2024 California Upstanders: A Digital Gallery | Facing History & Ourselves
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2024 California Upstanders: A Digital Gallery

Read inspiring stories of students and educators from our Northern and Southern California Partner School Network who have exemplified what it means to be an upstander.

Each year, members of the Facing History & Ourselves California Partner School Network identify and celebrate students and adults who exemplify what it means to be an upstander.

As you browse this digital gallery featuring individual students, educators, and school groups nominated as our 2024 upstanders, we encourage you to reflect on the range of actions, both big and small, that give shape to the stories. Consider the conditions that seemed to facilitate an awareness and care for one’s community and led to upstander behavior; and appreciate the courage and willingness to take risks that so often distinguishes the boundary between standing by and standing up.

Southern California

Animo Jackie Robinson High School

Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School (AJR) is a member of the Green Dot Public Schools California network. It was founded in July 2006 with a mission of transforming the way young adults are educated in the inner city of South Los Angeles. Demographically, the school serves a population of low-income students of color, most of whom will become first-generation college students. AJR describes its school community as a family and the school’s mission is to foster self-love in students through a commitment to teaching them how to be upstanders and agents of change in their communities. AJR has been a Facing History Partner School since its founding. The majority of its teachers have been trained through Facing History professional learning. Facing History units are taught in every grade with culminating assessments in 10th and 12th grades that are interdisciplinary, public, and rooted in Facing History case studies. As the school describes it, Facing History at AJR looks like “students and teachers supporting each other as we figure out who we are, why we matter and what we can do to contribute to a better world and community.”

Erick M.



Xzander S.

Kristin Botello

Erick M. (student)

Erick stands out as a shining example of dedication, leadership, and community engagement within his school. Despite his quiet demeanor, his actions speak volumes about his commitment to making a positive impact. One of Erick's notable achievements was organizing a school-wide voting campaign as part of his Social Action Project (SAP), a group effort that serves as the culminating project of his high school career.

Recognizing the importance of civic engagement, Erick took the initiative to collaborate with an outside organization to facilitate the registration of seniors to vote. This effort not only demonstrated his proactive approach to addressing important issues, but also showcased his ability to mobilize resources and rally support for a cause. 

Erick has also exhibited strong leadership skills and a sense of responsibility towards empowering his fellow students. He played an important role in leading a lesson about the Social Action Project in his Ethnic Studies classroom. The results of Erick's efforts speak for themselves: over 100 students successfully registered to vote. This achievement not only reflects the effectiveness of his organizational skills but also underscores the tangible impact that one determined individual can have on their community.

Xzander S.P. (student): 

Xzander goes out of his way to help people at Animo Jackie Robinson (AJR) every day. He checks in on his partners when they are working in class and he reaches out to random students every day to ask them how their day is going. He compliments people and always ends his greetings with, “have a blessed day!” Each year in February, the school celebrates Kindness Week. This year, Xzander helped to coordinate and organize it. 

On the day students were invited to send out a kindness message, he wrote several and even wrote one to all the student body, which was read over the PA system. In his message to the adults at AJR  he wrote: 

"Dear Adults at AJR, We thank you for always supporting us if we are up or down and I want to say thank you for always having positivity in y'all hearts and souls to come to school everyday and week. Thank you for always working hard to care for the school and for me. I think the adults in the school deserve a credit for always having positive vibes and working hard. God bless the adults for everything."

Kristin Botello (adult):

Kristin Botello, principal at Animo Jackie Robinson, is the epitome of an outstanding leader. Her dedication, support, and motivational presence have left an indelible mark on the entire school community. Ms. Botello goes above and beyond her official duties. While her primary responsibility is to oversee the school's operations, she seamlessly transitions into role of mentor, offering guidance and support to students navigating the complexities of academia and life. Her approachability and genuine care for the well-being of students have earned her the title of a trusted friend and even a second parent to many. Further, through her leadership, Ms. Botello fosters a sense of belonging and unity among students and staff alike. Her ability to cultivate a supportive and inclusive atmosphere is invaluable in creating a positive learning environment.

Cleveland Humanities Magnet High School

Cleveland High School is an active school with many communities, including two magnets, an Advanced Studies program, Academy of Art and Technology, English Language Development program, Special Education program, and additional academic pathways. Each entity is dedicated to the success of its students. Cleveland Humanities Magnet has been a Facing History Partner School since 2017. Facing History was instrumental in the revision of the Magnet’s 12th grade curriculum and helped reimagine a bullying curriculum for 9th graders. Additionally, Facing History has led professional development over the years with the Humanities Magnet and full Cleveland staff. In partnership with Facing History, the Magnet seeks to cultivate a learning community marked by upstanders who carry on the legacies of historical figures that stood up for what was right even when it was difficult. This helps students understand expectations of them and gives them models to draw from.

Isabella W. 

