KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize

About the KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize

The KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize rewards students engaged in new or ongoing work that demonstrates a commitment, whether in education or other domains, to creating a better future for children and youth. The award of $2,500 is given to one UC Berkeley undergraduate student each year.  The Prize recognizes students who have developed innovative strategies to increase opportunities for children and youth, as well as students who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the future of children and youth. The intent of the prize is to shine a light on a student whose work has gone largely unrecognized.

In evaluating the applications, we look for:

  • Critical issue/need
  • Track record of success/impact or promise of potential impact
  • Initiative/leadership
  • Creativity/innovation
  • Sustained commitment
  • Good use of resources

Application and Selection Process

Students apply by submitting a resume, two letters of support, and an essay of up to 1,000 words describing their innovation and/or ongoing engagement. More details and selection criteria are on the application. Submissions involving apps, models and pilot projects are welcome. All registered undergraduate students at UC Berkeley are eligible to apply.

2023-2024 application form

Applications are due via the online form by Monday, October 30, 2023, at 5pm.

Applicants will be notified within three months.

Application Components:

1. Online Application Form

2. Your essay of up to 1000 words describing your innovation and/or ongoing engagement improving the future of children and youth. The essay should include the following:

  • * Clear description and timeline of what has been done so far
  • * Number of children/youth served (and/or projected to be served)
  • * Impact on children/youth served and how you assess that (or will assess that)
  • * Plan for the next five years of the project, including sustainability, as well as your own plan for the next five years

3. Your resume or CV, not to exceed two pages. (In the past, some applicants have made the mistake of taking up too much space in the essay repeating information from the resume, so please keep in mind that the committee will review your resume).

4. Supplemental materials (optional). These might include photos, data tables, diagrams, screen shots of an app, etc. Aside from brief captions if needed, please do not include text. We want all applicants to adhere to the word limit.

5. Two letters of support are also required (please do not send more than two letters) In choosing your letter-writers, consider who has first-hand knowledge of the project and your role in it. If there is a co-founder/co-leader of the project, include a letter from that person. A letter from a teacher, administrator, or community organization staff member is also good. You can request a letter from a child/youth/or parent served, if you think they can provide a compelling overview of the project. You may include at most one letter from a faculty member. Be sure to ask them to address the specifics of the project and your contribution rather than writing a general letter of recommendation. Letters should be emailed from the recommender to with Kids First Prize in the subject line.

For more information contact Dr. Deborah Lustig: dlustig AT, 510-642-0813. 

Support the KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize

To make a gift in support of the prize, please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "Kirp Prize".

photo of David Kirp

David L. Kirp

About David L. Kirp

A faculty member at the Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, since 1971, David Kirp, professor of the Graduate School, is a policy consultant and a contributing writer to the New York Times as well as an academic. In his seventeen books and scores of articles, in both the popular press and scholarly journals, he has tackled some of America’s biggest social problems, including affordable housing, access to health, gender discrimination and AIDS. Throughout his career, his main focus has been on education and children’s policy, from cradle to college and career.  His latest book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools, was named outstanding book of 2013 by the American Education Research Association. The book chronicles how an urban school district has brought poor Latino immigrant children, many of them undocumented, into the education mainstream. His previous book, Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming the Lives of Children, makes a powerful argument for building systems of support that reach from cradle to college and career. It won the National School Board Journal award for the best education book of 2011. The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics analyzes why early education has emerged as a national priority. It received the Association of American Publishers Award for Excellence. David Kirp serves as a member of the board of Friends of the Children and on the international advisory committee of Escuela Nueva, a Colombia-based nonprofit that in the past quarter-century has educated millions of children in the developing world.