Each year, Los Angeles Facing History Partnership Schools are invited to nominate upstanders in their school community - individuals and groups whose actions have made a difference in the lives of others. In 2018, we are pleased to recognize the following upstanders, each described in the words of their nominator.
Creating an inclusive school environment takes individual and collective action. We recognize these groups on our school campuses as Upstanders for showing concretely that all students are welcome.
Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy #8
The advisors are Kim Dohner and Summerlyn Poon. The students in the group are dynamic and often changing.
A sense of belonging and community is important anywhere, but especially for a middle schooler. Middle school can be a challenging several years, with drastic changes physically, mentally, and socially. Academics also becomes much more challenging. An individual's sense of identity truly gets formed during this middle years.
The Acceptance Club supports individuals who might feel different, who might want to be a part of something, and challenges notions of what the "norm" and "acceptable" means in the community. The Acceptance Club respects all individuals, those who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies, and provides a space for community, for learning, and for connection. The Acceptance Club is now in its third year and its presence is felt by the school community, being a sign to the entire school community that ALL are accepted.
Animo College Prep Academy at Jordan High School
The Rainbow Alliance is an upstanding group because it is group that represents a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQIA individuals. This group has met and organized for the first time in Animo College Prep Academy. Since the club started meeting, there have been more clubs that formed at the school that have increased a sense of positive school cultures. Students are finding a safe space to be themselves and believe in the right to be oneself.
Los Angeles School of Global Studies
This group has helped newcomer students (students that have recently immigrated to the United States) feel welcome in our school community. Club members have supported and served as role models to newcomers by writing and sharing their own immigration stories. As a result, newcomer students have felt more integrated into our school community. They have had their voices and stories honored. The Dreamers Club even designed an after school celebration where students could share their stories with their parents, friends, and family members.
Social Justice Leadership Academy at Esteban E. Torres High School
H.E.A.R.T. (Human Efforts Aimed at Relating Together)
The H.E.A.R.T. group works closely with the principal in creating a safe environment for our school, as well as the rest of the campus. Our H.E.A.R.T. group works closely with our students by mentoring and modeling the type of behavior we want at our school. Our 9th grade group was very challenging this year. In response, our H.E.A.R.T. group has been mentoring the 9th graders. Recently, they planned and hosted a luncheon for the 9th graders. The students had a great time! One of the things that stands out is the 9th graders receiving a certificate that says, "You Survived Your First Semester of High School!" Besides working closely with the 9th graders, H.E.A.R.T. recently participated in a peaceful walk-out that focused on gun violence in schools. One of the H.E.A.R.T. students, with a student from one of the other Torres schools, organized the walk-out and helped with getting students to register to vote.
Academy of Medical Arts, Carson High School
This group of students attended the Facing History Summit on School Culture in September 2017 which highlighted the importance of honoring our differences as immigrants. Subsequently, each has stepped up in their own way to bring a leadership presence to campus. This has included: modeling the habits of heart and mind and representing what they mean for AMA and taking on additional responsibilities for the school. As a group, these students have been involved in creating events to help AMA honor our differences, including an assembly supporting the students in Parkland, Florida. The entire Carson High School Complex and city of Carson are better communities because of these students.
Through personal efforts to create safe spaces on campuses, these Upstanders serve as role models for how to take action in shaping a community.
Engineering and Technology at Esteban E. Torres High School
Luis has been an upstander by showing leadership and being an exemplary student and human being. Currently, Luis is the leadership president of the Engineering and Technology Academy at Esteban Torres High School. Luis constantly strives to participate in making the school community a stronger and more united environment where students can learn, grow and feel accepted. In addition, he is part of the governance council which is comprised of parents, teachers, and students. Luis has accomplished all of this while enduring many hardships and transiency. He has lived in both Mexico and the United States, in several different states, and at times on the verge of homelessness. His parents separated. Despite these hardships, however, Luis always leads by example and treats all his peers with respect, patience and dignity. He makes everyone feel comfortable around him and empowers them to be good leaders as well. Luis shared his immigration story in a panel discussion in front of all our school population after a school wide screening of the film "I Learn America" (a film shown as part of Facing History Los Angeles’ annual Summit on School Culture). After he and the other student panelists shared their stories, many other students were motivated to share their experiences as immigrants. They felt like he was one of them, and it made them feel like they could be accepted within our school community.
New Los Angeles Charter School
This young activist is unafraid to share his truth, even in the face of opposition. He speaks out and creates awareness about animal rights and consistently fights for justice in class discussions. He values his "differences" as what makes him unique and by acknowledging these differences he has opened doors for others to truly accept their differences as well. He sees each day as an opportunity to make the world a better place. During a recent class project about gun control and how to create safer schools, Bryce showed his classmates his talent for public speaking. He is a passionate and convincing speaker who always goes above and beyond to do what is right.
