2020-2021

Newsletter Archive

STF Events: 2020-2021

Student Voices Emerge

Angel Macario-Flores and Victoria Valdez are joining the LAUSD Clean Energy Task Force.

June 22, 2021, HRW STF Weekly Update:

Student voices will be heard for the first time at the July 1 meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Clean Energy Task Force.

Victoria Valdez, STF leader at Hamilton HS, and Angel Macario-Flores, STF leader at Palisades Charter HS, will attend the meeting as student representatives, committed to bringing 100% renewable energy to all LAUSD campuses. They will join representatives from energy providers, renewable energy experts, clean energy advocates, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Southern California Edison, the Clean Power Alliance, and 100% Green Schools LA. The Task Force also includes LAUSD representatives from Facilities, Office of Environmental Health & Safety, Transportation Services Division, Food Services Division and the Division of Instruction.

“We must fight climate change,” says Victoria, “or our environment will only continue to be damaged for our futures.”

“It is incredibly important for me and my fellow students to combat climate change,” Angel agreed. “We are all committed to keeping our planet alive.”

Victoria and Angel both emphasized, “We are truly honored to become part of LAUSD’s Clean Energy Task Force as student representatives! We will give it our all to represent the student voice and report back to our peers!”

LAUSD is the second largest school district in the United States with 1,140 school sites, spread out over 700 square miles. LAUSD is also the LADWP’s biggest customer.

A Year Like No Other

Dear STF students, teachers and friends,

Despite Covid pandemic shutdowns across the country, STF was able to reach record numbers in their school communities and beyond, advocating for voting rights and to fight climate change.

STF registered voters in California and hosted a virtual Town Hall to educate voters on human rights at stake in California Propositions 16, 17 and 18.

STF chapters pressed school decision-makers to transition campuses to 100% renewable energy, starting conversations about climate change where there had been silence.

STF strengthened the human rights movement!

We have all been inspired by your commitment and achievements!

Ever onward,
STF Team: Pam, Kristin, Nancy, Brennie, Karina, Sea and Josiah

Scroll to recap this year’s activities:

August 31, 2020: Introducing STF Chapter Presidents

To kick off the 2020-2021 academic year, the STF team interviewed incoming chapter presidents to learn why they wanted to lead their STF chapter, why they joined STF and why they believe our “Vote for Human Rights” Campaign is important? See their responses.

September 12, 2020: Defend the Right to Vote

Inspired by Nicole Austin-Hillery, HRW’s Executive Director of the U.S. Program, STF launched their Vote for Human Rights Campaign at the 2020 STF Virtual Fall Leadership Workshop. Nicole urged participants to defend the human right to vote by getting people registered to vote, signed up to be poll workers and monitoring for instances of voter suppression. Watch Nicole’s conversation and Q&A.

October 14, 2020: Educate. Advocate. Vote.

Approximately 80 STFers participated in an STF Virtual Town Hall event to learn about the human rights issues involved in the pros and cons of California Propositions 16, 17 and 18. Special guest speakers included CA State Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber, who was key in getting Prop 16 on the ballot, two representatives from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition who were disenfranchised due to their past incarceration in California’s criminal justice system, and Ryan Beam, a youth advocate for Prop 18. Watch the Town Hall.

October 15-22, 2020: Vote in STF’s Mock Election

To encourage STFers to become active voters once old enough to cast a ballot, STF hosted a mock election. Students, teachers, alumni and friends voted on the presidential race, as well as California Propositions 16, 17 and 18.

November 3, 2020: Growing Power of Our Vote

STFers shared their experiences voting in the 2020 election.

December 10, 2020: HRE USA Honors Pam Bruns

Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA) awarded STF’s Executive Director Pam Bruns the 2020 Edward O’Brien Human Rights Education Award for her significant contribution to human rights education in the United States.  Learn more about the award.

