18 Under 18: Kendall Baldwin

Harvard-bound runner cleared racial hurdles as president of Project RACE

Updated: February 29, 2012, 1:10 AM ET
By Natalie Gingerich MacKenzie | ESPNHS GIRL Magazine

Kendall BaldwinCourtesy of Kendall BaldwinHarvard-bound track star Kendall Baldwin is teen president of Project RACE, an advocacy group for multiracial Americans. Her activism earned her a Princeton Award in Race Relations.

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Kendall Baldwin gets about five hours of sleep a night during the school week, and it's not because she's playing Angry Birds. The Harvard-bound sprinter/hurdler/jumper for New Jersey's Middletown North (N.J.) began tearing up the track when she was just 9 years old.

"I tried basketball, but I realized the only thing I was really good at was running," she recalled. "I loved the part of practice when we did suicides because that's where I shined the brightest."

Since her elementary and middle schools didn't have a track team, her mom drove her an hour from home for practices in another town.

It isn't track that keeps her up at night, however. Baldwin's jam-packed schedule also includes serving as secretary of the local Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, where she brings a teen perspective to youth-oriented programs like a recent anti-cyber bullying campaign. And the 17-year-old spends up to 10 weeks of the summer on various volunteer projects, such as teaching English in the Dominican Republic and building houses in Tijuana, Mexico. And did we mention that she teaches Sunday School, coordinates as many as 180 volunteers for an annual Martin Luther King Jr. service day event, packs boxes at a local food bank, dishes meals in a soup kitchen, and visits weekly with nursing home residents?

But Baldwin's real labor of love is her role as teen president of Project RACE, an advocacy group for multiracial Americans -- the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Her activism landed her a Princeton Award in Race Relations last year. While one hallmark battle for Project RACE has been breaking free from the "check-one-box rule" that used to be the norm on most official forms -- something familiar to teens in the thick of filling out SATs, ACTs and college applications -- for Baldwin, an aspiring physician, the issue goes beyond identity and into the realm of public health. She has led efforts to increase multiracial representation in medical research and bone marrow donation. (You're most likely to find a match from someone with your same racial make-up, which can make it "like searching for a needle in a haystack," explained Susan Graham, founder and executive director of Project RACE.)

And she holds her own as a spokesperson whether she's talking with other multiracial teens about college visits or with legislators about umbilical cord collection and storage. "I don't know how Kendall does everything she does," said Graham.