to Yale’s campus during the fall of their senior year of high school.

The faculty of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration established the Bassett Award to honor young leaders who bring under-recognized perspectives to the public sphere, think deeply about our collective futures, and exemplify intelligence and courage as they work on behalf of others. The award honors Ebenezer Bassett, a Connecticut native who was an educator and public servant in the 19th century.

About Ebenezer Bassett

Ebenezer Bassett portrait

The Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement honors the legacy of influential educator, abolitionist, and public servant Ebenezer Bassett (1833-1908), the United States’ first African American diplomat.

Born into a Native American (Schaghticoke) and African American family nearly 200 years ago, Bassett was the first black student admitted to the Connecticut Normal School (now Central Connecticut State University). He excelled there and at Yale, where he pursued courses in mathematics and classics in the 1850s.

Bassett was a friend and supporter of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and served as principal of the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University). He was named “Minister Resident” (equivalent to an ambassador) and as chargé d’affaires to the Dominican Republic, gaining a hemispheric understanding of racial politics. He also served as Haiti’s consul in New York City.

The 2018 winners:

  • Jocelyne Argüelles, Denver, CO
  • Zyahna Bryant, Charlottesville, VA
  • Iman Dancy, Raleigh, NC
  • Makayla Dawkins, New Haven, CT
  • Zan Dotson, Red Bluff, CA
  • Nicolas Garcia, Irvine, CA
  • Allegra Green, Austin, TX
  • Kyle Lee, La Cañada Flintridge, CA
  • Cyrus Morrell, Newark, NJ
  • Amma Otchere, Menomonee Falls, WI
  • Eunice Park, Valley Village, CA
  • Ariana Smartt, Huntsville, AL
  • Zia Tollette, Little Rock, AR
  • Natalia Torres Arsuaga, Coral Gables, FL
  • Keishaun Wade, Flint, MI