Black Student Union (BSU) Leadership Group

Isabella W. (student):

Isabella is an exemplar of what it means to be an upstander. She has been a member of the Cleveland Humanities Magnet leadership board, COREdinators, for three years, and has been instrumental in creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive of all students. Along with the other members of the COREdinators board, Isabella plans weekly meetings and program-wide and school-wide events, such as the Incoming Freshman Mixer and annual talent event, COREchella, to engage students beyond the classroom. She is multi-talented, responsible, and works hard to ensure that every detail is attended to, and that all team members are contributing to the tasks. Isabella has grown as a leader over the last three years; her teachers marvel at the respect she garners from not only her team members, but the student body as well. She is thoughtful and compassionate, and makes sure all voices in the room (and even those that are not) are heard and considered. She helps cultivate upstanders by modeling what it means to be one.

Black Student Union (BSU) Leadership Group (student group)

Members: Jay K. (Co-President), Marvin S. (Co-President), Sloan P. (Vice-President), Perry T.(Treasurer), Moniq I.-G. (Secretary), Riana Y. (Co-Event Manager), Malia J. (Co-Event Manager), Natalie G. (Social Media), Binetou D. (Club Representative), Olivia M. (Art Director).

Cleveland's Black Student Union (BSU) has taken the lead in making sure the school community highlights and celebrates the many diverse student groups and cultures that make up the student body. The BSU leadership board has an immense responsibility to carry this mantle, and they do so with dignity and grace. They plan and execute a weekly meeting, which regularly has over 50 students in attendance. They also collaborate with other club leaders on campus to share and discuss the intersections between varied student groups. For example, BSU and Bring Change to Mind Club joined efforts to bring awareness to mental health needs of the Black community, and BSU held a collaborative meeting with Indigenous People's Club to discuss the issue of police brutality that plagues both communities. 

The BSU leadership board has also been a pivotal partner in the work Cleveland is doing with LAUSD's Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP). They assisted in planning and executing BSAP events, including a Welcome Back-to-School assembly for students, a Welcome Back-to-School Mixer for parents, a Black History Month Cookout for the entire school, and a day-long Black Student Excellence Summit. 

Esperanza College Prep High School

Esperanza College Prep is part of the Ednovate network of independent, free, public charter schools. It opened its doors in East Los Angeles in August of 2017, expanding one grade level per year and serving its first full enrollment of grades 9–12 in the fall of 2020. This year Esperanza was awarded the coveted California Distinguished School award by the California Department of Education and has achieved 100% College Acceptance 4 years in a row. Esperanza strives to cultivate a culture of inclusivity, compassion, and solidarity, where every member feels empowered to make a difference and contribute to a more just and equitable world. The school has partnered with Facing History & Ourselves for several years, shaping its approach to education by fostering a community of empathy, critical thinking, and social responsibility. Through the utilization of resources such as "The Anti-lynching Activism of Ida B. Wells," "The Legacy of Emmett Till," and "Black Women’s Activism and the Long History Behind #MeToo," Esperanza engages students in examining the complexities of history and the enduring struggles for justice and equality. As the school describes itself, “We believe in the power of upstanding, recognizing and honoring those who demonstrate courage, empathy, and integrity in standing up for others. Within our community, students and adults alike are empowered to intervene and advocate for those facing bullying or attacks, ensuring that everyone feels safe, respected, and valued.”

Zack C.

Jocelyn B.

Avigail A.

Zack C. (student)

Zack is someone who stands up for what is right for students, pushing for change to improve the experiences of Esperanza students. As one of the leaders of the school's Social Justice club, she helps students learn about activism and social movements. Zack is also involved with the school's Drama Club, actively creating welcoming spaces for our creative and artistic students to perform without judgment. She recently played a huge role in the school's first full-length play, “She Kills Monsters,” which encouraged audience members to reflect on their understanding of identity. Zack also supports her peers by being an active listener and friendly advocate for those of her peers who tend to be quieter in school and in the classroom. Zack is also very comfortable with discussing important social issues and school-based issues with the administration and teachers, which is critical for bringing about social change.

Jocelyn B. (student)

Jocelyn has proven to be an outstanding upstander within the school community at Esperanza. Exceptional commitment and resilience set her apart as a role model for other students, showcasing her ability to overcome obstacles and excel academically. Further, Jocelyn's active participation in the Esperanza Forestry Challenge Team highlights her ability to collaborate effectively with peers and engage in social settings. Her interest in learning about and exploring the natural world reflects her passion and eagerness to broaden her horizons.

The impact of Jocelyn's actions is significant and far-reaching, extending beyond the classroom and demonstrating her commitment to creating a better community. In particular, her involvement at FPA Women’s Health Center and Planned Parenthood exemplifies her dedication to community service. Through assisting patients with paperwork, guiding them through processes, and even learning medical procedures, Jocelyn has made a positive impact on the lives of many. 

Avigail A. (student)

Avigail is an 11th grader at Esperanza College Prep and has become a beacon of integrity and courage in her school community. She stands tall amidst the tumults of adolescence including learning situations that have held aspects of general immaturity, blatant sexist behavior, and a pervasive mob mentality. She has consistently been a voice of reason and respect in these environments as she is unafraid to challenge the status quo. Avigail has spoken out against derogatory comments and actions, often becoming the solitary figure advocating for equality and basic kindness. Her assertiveness isn't just about calling out wrongs; she educates her peers, fostering a dialogue that encourages mature reflection and overall growth. 

