Princeton teen Tatiana Sims organizes community Unity Walk

Tatiana Sims, a recent Princeton High School graduate, got the idea for a Unity Walk after filming a documentary about race relations, “The Quest: Equalizing Achievement.” She realized many kids felt undervalued or left out within their community and decided the best thing would be to have everyone come together to feel loved and valued.

“This event is really to celebrate togetherness and diversity in our community,” said Sims, who is taking a year off before college to ensure youth in Princeton are succeeding and doing everything they’re capable of doing.

Sims began filming her documentary during her junior year at PHS in 2014. She researched information about the achievement gap and went on to document the stories of her peers as well as educators.

“I wanted to get their perspectives on the issue. What I found was when kids do not have adequate support, they really end up falling through the cracks of the system,” Sims said. “I developed this ‘triangular theory:’ students, parents and teachers all need to be on the same page in order for students to thrive. I am working now to make sure these types of things are in place during my gap year.”

Sims spoke to the administration while in high school about redefining how students learn. She aimed to bring forth an issue that may have not otherwise been known. Sims was an integral part of the action plan team for the development of the Superintendent Steve Cochrane’s strategic plan. According to Sims, Cochrane based his agenda for the plan on her triangular theory.

The Unity Walk will meet at 400 Witherspoon St. at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24. Starbucks, who Sims worked closely with while filming her documentary at its Nassau Street location, will provide coffee and snacks for the community.

“I am thankful Michael Scott, regional manager of Starbucks, and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, for the dedication the project,” Sims said. “I also really want to thank the mayor [Liz Lempert] who helped me get the Unity Walk together. I came to her with an idea, and she got it to where it is now.”

The event will begin with poster and banner making, speeches by Lempert, Shirley Satterfield and Sims. Participants will then walk to the Arts Council of Princeton for an entertaining presentation to keep attendees engaged in the walk. Walkers will then proceed to the Friends Center where Sims will screen “The Quest: Equalizing Achievement.”

“I want to keep that a little bit of a secret to make sure people come out to see it,” Sims said of some of the experiences documented. “But I will say it was eye opening, a diverse crowd of people who participated – young, old, white, black. It really just opens the dialogue about this topic.”

Former Mayor Jim Floyd has also mentored Sims through the process of standing up for her peers, establishing positive race relations and being an active member of the community.

“He has really helped me and encouraged me through all the endeavors I’ve decided to take on. He has guided me,” Sims said. “He has such a voice and historical representation as being the first African American mayor of Princeton.”

Sims hopes this Unity Walk “is just the beginning. I hope to have the event annually, not just in Princeton but in other communities. I hope it opens the conversation for togetherness.”

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida