LA Upstanders: A Digital Gallery | Facing History & Ourselves
Photograph of students gathered together.

LA Upstanders: A Digital Gallery

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


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.

As you read this digital gallery featuring our 2023 upstanders, 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.

Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 8

With their immense capacity for empathy, these two exceptional students have made a meaningful difference in the lives of their peers and teachers.

Chantell M. (right)

Dahlia D.

Chantell M. (student)
Chantell was identified by several students as someone who exemplifies the qualities of an upstander, including character and demonstrating empathy towards others. The Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 8 community celebrates Chantell's "big heart" and how her support of both teachers and fellow students has been felt throughout the campus. She is not afraid to speak out about injustices – both large and small. As a key member of ‘Scholar Council’, Chantell has been an influential voice for students. She is engaged, curious, empathy-driven, and someone who our students can rely on for support. As someone who leads by example and not simply words, Chantell has embodied upstander traits, in particular, genuinely caring for others.

Dahlia D. (student)
As a leader on campus, Dahlia has been supportive to peers and empathetic to all members of the school community. Dahlia was identified by several students as being an upstander. She takes on a lot of responsibility, including for others, and her positive mentality and authentically warm personality has even lifted the spirits of her teachers during challenging school days. As a key member of 'Scholar Council', Dahlia has helped organize numerous initiatives and events that celebrate our community. During an educational tour in New York City during the beginning of April, she once again demonstrated upstander qualities as she looked after students who needed a good listener and positive mindset. Throughout the tour, Dahlia personally helped students heal frayed relationships and represented the school in exemplary fashion.

Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School

As they navigated the process of defining and developing a sense of their own identities, these students helped others find their voice.

From left, Maritza Saldanda, Angelina R., Ismael R., Orian O., Kristin Botello 

Angelina R. (student)
Angie came out during her sophomore year, in the middle of being quarantined. It was a journey that was shaped by her experience in drama class, which allowed her to express herself creatively and be her authentic self among those with similar interests and identities. She carried a sense of pride with her from this experience and became an Animo Jackie Robinson Monarch Mentor during her junior year. Although challenging at first to overcome a perception of being shy, Angie found comfort in her role and relationships with her mentees. She even supported some mentees as they chose to join the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and witnessed them open up. This was particularly important as Angie has reported hearing degrading slurs and homophobic remarks at school. She treasured the space in the GSA to share openly and played a role in helping other students find it. Angie is strong, smart, open, creative, and genuine. She is an upstander who supports others and practices empathy and courage in her day-to-day life.

Ismael R. (student)
Despite his struggles with being open and outgoing in his younger years, over the last four years Ismael has developed confidence and has supported his friends and classmates in various ways. He has pushed himself to start conversations or approach people who aren’t as outgoing in order to talk about their day and goals. He has helped other students with homework and college applications, devoting his time to giving them ideas for their college essays. When one of his best friends needed help with a challenging situation at school, Ismael spoke about the situation to his principal and asked that something be done to resolve it. Ismael also encouraged his best friend to speak up about the situation so that he could get the support he needed. He was a true upstander in that situation and it resulted in restoration and all parties involved having an easier time at school. Ismael has grown in confidence to do what is right, a powerful disposition to take with him as he moves on to college and beyond.

Orian O. (student)
Orian's positive and welcoming personality makes her a joy to be around and prompts her to take action when she sees a problem or need at school, home, or elsewhere. When she saw a couple of kids working on their boxing skills by themselves after school with limited to no equipment, she identified a need to create a safe and free space to practice and train. Orian took the initiative to start a boxing club for students to have a diversified experience on campus. Today the club has over 20 members and it continues to grow.

Cleveland Humanities Magnet High School

As leaders within their respective communities, these students have created opportunities to connect with, motivate, and engage their peers in meaningful community action. 

From left, Teddy S., Meriel Z., Katelyn C.