December 10, 2020: International Human Rights Day

To celebrate International Human Rights Day, STF featured members reading the 30 articles of the UDHR in 10 languages spoken by STFers. Watch our STFers in action!

January 23-30, 2021: STF’s Screening of I AM GRETA

As introduction to the launch of STF’s “Human Rights and Climate Crisis Campaign”, STFers participated in a special screening of I AM GRETA hosted by the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, Can You Hear Us and SIMA Studios. Watch the film’s trailer.

January 30, 2021: Never Underestimate
the Power of A Student

Nearly a 100 students, teachers, alumni and guests gathered virtually to launch the Human Rights and the Climate Crisis Campaign at the 2021 STF Winter Workshop. Diana Michaelson, 15, introduced the Green Schools Campaign while Josiah Edwards, STF spring intern and Los Angeles-based climate activist, shared his experience with environmental racism growing up in Carson, CA. Watch the workshop.

February 10-18, 2021: An Action Handbook for STF

Using the Action Handbook for STF Simon Aron, Green Schools Campaign co-founder and 15-year-old climate activist, trained STFers and helped them determine first steps in their advocacy to transition their campuses to 100% renewable energy. Watch the training.

February – March 2021: What’s Your Climate Story?

STFers shared their climate stories via video and photograph, to help us all think about how climate change is impacting our communities.

February 19, 2021: Pali Fights Climate Change
with Mr. Steve Engelmann

The Pali STF chapter hosted AP Environmental Science teacher, Mr. Steve Engelmann, as he shared steps he has taken to encourage Palisades Charter High School to transition to 100% renewable energy. He discussed various student sustainability projects, the obstacles they faced, and provided campaign recommendations. 
Watch the discussion.

March 2, 2021: SAMO’s Progress towards
a Cleaner & Greener School

Ansel Garcia-Langley, Santa Monica HS (SAMO) alumnus and former Team Marine president, met with the SAMO STF chapter to share his experience working with school administrators and district staff on sustainability issues. He provided students with information about initiatives and projects started while he was involved with Team Marine, including hiring a district sustainability coordinator, a position Team Marine advocated for while he was president. Watch the discussion.

April 22, 2021: Investigate, Expose, Change

As part of STF’s advocacy to transition high schools across Southern California to 100% renewable energy, commit to energy efficiency plans, and engage in climate justice education, the STF hosted over 150 students, teachers, administrators and community members at the “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall on Earth Day 2021. Watch the event.

May 5, 2021: Rohingya Strong

To commemorate Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, STF hosted a virtual conversation with writer and human rights activist, Imran Mohammed, entitled “Genocide and the Climate Crisis”. After telling his powerful story, there was an opportunity for participants to join Imran Mohammed in a Q&A session. Watch the meeting.

Utica: The Last Refuge

Click to watch the film’s trailer (2:17)

Utica: The Last Refuge opens with the Azeins, a refugee family of four from Sudan, arriving at Syracuse International Airport. After spending six years in a camp in Ethiopia, they have finally made it to the US, where they are welcomed by Abdelshakour, a fellow refugee from Sudan. Utica’s Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) is regarded nationally as a model agency for how refugee resettlement is done, for how they guide Utica’s refugees into comfortable jobs and lives, but they are suddenly facing new stresses. Under President Trump’s administration, refugee resettlement policy changed dramatically. Reduced incoming numbers means a reduced budget.

The typical ups and downs of the Azeins’ story of acclimation is softened by Utica itself. A small city rebounding after its population fell from a high of nearly 110,000 in the 1960s to a low of about 60,000, Utica is building its recovery around refugees. The refugees, they say, are hardworking and dedicated. As of 2017, industry was returning to the area.