Avigail's influence extends beyond her immediate circle of classmates. She takes it upon herself to lead by example, promoting a culture of respect and empathy towards others. Her actions have not only supported her teachers but have also served as a model to her classmates on how to adopt a more mature approach to learning and interacting. Avigail's unwavering commitment to upholding the values of respect and dignity for all have led to the development of more inclusive classroom environments and a sense of gratitude on behalf of her teachers.

New LA Middle School

New Los Angeles Charter Middle School is a community of scholars who are taught to demonstrate the mission pillars of Respect for Self and Others, Engagement in the Community, and Passion for Learning. New LA has been a part of the Facing History & Ourselves Partnership School Network since 2016. The school uses Facing History lessons and trainings to help facilitate our academic programming. Staff incorporate Facing History curriculum in the Humanities and Advisory programming. Most recently, the school enlisted Facing History to lead a full faculty training on “Crucial Conversations with Students” to spark civic engagement while showing empathy. The Humanities department also met with Facing History in grade-level teams to help prepare for upcoming novel studies. New LA’s integration of Facing History curriculum and strategies has been tied to its goal that students receive equitable and inclusive learning.

Nathan G.

Nathan G. (student)

Nathan is an upstander in everything he does for New LA Charter Middle School. He's always willing to help, friendly to all students, and focused on his personal growth. Additionally, he is able to see how harmful behaviors impact the school community and advocates for change by being the first to volunteer for student committees. Last year, he was part of the Olweus Bullying Prevention student panel, an event that was part of a larger school-wide program designed to prevent and reduce bullying. He is generous with all his peers and teachers, and is always willing to help out in all school clubs, including Student Upstanders, Gardening Club, Black Student Union, and Yearbook. Nathan is truly an example of community engagement and transforming school culture through participation. 

Los Angeles School of Global Studies

The Los Angeles School of Global Studies (LASGS) is one of the four schools on the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (MCLC) in Westlake/MacArthur Park. LASGS students are predominantly Latino, primarily with Central American or Mexican roots. About half of LASGS’ students are Emergent Bilinguals with many having just arrived in the United States. Newcomer students are often unaccompanied youth between ages 14-17 who work late hours into the night and then study in the morning. LASGS has been a Facing History Partner School for over a decade. In the past they have embedded Facing History case studies into project-based learning projects, such as the 10th grade Holocaust unit, the Upstander Project, and Industrial Revolution unit. There are two projects that train students in defining an Upstander and embodying the responsibility of what it means to act as one: This year, in ninth-grade English, key components of Facing History’s approach to teaching the Holocaust were incorporated into the reading of The Book Thief and its final project. In 11th grade, students work on a project called Young Abolitionists in which they learn about human rights and the violations involved in human trafficking in order to raise awareness in their community. LASGS teachers have presented at Facing History Partner School Conferences in Los Angeles and Chicago, highlighting the power of student immigrant stories.

English Diversión Club

Young Abolitionists (student group)

Members: Maryori A., Manuel A., and Barbara P. 

All 11th-grade students at Los Angeles School of Global Studies participate in a civic engagement project, Young Abolitionists, to raise awareness in their community about the issue of human trafficking. Maryori, Manuel, and Barbara’s student team diligently took the cause to a higher level. They presented to students at Sal Castro Middle School, creating a compelling lesson utilizing an infographic, a bilingual slide presentation, a Kahoot game, and handouts/stickers to engage the students. 

In January, the Los Angeles Unified School District joined forces with Red Sand Project to launch a new initiative to spark conversations within the school community around human trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). The main component of the project entails filling pavement cracks with red sand as a symbolic approach to represent those individuals who fall through the metaphoric cracks and fall victim to the crime of human trafficking and CSEC. When Global Studies was identified as the participating school to lead the roll out for all of the schools in the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (MCLC), these student leaders presented at an all-school assembly of 300+ people to kick off the event. Their presentation included a bilingual slideshow and translation as they showcased the various ways to “take action” during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. These Young Abolitionists truly captured the essence of this project with their leadership.

English Diversión Club (student group)

Members: Maryori Avalos G. (President), Adelaida B. (Vice President), Tishana Martinez-B. (Secretary), Stephanie Zagal-R. (Secretary), and Kristofer Hernandez V. (Treasurer)

The English Diversión Club was founded by a group of student upstanders who identified that newcomer students at their school needed a safe space to practice their English. The idea for the club developed when Maryori, the club’s president, reflected on her own experience of moving to the United States and the difficulties of learning a new language and culture. She realized that she could harness her story and struggles in order to support her peers in the journey of learning a new language. The leaders of the English Diversión Club design lesson plans, facilitate games, and provide peer tutoring so that students can supplement their learning in their classes. For example, Maryori, Adelaida, and Tishana lead small group instruction, reviewing with students grammar, vocabulary, and other tools to help students feel more comfortable speaking. Beyond English-language development, the club’s goal is to foster community, help newcomer students feel a sense of belonging while stepping out of their comfort zones, and to facilitate peer-to-peer support.