Katelyn C. (student)
Katelyn is incredibly engaged in social issues. She was voted by her peers to be the Co-President of the Latinx Student Union and has been the driving force behind the group’s effort to promote social justice, maintain a strong community amongst Latinx students, and foster respect for Latinx history and culture from the entire student body. Katelyn plans and leads meetings, conducting research, creating powerpoints, and designing activities to engage students. She also has taken on a strong role in mentoring the other student leaders in the Latinx Student Union. This October Katelyn planned and executed a lunch-time event where students learned about historical and current issues involving the Latinx community. Over 250 students came to the event. In response to some of the struggles that Katelyn and her peers experienced as a result of a prolonged quarantine, she created an anonymous Instagram account for Cleveland students to feel appreciated and seen. Students were able to send in messages they had for a fellow student, expressing their gratitude and appreciation for having them in their life, along with a picture.

Meriel Z. (student)
Meriel has been a dancer at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy since she was four years old. However, the community she had at the academy was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meriel was worried that she and students like her would miss out on the skills and, more importantly, the sense of community that Los Angeles Ballet Academy helped to create. She sent out emails to students announcing Zoom classes and the response was immediate. Soon after, Meriel created a full class schedule and recruited her peers to teach. Being familiar with the curriculum, Meriel even adjusted and refined the routines to be able to perform on Zoom. Academy students were eager and most of them attended the classes Meriel organized. All classes were student-led, so at times there was some tension in terms of teaching hierarchy. Meriel arranged a meeting and reminded everyone that this was about keeping dance in their lives and encouraged all the student teachers to focus on that collective goal. Meriel also assigned different classes to each member in her grade to reinforce a teamwork mentality. When her teachers learned about Meriel’s efforts, they used her curriculum and class schedule as a way to keep the academy open during the entirety of the lockdown.

Teddy S. (student)
Teddy is the Western Region President of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) which is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in meaningful Jewish experiences. Through his leadership, Teddy helped to forge a partnership with Hope of the Valley Northridge where he steered an effort to donate over 100 pounds of clothing to unhoused people living in the Los Angeles area. He is also the president of the Model United Nations club where he constantly goes above and beyond organizing and leading community service events. In fact, in almost every club he is a part of, including the Politics Club to the Music Appreciation Club that he helped found, Teddy has been elected as the president by his peers. Not only does this demonstrate his passion for a variety of causes and issues but also his ability to connect with a diverse group of peers.

Los Angeles School of Global Studies

Through their involvement in the Mayan Language Club, these indigenous students are bringing cultural awareness and education to their community.


Karla (left)




Nimalaj Be’, Mayan Language Club (student group)
Mayan Language Club Members: Martin P. (President), Karla T. (Vice–President), Natalia M. (Secretary), Rosmely Guarchaj S. (Treasurer), Manuel T. (Club Ambassador), Dailer R. (Arts Committee), Henry P. (Historian)
This year, under the leadership of Martín Pedro Antonio and Karla Goux-Tzep, Nimbalaj Be', the Mayan language group, has been able to accomplish so much more than in previous years. They have:

  • brought together a powerful team of club members, 
  • hosted movie screenings about Guatemalan history and politics, 
  • built an altar to commemorate victims of the civil war and genocide in Guatemala, and 
  • organized an assembly that featured international indigenous rapper Pat Boy (whose music was featured in Wakanda Forever), as well as poetry and traditional dances performed by students. 

Martin and Karla both took the initiative to attend a Q’anjoba’l grammar workshop in Illinois and will soon lead a team to attend the National Indigenous Interpreter’s Conference with the organization CIELO (Comunidades Indígenas en liderazgo). They are also working on publishing a Mayan language newspaper before the end of the year. 

These talented and hardworking indigenous leaders on campus have accomplished all of this while maintaining their academic work as well as challenging work schedules after school and on weekends.

Valor Academy High School

Through fostering a sense of belonging and  ensuring equitable and inclusive spaces for peers at school and within their communities, these young upstanders are leading by example.

From left: Jamileth V., Alexis Scott, Rianna L.

Jamileth V. (student)
Jamileth has been an upstander in several ways. First, she has developed and implemented community-building activities with ninth graders throughout the school year, touching on such topics as bullying, academic motivation, and family history. Jamileth's patience and persistence allowed her to develop strong relationships with her mentees. Second, Jamileth has excelled in her role as a restorative justice committee member. In this role, she helps students who have caused harm to the school community to present their reflections and growth. Jamileth's probing questions and open heart have allowed her to have a great impact in this role.

