Jessica Smith-Peterson received the 2019 Los Angeles Upstander Award from Facing History this Spring. Jessica holds a special place in our hearts having been a student in one of our LA classrooms a dozen years ago! Since that first introduction to upstanding rather than bystanding and her first actions to challenge injustice on her own campus, Jessica has gone on to get her law degree, advance immigrant rights, and teach formerly convicted persons how to restore their voting rights. Upon receiving the award, she shared how Facing History “opened up a world wider than I could have imagined” and taught her how to walk in someone else’s shoes, a skill that is vital in her work today as a public defender.
As a Deputy Public Defender at the Clark County Public Defender’s Office in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jessica zealously advocates on behalf of indigent defendants accused of misdemeanor and felony charges. She is frequently called upon to defend individuals who despise her identity. And yet, she advocates for what she believes is right, and protects the rights even of those who would not grant her the same sense of dignity.
We are thrilled to announce that Jessica will return to LA to give the keynote address at our annual Upstander Celebration, May 23, 2019!
Watch Jessica 12 years ago when she was a Facing History student, and then come hear her talk about her work today and her journey in upstanding.