Valor Academy High School

Valor Academy High School is located in the San Fernando Valley with a student body that is predominantly Mexican American and Salvadorian, many of whom are the first in their family to graduate high school and/or attend college. Valor has been a partner school with Facing History since its founding 11 years ago. Teachers use Facing History teaching strategies in social studies and advisory classrooms, including case studies such as Holocaust and Human Behavior, Reconstruction Era and The Fragility of Democracy, and the Nanjing Atrocities. These units are framed as a way to reflect on the theme of individual and collective responsibility. Students study the key individuals, groups, and historical developments that contributed to atrocities and assess responsibility based on their personal values and interpretation of historical sources.

Maliqq Van A.

Tisha Bernard (left)

Maliqq Van A. (student)

Maliqq is newer to Valor Academy but has become involved in countless activities around campus. Disappointed by how small the school community was and how few sports teams were available compared to his last school, Maliqq made the most of every opportunity available to him: He went on the college experience lesson - a four-day, multi-state trip to six colleges and universities - and joined Valor’s basketball and volleyball teams. He also applied to attend Lead Camp, an overnight retreat where students build community and develop their social and emotional skills. At Lead Camp, he was committed to getting to know each and every person there and would constantly look out for others. If someone was carrying something, he would ask if they needed help. If tables were being taken down, he would jump in and help.

Acts like this are typical at a weekend retreat where the whole focus is leadership, but these qualities and character traits in Maliqq have extended beyond his time on the mountain as he has been a bridge helping many students connect with their inner leader and dare to be different. Maliqq makes it cool to be kind and shows others that they can fit in anywhere by the way he is friendly with all people no matter who they are. He has made it his mission to exude kindness and help people feel connected in our school community no matter what setting he is in.

Tisha Bernard (adult)

Tisha is a social justice warrior and holds space each and every day, ranging from students who are bullying each other, to a teacher who is struggling to connect with some of their students. She does a great job of making each individual feel seen and heard and helps both parties to acknowledge the harm that was done and how it caused pain. She helps them commit to steps that can be taken to heal from the harm. She has helped repair relationships between students that required many meetings, and students have always come out better on the other side after being led by Tisha. 

Tisha isn't just knowledgeable about restorative practices; she lives these practices every day in the way she facilitates circles, leads her counseling department, and shows up as an advocate for students on the school leadership team. In addition to her role as an administrator, Tisha has sparked several initiatives that have contributed to the empowerment of the school community. She identified a group of girls who would benefit from some leadership support and formed a weekly Girls Group that focuses on understanding individual self-worth as well as qualities of healthy relationships. She also started a parent ambassador group where Valor Academy parents are given a space to discuss and develop school events and programs to promote a positive and inclusive school culture. She even planned a camp with some of the 10th-grade students where she facilitated a space for them to learn how to lead with love, ignite their fire, find their own path, own their choices, and never give up. 

Northern California

ARISE High School

The mission at ARISE is to empower students with the knowledge, skills, and agency to become highly educated, humanizing, critically conscious, intellectual, and reflective leaders in the community. ARISE nurtures, trains, and disciplines the school community to engage in a continuous practice of developing mind, heart, and body towards a vision where everyone actively rises up. ARISE has been a Facing History Partner School since 2016 and has worked closely with Facing History since. Facing history is integrated throughout the 9th-12th-grade curriculum, including providing a foundation for Advisory curriculum. ARISE is also part of the Facing History Student Leadership Group network.

The ARISE Student Leadership Group

The ARISE Student Leadership Group (SLG) (student group)

Members: Dyana Jimenez-Perez, Evie Alvarez C., Joshua K., Josealfredo S., Leo Garcia-Mendez, Paul Meza-Medina, Rubi Gallardo B., Tacari J., Yaretsy Orantes R., Adriana Espinoza S., Ariana Gomez C., Ashley Meza-Medina, Jasmine Huerta J., Monica H., Kaira Gonzalez-Cruz, Chris Rochin A., and Emeli B.

The ARISE Student Leadership Group (SLG) has been a consistent presence at the school for the past nine years, since the school’s partnership with Facing History began. It is comprised of students who are motivated to create positive change in our school and in our broader community. 

Students come together with multiple Bay Area schools several times per year to build leadership skills and to inspire each other to fight for justice. ARISE Student Leaders help to design, organize, and facilitate the Facing History Student Leadership Group collective. Below is the SLG's mission statement:

The SLG is a community of diverse young leaders with shared passion for a better future. In service of this vision, we nurture a safe environment to grapple with social injustices and their historical origins in order to empower ourselves and other students to create change within our group, our schools and larger communities. We work in solidarity to achieve a more just and inclusive world in which everyone's voices are heard and lives are valued. 

The most recent project of the ARISE SLG was to lead a resource drive to collect food, clothing, and hygiene products for unhoused community members. They led their school community in gathering dozens of care bags which were delivered to unhoused community members in need of these resources. 

Each of the members of the ARISE Student Leadership Group is an upstander in their school, their community, and beyond.

Gateway High School

Gateway High School is committed to helping each student—regardless of learning style or previous academic achievement—gain the skills, habits, and knowledge necessary for post-secondary success. Foundational to its approach is a commitment to anti-racist practices that address white supremacy in society and in institutions. Gateway High School has been a Facing History Partner School for almost 10 years, and has used Facing History resources and accessed Facing History professional development opportunities for many years before that. Facing History’s frameworks align very closely with the school’s values and goals

Ethar A.