Alexis Scott (adult)
Alexis is always finding ways to advocate for students with learning disabilities, English learners, and other students with diverse learning and social/emotional needs. Alexis serves on a variety of committees aimed at improving academic and school culture. She consistently and creatively provides a voice for those students who are often overlooked in these conversations. Perhaps Alexis's greatest impact has been her stewardship of our Small Group Instruction (SGI) program, a data-informed initiative designed to help students achieve grade-level standards. Through this program, she has forged a fun, energetic learning environment that has fostered a unique sense of belonging among students and staff while inspiring students and staff to achieve remarkable academic progress. The workshops are very popular among students and data show students have made significant progress. Through this program, Alexis is championing the value of equity. 

She works with incredible instructional assistants who have helped her to lead this program:

Alondra Medina, Isabel Campa, Kevin Peña, Marcus Greetis, Mathew Gonzalez, Shonice Latimer, and Valerie Pleitez

Bring Change 2 Mind (group)
Members: Rianna L. (Student Leader), Ryan Sexton (Teacher Leader)
Bring Change 2 Mind has promoted mental health awareness on Valor Academy’s campus. The group has organized activities such as a fair that provided students with the opportunity to explore resources and engage in activities related to wellness and mental health. Club members also greet students in the morning with positive affirmations to build a positive, inclusive community. The club also plans whole-school events and creates communications that educate students on aspects of mental health. For example, Rianna has worked with the counseling department to identify students with mental health needs who would benefit from peer support and mental health education. Despite the stigma around these increasingly important issues, Rianna never shies away from speaking out, leading students, and changing the school culture to better support students with their mental health.

New Los Angeles Charter Middle School


Members of the Black Student Union: left top, Ja'Nayah T., Shaniya C., Nathan G., Tyler F.,  Evelyn P., Ariana P., Isabella R., Ben G., Sasha W., School Counselor Ms. CD, left bottom, School Counseling Intern Tiffaney Robinson, Juan Lopez Soriano, Sarah Vasquez, and Widase Ayele

Marlia G.

Isabella R.

Emma N.

Black Student Union (student group)
Members of the Black Student Union:  left top, Ja'Nayah T., Shaniya C., Nathan G., Tyler F.,  Evelyn P., Ariana P., Isabella R., Ben G., Sasha W., School Counselor Ms. CD, left bottom, School Counseling Intern Tiffaney Robinson, Juan Lopez Soriano, Sarah Vasquez, and Widase Ayele
New LA's Black Student Union (BSU) was founded in 2022 with the mission of creating racial awareness, equality, and pride on our campus. This year, BSU held their first talent show, spotlighting student voice and talent with a packed house of families and students in attendance. They have also discussed current race and equality issues that students are facing on campus and growth areas for our school. The group has been a place where Black students and allies can come together to celebrate and highlight each other's strengths and power. One of the greatest successes this year was the development of a school-wide definition of racism and an anti-racist campaign to address racism when we see it. These students are true activists and upstanders, taking actionable steps to inspire real change in our school community.

Marlia G. (student)
Marli was the first to volunteer and step up for any event this year. Since the beginning of the year she has presented numerous solutions-focused ideas. When an issue arises on or off campus, she brings suggestions to the principal about ways to help. There's no doubt that she will change the world in the future.

Isabella R. (student)
Isabella's writing this year in New LA Upstanders has been amazing. It shows someone who truly wants to change the world and has so many ideas on how to make that change happen. She's the first to volunteer to create flyers or presentations. She even took on creating the March Bulletin Board to show appreciation for Women in Space.

Emma Naranjo (adult)
Ms. Naranjo runs the Student Upstander club after school and goes above and beyond to show students she cares. She has organized community events and staff celebrations, providing opportunities for students to learn about new things, create awareness, and become activists. She is an advocate for disabled students and English learners, always drawing on her experiences as a student in Los Angeles. Her perspective and dedication are so valued at New LA!