Upstanders from 2017 LA Partnership Schools

Posted by Liz Vogel on June 6, 2017

Upstanders: those who do not simply stand by in the face of injustice, but understand that each one of us can make a difference

Each year, we invite our Los Angeles Partnership Schools to nominate an individual or group that has demonstrated the qualities of an Upstander in their school community. This year’s theme, Building Empathy, clearly resonated; many schools had difficulty choosing just *one* person or group to nominate! Together with The Allstate Foundation, Facing History is proud to recognize the effort and action of the following Upstanders in communities across Los Angeles.

Leadership on campus

This first group of student Upstanders have taken leadership within their school communities in various ways, and they demonstrate that small steps can make a big difference. Each of these students has shown that thinking beyond themselves can positively impact the lives of their peers and of future students.

New LA MS - Kenya Sixtos.jpgKenya S., New Los Angeles Charter School. Kenya’s project about the Holocaust challenged her classmates to think more critically. She made connections between what happened in pre-WWII Germany to current political decision making in the United States. Kenya’s project led to a sophisticated discussion in class as she demonstrated that it’s not enough to just be critical of our government, but that students must also learn the facts to support their positions. 


SJHA - Luis Velasquez.jpg

Luis V., Social Justice Humanitas Academy. Luis was nominated for his constant acts of quiet helpfulness. One example his principal shared was how Luis offered incredible support to a fellow student who tragically lost his father. But Luis does not wait for a moment of crisis to show his leadership. Whether he is helping a new student at school feel welcomed, standing up for someone in need, volunteering in his community, or comforting a friend during a time of loss, Luis is always there.



Kevin R., Watts Learning Center Charter Middle School. Kevin saw that a fellow student had cut marks on her forearms that were bleeding. After careful consideration, Kevin decided to write an anonymous letter and handed it to a staff person at school. As a result, the student has been able to receive professional counseling and regain hope.

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Jesus L., Los Angeles School of Global Studies. Jesus is recognized by his school as an Upstander for inspiring and empowering students to become independent learners and to create their own path. As a senior, Jesus has made it his mission to speak with 9th, 10th and 11th grade students about his own journey in taking early college classes through LA Community College. As a result, five 9th grade students are now registered for summer classes at LACC.



Greater good

These student Upstanders are recognized for their drive to take on issues outside of their immediate school campus. They are finding challenges, speaking out to spread awareness, researching solutions and organizing to action.

Merkin - Emily Gomez.jpgEmily G., Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School. Emily designed, planned, took action, and reflected upon an issue that she saw in her community: neighborhood littering. Emily rallied a group of her peers and organized a Neighborhood Clean Up Group. She led this group with passion, enthusiasm, dedication, and diligence.Emily's actions inspired people in her neighborhood to join in the effort to make a difference. Back at school, Emily presented a video of her project to her peers and inspired many of them to think about how they can use their voice and their actions to make a difference, no matter how small, in the world.

Gertz - Cynthia Cuellar 1.jpgCynthia C., Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School. Cynthia is the president of the student activist club called Youth And Power. Under Cynthia’s leadership, the club has doubled in size and become much more effective on campus. They’ve organized many initiatives such as recycling on campus and raising money for the ACLU. In the aftermath of the presidential election last fall, this group organized an impromptu 'sit in' on campus that was calm, peaceful, and gave students a space to speak, as an alternative to walking out.

SJ S., Campbell Hall. SJ is a leader on campus with many activist organizations. She is the student representative of the LGBTQ+ affinity group and the president of the Human Rights Club on campus. Off campus she participates in various community service projects and serves on the East Valley YMCA Youth Council. In addition SJ has been a leader in teaching the student body and faculty at Campbell Hall about using transgender pronouns (them/their) for transgender students on our campus.

ACPA - Patricia Rodriguez.jpgPatricia R., Animo College Preparatory Academy. This year, Patricia has led marches to the Watts towers, Downtown Los Angeles, and USA Today has interviewed her on her work with social justice and advocacy. Specifically, Patricia’s organized a student march to DTLA with over 50 students and 10 staff members. Not only was she able to get other schools to join the march, she revitalized the march in DTLA and encouraged three students to make speeches and share their stories. Her peers and school staff seek her out for assistance because she is unapologetic about her beliefs and encourages others to be more outspoken about their beliefs too. Patricia pushes social boundaries and does not let anything or anyone keep her inside of a box (i.e. she joined and excelled on the all-male football team). She has truly helped the school community continue the work that will revolutionize our thinking, our world, and our impact on society and future generations. Patricia has singlehandedly pushed her peers to demonstrate the ability to think about who they are and their role in society.