Nasia O.

Shada A.

Ethar A. (student)

Ethar is an upstander who is driven by a force bigger than her: her community, her Yemeni roots, and her role as a fearless advocate. Every year, she becomes more involved in her communities, planning city-wide events for her neighborhood and leading her peers in numerous ways at our school. Recently, she has been instrumental in signing up young people to register to vote. She prepared and delivered a presentation about voting and working the polls to motivate her peers to register or pre-register to vote. Ethar is a thoughtful, purposeful, leading upstander.

Nasia O. (student)

So often it is young people who lead movements for social change. Upstander Nasia is no exception. She has brought her critical eye and whole heart to analytical work in her classes and clubs and to engage in civic action in the broader community– such as when she addressed the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to call for ceasefire in Gaza, or when she helped lead our school’s APISU (Asian and Pacific Islander Student Union) to facilitate an engaging and educational Lunar New Year celebration. 

Nasia calls people in and calls inequities out, whether in small group conversations or in citywide protests. She is a stellar upstander!

Shada A. (student)

Shada is an exemplary Upstander – from her everyday engagement, inclusivity, and support of her peers, to making an impact on the community as a whole. 

Shada co-led a collaboration between our school’s MENAA (Middle Eastern and North African Association) and the Jewish Club to raise thousands of dollars for humanitarian efforts in the wake of October 7th. Her leadership and advocacy has been recognized by our community as well as by the San Francisco Boys & Girls Club, who named her a Youth of the Year. In ways big and small, Shada is an upstander who makes sure everyone is respected, included, and uplifted, and she represents her identities with grace and strength.

Institute of Community Leaders, James Logan High School

The Institute of Community Leaders (ICL) in James Logan High School is a community of about 250 students that focuses on academics and creating future leaders in their communities. Logan High School has a student body of nearly 4,000 students. ICL was created as a 'school within a school' so students would feel a sense of belonging on a large campus. ICL hosts monthly community-building events, fundraisers, donation drives, and leadership training. ICL students have a closer relationship and perform well academically because of the community they have built. ICL has been a part of Facing History since the school’s inception more than 10 years ago. They have actively participated in and hosted Facing History Student Leadership events leadership events every year. Their teachers and students have helped to plan and facilitate events and meetings for Student Leadership Groups from other schools around the Bay Area.

Institute of Community Leaders Student Leadership Group Cabinet

Institute of Community Leaders Student Leadership Group Cabinet

Institute of Community Leaders Student Leadership Group Cabinet (student group)

Cabinet members: Nanditha J. (President), Sophia C. (Vice President), Annalyn H. (Marketing), Ariane C. (Secretary and Treasury)

This dedicated group of students, called the ICL Cabinet, has worked together to plan and coordinate all of their ICL/SLG events and trainings, starting their work over summer break. Their hard work and positive attitude provide essential community building events for the ICL student body, and have helped to grow SLG enrollment as a result. At the beginning of the year, they present to each ICL freshmen class explaining what ICL and SLG are and how they can serve the community. They also plan and host unity events each month, including game nights, trivia contests, and community building events with school staff. Most recently, they presented at an ICL/SLG parent night for prospective students.

Some of these events include after-school tutoring services, community outreach, and special family celebrations. Most recently, the ICL Cabinet planned a donation drive to collect food, water, and toiletries to donate to unhoused families. They also organized college tours this year to help inspire students about their futures. They are currently planning our next family celebration, Exhibition Night, where freshmen and sophomore students create a presentation focused on what they learned over the year and how they can make a difference in their communities.

Not only are they outstanding members of SLG, but they are also exceptional academic students. Truly, SLG would not be successful within the ICL student body without our cabinet's dedication.

Notre Dame High School

Notre Dame is a Catholic high school in downtown San Jose. The school serves 670 students who come from diverse backgrounds and identities. The graduation outcomes are to develop lifelong learners, justice advocates, community leaders, and spiritual seekers. Notre Dame school has partnered with Facing History since 2007. Through this partnership, the school developed a program called Education for Justice and Leadership. The curricular and co-curricular program worked to foster students’ skills and knowledge to empower them to become change makers and women of impact. Now, Facing History is embedded in the school culture and curriculum. All faculty are trained in Facing History, some at an introductory level and some are teacher leaders for Facing History. There is a scope and sequence of Facing History ideas from 9th through 12th grade humanities education. Notre Dame has also developed a student leadership group that works with ARISE and James Logan students. They meet three times during the school year.

Student Leadership Group (student group)

Members: Emely G., Anika K., and Jay L.

Over the past four years, Emely, Jay, and Anika have had a passion for social justice and been  upstanders in their school, local and global community. They have been a part of the Facing History Student Leadership Group cross-school network since their sophomore year. They have worked with a group of diverse leaders from across the Bay Area to cultivate leadership skills, build solidarity, and raise awareness about salient issues in the local and global community. They have planned and participated in cross-school meetings and workshops over the last two years. 