As a result of this student's actions and fearlessness, students are more comfortable standing up for what is right. Students no long see their differences as a bad thing, but as something to be proud of. This student sends the message to others that being passionate and engaged is the world is cool!
Gertz Ressler High School
Christopher Vaimili (Teacher)
Gertz has worked with the After School All Stars in past years, but this year Christopher joined the community and quickly become an advocate for student voice. After surveying students about their interests, Christopher worked hard to bring new clubs, programs and activities to our school. The students have the pleasure of participating in clubs of interest such as "Stoked," for young skaters, dance teams and clubs for young dancers, and much more. Aside from the many clubs Christopher has also made it possible for students to take classes in After School All Stars. An example is that students will be able to take Drivers Education at Gertz starting this year. For schools in low income communities, classes like Drivers Ed can infinitely impact a student's life by providing them with leverage they once could not afford. Christopher has given students the opportunity to experience things they normally would not have access to. After School All Stars has gone on field trips to professional sports games, award shows, and interactions with professionals in the industry.
The work that Christopher does is powerful. Students who are struggling and get left behind often find solace in After School Allstars because Christopher has a way of showing them that hard work will soon pay off. Christopher and the After School All Stars program has helped to foster a new school culture where students have pride in their school and enjoy being at Gertz.
Nataly (student) and Sara Broderick (teacher)
As a school, our value of leadership is incredibly important. One of the student leaders we want to recognize this year is Nataly Lopez. As a HS senior she saw the value of leadership and mentorship of younger grade levels through the creation of a student teacher’s aid program on our campus. She presented the idea to one of our founding teachers, Ms. Sara Broderick. Nataly’s leadership drive, plus the undeniable support of a caring teacher, helped VAHS establish a Teachers Aid program that goes far beyond stapling papers and helping teachers with grading in the classroom.
The greatest strength of the program is the peer tutoring that happens in the classroom everyday. It’s incredible to walk into a classroom and see small groups of students being tutored by our upperclassmen. The peer tutoring that happens is so powerful that, if you are a visitor to our campus, you more than likely will think you are watching 2 teachers in the classroom. Moreover, Nataly along with her peers, have established a student leadership program that pushed the thinking of academics as “cool.” Our younger grade levels look up to the upperclassmen leadership and are now aspiring to continue the TA program as upperclassmen themselves.
Extending beyond campus
These Upstanders have focused their attention beyond their school campuses - finding ways to impact the greater Southern California community.
Social Justice Humanitas Academy
I Learn America Participants
These students met with a filmmaker from NYC once a month beginning last August, as well as on their own, to explore the issue of immigration in our community and country as a whole. They engaged in exercises that helped them explore their own stories, and peer-coached one another to elaborate on common themes. They have created a variety of products such as poems, songs, art, and short animated films that are in the process of being posted in the Human Library of the I Learn America website to further humanize this issue from a young person's perspective and bring awareness to the public. Their courage in telling their stories is an inspiration.
Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School
Feed the Needy
The Feed the Needy club at AJR has served our local homeless population in numerous ways over the last four years. Its leaders have also influenced and mentored several underclasspersons to take responsibility as leaders in our community and to work for those less fortunate than us. The food, donations, showers and other work they have done for the homeless continues through our younger students through their efforts.
Just recently Feed the Needy made posters, fundraised, and went shopping for a dance - the first at AJR where all proceeds go to a charity. Their efforts speak volumes to the empathy they have for members of their communities that have been ignored and misunderstood. From fundraising for showers, to serving food on skid row, to passing out waters on Hill Street, to making hygiene kits, to hosting canned food drives, and now coordinating a dance to celebrate all members of our community, the Feed the Needy club embody what our youth is capable of and inspire what Facing History strives to promote.
Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology at Esteban E. Torres High School
HAAT Pride Club
While our campus has gender neutral restrooms for faculty and staff, all student facilities are still designated for Girls or Boys. The members of our school Pride Club (LGBTQ+ Club), who represent the gender spectrum including 2 transgender students, recognized the need for non-gendered facilities and launched a positive, creative campaign advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms for students.
Pride Club surveyed the campus, and the student body responded overwhelmingly in favor of expanding safe spaces for ALL students, not just those who identify as cis-gender. Club leaders presented our principal an unprecedented, comprehensive action plan and timeline for approval, installation and launch of the new bathrooms. The transformation is currently underway with the district, and students continue their work educating the school community on LGBTQ+ inclusion. They are currently recording a PSA to spread awareness about the new facilities.