Leading group action

We recognize these student groups as Upstanders for their exemplary leadership. From developing student-led advisory lessons and community activism, to organizing events to ensure that marginalized voices are heard, to raising money to support a homeless shelter, to changing the way students interact, these Upstanders are starting with their own school communities to effect social change.

The Academy of Medical Arts at Carson High School recognizes The Bowling Club at Carson Complex. These students have chosen to use their time together bowling to also give back. This year, the club has raised over $650 for the Union Rescue Mission which supports the homeless population in Los Angeles with food, shelter and critical services. The following students are members of the Bowling Club: Angela A, Daisy B., Christian D., Albert F., Jennifer H., Isabella M., Victoria M., Anthony R., David T. and Adrian V.

This year, Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School wanted to recognize the 12th grade members of the Facing History Student Leadership Group as Upstanders. These students founded the club and have helped grow it to include 20 members in total. The Student Leadership Group has connected with students from other schools in LA as well as in the Bay Area. They’ve created, planned and assessed student-led advisory lessons on topics such as bullying and empathy, and they’ve created the Feed the Needy club on campus to volunteer and support the Midnight Mission. These seniors are leaders and role models to all the students and staff in the AJR community: Victoria A., Miguel C., David G., and Yeni S.AJR - David Gomez Miguel Cueva Yeni Sanchez Victoria Anderson.jpg

The Peer Counseling class at Social Justice Leadership Academy works to create a safe environment for all students as well as a sense of community on campus. The peer counselors meet with their students weekly to provide assistance, and they organize efforts that promote tolerance, address bullying, mediate conflicts, and assist students with applying for college and financial aid. The peer counseling group has also raised donations for families in need. These students have created a safer school community and we are pleased to recognize them as Upstanders: Celia A., Natalie A., Janet B., Raymond C., Citlalli C., Daniel C., Jeanine C., Karen N., Alexis H., Sharon Z., Michelle M., Rony J., Maria P., Walter P., Itzel R., Yesenia R., Anthony R., Ashley U., Carolina V., and Karina V.

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Last but not least, we have the students from Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology at Esteban E. Torres HS who created Voice Fest. The event was created as a way to help the school community respond to the presidential election. Voice Fest included Aztec dance, healing workshops, screen-printing, poetry writing, information tables, and a presentation on immigrants' rights. Over 160 people attended the event which showcased an impressive range of community organizations. Students, families, faculty and community partners left feeling empowered and energized. Student organizers include: Caroline C., Andrew G., Tony J., Gaby L., Ricky M., Diana M., and Crystal T.

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Paving the way for students

We know that educators (and parents!) play critical roles in the development of all of these upstanders, often behind the scenes. It was our pleasure to honor the following educators at our Upstanders’ Celebration, all of whom were recognized by their school communities for going above and beyond their classroom responsibilities to inspire students and shape school culture with their actions.

LA's Promise Charter MS #8 Crystal Caban.pngCrystal Caban, LA’s Promise Middle School #1. Ms. Caban was nominated for her tireless work with students in the English Language Development program at the school. She is a self motivated teacher who cares deeply about her students. Beyond ensuring that students in her classroom develop the language skills they need, Ms. Caban has also created and maintained an after school program for our new comers to ensure they are getting a chance to learn and thrive in English.

Stephanie Kozofsky, Valor Academy High School. Ms. Kozofsky is recognized today for the passion that she brings to her teaching and the way she goes above and beyond in showing care and appreciation for her students. She is credited with influencing students at Valor Academy to think critically about social justice issues that affect our world today.

Alliance MS #8 - Kyle Magnuson.jpgKyle Magnuson, Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 8. Mr. Magnuson teaches 8th grade US History where each week includes “Social Justice Wednesday” in which he highlights Upstanders in history. But Mr. Magnuson’s impact extends far beyond his own classroom. He has chosen to fight the injustices in access to quality education in underserved communities by committing to helping students on campus build literacy skills. Because of his relentless efforts, now all teachers at the school have their own classroom libraries and receive weekly updates on their students’ reading growth. There is a tangible culture of reading at the school. And best of all, students have shown HUGE gains in reading.


James Molina, Engineering and Technology Academy at Esteban E. Torres High School. Mr. Molina has taken the lead to start many student clubs and organizations on campus, including the Cyberpatriot program which has built awareness about internet safety and security, and Nerdology which gives students a place to belong during lunch. He organized a group to participate in the Science Bowl for the first time this year as well. All of Mr. Molina’s efforts have helped strengthen school culture and increase school pride.

Topics: Upstanders, A View from the Classroom

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