On Notre Dame's campus, these students helped plan and host a speaker series with other affinity groups throughout the year that featured BIPOC women who have been community leaders and justice advocates. Emely, Jay, and Anika have worked with Facing History leaders and affinity groups on campus to host a Diversity Showcase for the school community. This is a night of performances, food, and vendors that celebrates the many cultural heritages and identities at Notre Dame. 

Emely is also part of Latinas Unidas and the Ballet Folklorico dance group. She plans and participates in events, cultural celebrations, and community building for students and families. She is a First Gen scholar who will attend Tufts College next year. 

Jay is a member of the Queer Student Alliance and has been a strong advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights on campus and in the San Jose Community. As a junior, Jay planned a Women's History Month speaker that featured Sera Fernando, the Manager and Leader for the County of Santa Clara Office of LGBTQ Affairs. 

Anika Kulkarni is also an upstander for environmental justice. She is a member of the Creek Stewardship and Youth Citizen Science Networks, as a driving force of the movement to protect our natural resources. 

Jewish Partner School Network Schools 

de Toledo High School

Founded in 2002, de Toledo High School is a close-knit community that inspires our students to be intellectually curious, academically driven, and ethically grounded. de Toledo cultivates the whole student, building self-confidence, encouraging self-expression, and preparing students for a life shaped by Jewish values and democratic ideals. 

Guided by Jewish values and a relationship with Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, de Toledo develops confident leaders prepared to embrace their life purpose with moral action and shalom, peace. de Toledo is committed to pluralism and guided by the recognition that each person is of infinite value – a reflection of the Divine. de Toledo seeks to form a Kehillah Kedosha, a whole and holy community that contains many perspectives and holds boundless potential. 

de Toledo High School’s Facing History & Ourselves journey began more than a decade ago with the integration of Holocaust and Human Behavior resources for the Shoah, Holocaust learning, class. de Toledo joined the Partner School Network through the continuation of this course and the adoption of Facing History’s Advisory curriculum and topics ranging from community building to diversity education across departments including Jewish Life, Jewish Studies, History, and English departments, and have drawn ideas for our community-wide meetings. Facing History’s emphasis on learning about what makes people different and yet connected across common values aligns with de Toledo High School’s emphasis on nurturing “A+ Human Beings,” who put high character into all they do.

de Toledo High School Upstanders

Shira F.

Aaron M.

Clay D.

Shira F. (student)

Shira epitomizes the essence of an upstanding student, demonstrating unwavering dedication to making a positive impact within her community in only her second year of high school. As an active member of TOV (Tikkun Olam Volunteers; a social action student leadership group), Shira, alongside others, initiated the "Hot Topic Series" last year, a venture she has ardently continued solo this year. Through this initiative, Shira meticulously crafts informative content on subjects close to her heart, presenting them from a Jewish perspective to her peers. Her innovative approach includes interactive sessions that encourage active participation, engagement and inspire change. In her freshman year, she created and led a three-part lunch series on reproductive justice and followed up this school year with an after-school program on Climate Justice. Both endeavors exemplified her commitment to raising awareness and fostering dialogue. 

Beyond her self-initiated projects, Shira's involvement in Jewish World Watch, a program dedicated to standing up against mass atrocities in the world, and TAP (Teen Ambassador Program) showcased her exceptional engagement and insightful contributions. Now, she eagerly awaits opportunities for further involvement, having applied for the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (RAC) Teen Justice Fellowship and the leadership board of The Jewish Youth Climate Movement. Shira's enthusiasm, diligence, and proactive nature undoubtedly make her an inspiration for her peers and a true asset to her community.

Aaron M. (student)

Aaron stands as a towering figure of leadership within the school community, exemplifying dedication, charisma, and unwavering commitment. Serving as class president for two consecutive years, Aaron's involvement in the student council has been nothing short of transformative. His tenure has been characterized by innovative initiatives and a tireless advocacy for student welfare. Beyond his official role, Aaron's leadership extends across all facets of school life. Aaron emerges as a natural leader, inspiring those around him to strive for excellence and positive change. Aaron's presence radiates positivity and integrity, earning him the respect and admiration of peers and faculty alike. 

What truly sets Aaron apart is his genuine concern for others and his ability to foster a sense of belonging within the school community. He welcomed and embraced a new student who arrived partway through the year with his family as a result of war, and Aaron integrated him into the school and into his circle of friends. He is not just a leader in title but a catalyst for positive change, consistently going above and beyond to support his fellow students, create bonding activities for the 11th grade, and enhance the school experience for all. In Aaron, we find a beacon of leadership, whose impact transcends his tenure in student council. His legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of leadership rooted in empathy, integrity, and a genuine desire to serve others.

Clay D. (student)

With unwavering dedication, Clay stands out as an upstander, a tireless advocate for inclusivity and justice. They are a steadfast ally to marginalized voices, amplifying them with tireless passion. In the school community, Clay’s presence is marked by a genuine commitment to fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding for the queer community and its allies. Clay leads the Rainbow Alliance, a club promoting acceptance, joy and resilience in the LGBTQIA+ community both at school and in the community beyond. 