Questions abound. Will Utica’s economic turnaround be slowed by a drop in incoming refugees? As refugee resettlement agencies across the country are forced to close their doors, will MVRCR survive? Will the Azeins find a way to support themselves? While much media attention is focused on where refugees first land, on beaches and in camps, Utica: The Last Refuge looks at why the future is so bleak for most refugees: the system is backed up…

Rohingya Strong

Imran Mohammad answers questions at STF’s “Genocide and the Climate Crisis” event. Watch the meeting.

May 5, 2021: To commemorate Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, STF hosted a virtual conversation with writer and human rights activist, Imran Mohammed, entitled “Genocide and the Climate Crisis”.

“People like me don’t have the choice to decide or make plans to leave our motherland on a specific date, at a particular time, and from a selected place. We are so desperate to escape from a life-and-death situation,” Imran said. More than 80 attendees listened to him share his experience as a Rohingya refugee fleeing genocide in Myanmar and immigrating to the U.S.

After telling his powerful story, there was an opportunity for participants to join Imran Mohammed in a Q&A session. One question prompted Imran to illustrate, in stark terms, the connection between the climate crisis and genocide. “To those who are in Myanmar, any climate and ecological collapse will really destroy their lives, because their freedom of movement is restricted – they can’t go anywhere,” said Imran. “Those who are in [Bangladesh makeshift] camps, they are cutting down all the trees to make their tent[s]. The soil is becoming very fragile, especially during the monsoon season. There is water everywhere. They lost their homes overnight and people die.”

In light of the tragic events Imran Mohammed endured, he emphasized to everyone the importance of the role that human rights advocates play in saving lives, saying “My freedom and future are not only down to my strong will and determination, but also to organizations like HRW that don’t turn a blind eye towards people like me who face abuse, torture, the loss of dignity and life… I wouldn’t be here speaking with all of you if people didn’t care.”

Join Us: A Conversation with Imran Mohammad

You are invited to commemorate Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month with a conversation about the intersection of genocide and the global climate crisis. Meet Imran Mohammad on Wednesday, May 5 at 7 pm on Zoom! Imran is a Rohingya refugee who had to flee for his life at age 16 and now advocates tirelessly for refugee rights. Don’t miss it!

Important Information:

Who: You, STF students, teachers, alumni
When: Wednesday, May 5, 7:00-8:00pmPT
Where: Virtually on Zoom. RSVP today to receive the zoom link to participate!

We hope to see you there,
Pam, Kristin, Nancy, Brennie, Karina, Sea and Josiah

Investigate, Expose, Change

Watch STF’s “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall event on April 22, 2021. (Click to watch)

April 22, 2021: As part of HRW Student Task Force’s (STF) advocacy to transition high schools across Southern California to 100% renewable energy, commit to energy efficiency plans, and engage in climate justice education, the STF hosted over 150 students, teachers, administrators and community members at the “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall on Earth Day 2021.

“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation and we are at a monumental moment,” said one STF representative. “We are protecting our human rights to life, liberty and personal security, to survival and development, and our right to health, to clean water – and a future! We are demanding public officials take action to protect our human rights and fight climate change.”

Students representing 18 high schools shared their personal climate stories, illustrating how climate change is impacting their lives. Several had experienced fire-threat evacuations and pollution induced asthma, which further motivates them to take action. STF leaders also described using HRW’s methodology “Investigate, Expose, Change” to frame their advocacy as they engage school administrators and public officials.

Featured speaker, Christos Chrysiliou, LAUSD’s Director of Architectural and Engineering Services for the Facilities Division, discussed LAUSD’s steps to increase its energy and water efficiency, improve sustainability, and engage students in the decision-making process. “We cannot achieve all the things that we’re doing without your [students’] help… We need you in the process,” Mr. Chrysiliou said, “because that’s the only way to fight climate change.” Afterwards, attendees participated in a spirited Q&A session with Mr. Chrysiliou. (Listen at 47:43 on the recording above.)

Closing STF student speaker, Nathalia Wyss, quoted Greta Thunberg: “Act like your house is on fire, because it is – continue to take action against climate change and inform others, and please, keep fighting to turn our schools green.”

