Celebrating Our Southern California Community of Upstanders | Facing History & Ourselves
Photograph of the Upstander convening in Los Angeles in 2023.

Celebrating Our Southern California Community of Upstanders

In our annual Southern California Partner School Network Upstander Celebration, we highlight the actions of upstanders within this community.

Each year, members of the Facing History & Ourselves Southern California Partner School Network identify and celebrate students and adults who exemplify what it means to be an upstander. How, when, and where these community members stand up, and what motivates them to do so, reflects a beautifully diverse range of actions and beliefs. Their efforts provide a powerful mosaic of experiences from which we can learn and draw inspiration. 

We call it our Upstander Celebration and it has taken shape as a community event with family, friends, and school staff as well as a digital gallery and social media campaign. Dedicated school liaisons at each partner school make this celebration possible by nominating upstanders and sharing with us their moving stories. As we’ve watched the world change over the last three years and as schools continue to address myriad challenges these upstanders remind us of our tremendous power and agency.

The word “upstander” expands the language with which we can describe human behavior and informed civic action. Advocating for the term’s inclusion in standard dictionaries presents an exemplary upstander story of its own, and the more we recognize and use the term, the more we encourage actions that embody it. 

As you read through Upstanders: A Digital Gallery, you will encounter the stories of individual students and educators, as well as groups and clubs that include both students and adults. 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.

We also invite you to use these upstander stories as text in your classroom. We know that many educators use various Facing History resources to highlight the actions of upstanders. Consider how the integration of these stories - about students in schools just like yours - might speak to the experiences and aspirations of your students. Here is a simple lesson plan you can use:

Have each student read through the posts individually. They can access the stories digitally on their own devices (if available), or you may choose to do a Gallery Walk by printing the posts ahead of time, taping them up on your walls or another surface and having students circulate the room to silently read them.

Invite students to reflect on the stories. Use the Teaching Strategy: Text to Text, Text To Self, Text to World and provide students with time to journal about these connections.

Facilitate a classroom discussion. Begin by having students meet in small groups of 3-4 to share their text-text/self/world connections, or try the Concentric Circles teaching strategy to have students do three pair-shares in a row, one for text-to-text connections, one for text-to-self connections, and one for text-to-world connections. Then take share-outs in the whole group, asking them:

  • What does it mean to be an upstander?
  • How did the actions of these upstanders impact their school community?
  • Who are the upstanders in your life and in your school community?