Clay is a recipient of the Julie Platt Teen Innovation Grant, allowing them to fund passion projects. An example of this is that Clay is one of the founders of the Teen Board of JQ (Jewish Queer) International focusing on promoting queer radical joy, wellness, and education for teens. At school, Clay has brought their work and passion from working at the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles, where they serve on the Teen Board, into a monthly after-school program. Through the program, a Holocaust survivor is invited to the school to make challah with students. 

Moreover, Clay’s compassion extends to the animal kingdom, as they dedicate countless hours volunteering at Wags and Walks, a local animal rescue, providing comfort and care to creatures in need. Clay’s selflessness and empathy know no bounds, inspiring others to join their mission of creating a more inclusive, compassionate world.

Milken Community School

Milken Community School is a private Jewish day school in Los Angeles serving approximately 750 students from grades 6 through 12. The school is a pluralistic community and one of the largest Jewish day schools in the United States. The school’s broader mission is to “educate our children so they can surpass us.” 

Milken has utilized Facing History & Ourselves resources for over 20 years, initially in Judaic Studies and combined Humanities classes in middle school. Over time, the high school applied Facing History resources and techniques in the social science and advisory classes. Currently, this curricula includes teaching the Holocaust in 7th and 10th grades, and Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese incarceration in 8th and 11th. The 6th through 12th grade advisory curriculum incorporates Facing History materials including topics on identity, obligation, and the concepts of areivut (accountability) and Kavod HaBriyot (honoring individuality and one another). 

Facing History has been a partner throughout the years as Milken has developed and changed in size, curricula, and focus. The school has hosted Facing History professional development workshops and has worked with liaisons to refine how Facing History materials can be used to suit student needs. Materials from Facing History support the development of empathy, and the organization provides the tools necessary for teachers and students alike to navigate divisive conversations.

Michael H., Jaden S., and Jamie B. from Milken Community School

Sophia P. (middle) and Jamie B. (right)

Jaden S. (student)

Jaden thinks about others before herself and looks for ways to broaden people’s minds. She has shown overwhelming dedication to preserving the memory of Holocaust victims and survivors. Jaden has contributed to and served as editor on two editions of the Milkenator Magazine, one detailing the life stories of survivors connected to the Milken community and one dedicated to maintaining emotional resilience in challenging times. She has volunteered throughout high school at the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles, most notably working over the summer to create a documentary highlighting the life and impact of survivors. As Jaden put it, she does this to stand up to antisemitism and all other forms of intolerance by telling the stories of “those who no longer can,” preserving Jewish heritage and memory and gaining the empathy of Jews and non-Jews alike. 

Jaden has also dedicated herself to improving the standing of LGBTQIA+ students at Milken. As a member of the GSA, she has taken on the task of educating faculty about how to support LGBTQIA+ students and how to respond when homophobic comments are made in the classroom. A model of advocacy for LGBTQIA+ youth, Jaden is among a handful of students who have been willing to take the risk of opening up about their “coming out” experience in front of a roomful of middle school students in the interest of education and empowerment. Jaden’s path to upstanding is through educating herself and others about the impact of intolerance and the power of advocacy.

Michael H. (student)

Michael is a truly kind person who is always respectful of his peers and teachers in the classroom. He also thinks deeply and critically about historical events. As an empathetic student with the ability to engage in complex ideas, he is quickly developing the kind of analytical mind one needs to be an effective Upstander. 

Outside of school, Michael has devoted time and energy to supporting Israelis and the Jewish community in the wake of the October 7th attacks. In November 2023 he joined the Israel rally in Washington D.C. In December 2023 he spent a weekend organizing in his community to collect supplies for displaced Israeli families. He then packed everything and, with the help of his Rabbi, sent the supplies to Israel where they were distributed to people who needed them. He has a keen sense of social justice and stands up for marginalized peoples. Michael has an innate love of learning and debate, and he will continue to make meaningful contributions to his school community and beyond.

Bring Them Home (student group)

Jaime B. & Sophia P.

Jaime and Sophia felt crushed and helpless in the wake of the October 7th attacks in Israel. They continued to grow more worried as the days went by without the hostages being released, with friends serving in the Israel Defense Forces on the front lines, and the rising antisemitism on social media. They feared they would be targeted if they wore Stars of David but felt conflicted about obscuring their identity. They were "feeling down" because they "couldn’t help out more, just like many other Jews around the world who felt helpless, powerless, and small." In true upstander fashion, they recognized that "the only thing that ended up helping was literally to help." Inspired by dog tag necklaces created by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, established by the families of abductees to raise awareness of the hostages taken on October 7th, Jamie and Sophia felt they could create their own to feel a greater sense of connection and created a way to start dialogue about the conflict. Working together for weeks, they finally were approved to make “Bring Them Home” dog tags, written in Hebrew and in English. Jamie and Sophia joined the carpool greeters and handed them out to the community. Their tags were so well received that they have had to produce multiple batches since the first round, and they continue to do so each week.

Pressman Academy Middle School

Pressman Academy, a private Jewish day school in west Los Angeles, develops minds, nurtures hearts, and instills Jewish values. Pressman Academy produces scholars, innovators, tinkerers, critical thinkers, and moral decision makers. A core belief is that learning is fun when it is meaningful and connected to the real world. 

Social-Emotional learning is also foundational to the Pressman educational experience. Pressman students proudly learn how to communicate deeply, understand themselves and their peers, and resolve conflict. Students are immersed in the history, traditions, rituals, and rhythms of Jewish life that foster commitment and connection to Judaism and a love of Israel. Pressman Academy appreciates an ongoing relationship with Facing History, which began in 2013. Over the years, Pressman has accessed valuable resources, participated in workshops, and hosted school visits from Facing History staff to enhance the curriculum in Jewish Studies and General Studies programs. Pressman has benefited from Facing History & Ourselves resources in its overall school culture. Whether teaching about Civil Rights in Humanities classes, sharing the lessons of the Holocaust in a Jewish History course, or encouraging civic engagement in important issues of the day with respectful dialogue in Advisory, Facing History has a variety of strategies, lesson plans, worksheets, videos, and other resources that are relevant and valuable to the school’s curriculum and helps Pressman Academy students understand that people make choices, and choices make history. With the help of Facing History, Pressman Academy has gained tools to explore identity, responsibility to others, and to make choices and take action to make the world a better place.

Shiloh R.

Maya P.

Julia B. (student)

Julia shows kindness and empathy for her fellow students each and every day. Classmates describe feeling safe around Julia as they know she brings a non-judgemental and positive attitude toward her relationships with others. She is considerate about her word choice and the impact of her actions. Julia is considerate, polite, and tries hard in all things. She is a model student, over and over again. As we say in Yiddish, she is a “mensch” - a good person, who always makes good choices and does the right thing. She cares about the culture of her grade and looks after the well being of the group. She stands up for her entire grade as a class representative on our Middle School Student Council.

Shiloh R. (student)

Shiloh is a ray of sunshine and joy in the school community. She is always bringing people in and makes a point to include everyone. People often seek out Shiloh for counsel, as they know she has a strong moral compass. Shiloh stands for acceptance of others and creating a caring space for all. Her classmates are comforted and inspired by Shiloh's ability and desire to reach out and connect to everyone in the grade, indiscriminate in the care that she offers. The younger students adore her. Beyond the Pressman school community, for her Bat Mitzvah project this year Shiloh is raising money to travel to Cambodia and help people in need. She learned that the Cambodian people suffered from a genocide, just as the Jews suffered a genocide during the Holocaust. Shiloh has a strong desire to reach out and help others, one small act of kindness at a time.

Maya P. (student)

Maya always gives others the benefit of the doubt. She chooses her words carefully as she has a strong moral compass and wants to spread kindness to her classmates. Maya steps in and steps up when she witnesses wrongdoing and does not stand idly by. She is unfailingly kind, inclusive, and warm. And even when people don't return the kindness, she remains kind to them. The behavior of others does not shake her strong morality and conviction about treating others with respect. Maya has contributed her time and energy, through her service on student council, to making Pressman Academy a more kind and inclusive school. Maya takes this approach as a leader in the school community, in her contributions on the Middle School Student Council.

Sinai Akiba Academy

Sinai Akiba Academy is a Conservative Jewish Day School in Los Angeles that nurtures children from early childhood until eighth grade. Sinai Akiba Academy prides itself on “engaging students in the joy and discipline of learning. This school nurtures a community of ethical, critical thinkers who, shaped by an evolving Jewish tradition, walks through the world with confidence and humility.” Sinai Akiba Academy’s middle school has integrated Facing History into the curriculum for nearly two decades. Working closely with a program associate, Sinai Akiba Academy successfully ran Jewish and Muslim exchange programs and integrated Holocaust and Human Behavior and elements of Advisory into its curriculum. Seventh graders participate in a program that facilitates dialogue and community events between students and Holocaust survivors. Teachers in the sixth through eighth grades utilize Social Studies and English Language Arts material. Sinai Akiba students use Facing History to foster their core values of embracing the past, energizing the present, and exploring the future. Creating a kehillah kedosha (sacred community) through academics (Torah), kindness (derech eretz) and ethical responsibility (tzedek) clearly align with Facing History’s values and grows responsible students who find their voice in this world. 

Milena W.

Milena W.

Milena W. (student)

Milena demonstrates exceptional qualities of empathy, courage, and leadership throughout her time at Sinai Akiba Academy Jewish Day School. What truly sets Milena apart as an Upstander is her ability to lead by example. She takes tangible steps to enact positive change through organizing community service projects, writing plays for the holidays, advocating for the school and serving as an ambassador, initiating discussions about social justice issues such as homelessness or racial injustice, and simply being a friend to those in need. Her commitment to standing up against injustice and promoting inclusivity within the school community is truly commendable. Milena consistently goes out of her way to support her peers, especially those who may be marginalized or facing challenges, fostering a more supportive and harmonious school environment. Whether it's offering a listening ear, speaking out against bullying, helping students with their academic challenges or actively seeking ways to make everyone feel included, Milena consistently embodies the values of compassion and kindness. Milena has helped to create a culture where every student feels valued and respected through her empathy, courage, and dedication to promoting inclusivity. She is a role model for Upstanding for her peers and a valuable asset to the school community.