We Do Not Forget!

Dr. Henry Oster shows his Auschwitz Concentration Camp tattoo to students. Primary photos by Patricia Williams

Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month is held each April to commemorate the victims and survivors of genocide. Scroll to review how STF has paid tribute to those who suffered unimaginable tragedy and get information about an upcoming event to learn about a contemporary genocide in the making.

Dr. Henry Oster

Dr. Henry Oster answers questions at the 2015 STF Year-End Leadership Workshop about his life during the Holocaust

Dr. Henry Oster, born 1928 in Germany, survived deprivation in the Lodz Ghetto, life-or-death selection in extermination camps and a death march before liberation from Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

“A ‘seed,’ is all it takes to see something blossom into widespread killing. The task that you have is to avoid apathy through awareness…” Henry told STFers, encouraging them to continue fighting for human rights. “The idea of living with intent to teach like you do, to teach (human rights), is a life task and thank you for doing it!”

Henry met with STFers at workshops in 2015 and 2016, and at the 2016 HRW Voices for Justice Dinner. Sadly he passed away in 2019. Learn more from his book: The Kindness of the Hangman.

“Sweet Dreams”

Rwanda expert Amy Marczewski Carnes talks about her experiences in Rwanda at Santa Monica High School on April 23, 2015.
Photo by Kristin Ghazarians.

April 2015: STF chapters screened “Sweet Dreams“, which explores the aftermath of the Rwandan 1994 genocide through the lens of women’s empowerment.

Amy Marczewski Carnes, Rwanda expert and STF alumna, shared her travels to Rwanda, meeting the women portrayed in the film “Sweet Dreams”. One Santa Monica HS student said, “By holding events like this, and having open forums for discussion, we can help prevent atrocities.”

STF alumna Jasmina Repak, a refugee from Bosnia-Herzegovina, was on a school trip to Italy when the Bosnian Civil War broke out. At a screening of “Sweet Dreams”, Jasmina spoke to Carson HS students about what it took to reunite with her family, the fear she faced each time her father was arrested during the war, and how learning about the genocide in Srebrenica affected her family.

“Jealous of the Birds”

Susi Bahat explains what it was like for her family to return to Germany after the Holocaust.

February 1, 2018: HRW and STF supporter Susi Bahat spoke about her family’s experience in the Holocaust at STF’s 2018 Winter Workshop. Susi was the daughter of Holocaust survivors who remained in Germany after World War II. Susi explained that the experience living among perpetrators of that genocide inspired her to fight against human rights abuses. Her family’s story is the focus of the film “Jealous of the Birds.”

Rita Lurie and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie

Rita Lurie and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie speak about their memoir, Bending Toward the Sun, with students and teachers at the
2019 STF Year-End Leadership Workshop.

Rita Lurie, a Holocaust survivor, and her daughter Leslie Gilbert-Lurie met with STFers at the 2019 Year-End Workshop and again during STF’s first-ever virtual event in 2020. Rita described how her family spent two years hiding in a tiny attic in Poland during the Holocaust and she read a passage from her memoir she wrote with Leslie, Bending Toward the Sun. The mother-daughter duo helped STFers better understand the horrors of genocide and how deeply the Holocaust lives in the hearts and minds of survivors and their descendants. They generously gave every student a copy of their memoir.

Bill Harvey

Holocaust survivor Bill Harvey speaks with STFers at the 2020 Winter Workshop.

February 11, 2020: Holocaust survivor Bill Harvey shared his story of surviving the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald Concentration Camps at STF’s 2020 Winter Leadership Workshop. Bill defines success in life by the impact and the good that you share with people. He urged students to speak up against discrimination in every form, “Never stay silent!”

In a note to STF Director Pam Bruns, Bill wrote, “I was very gratified to spend the evening with such wonderful teenagers. They were all extremely bright students and their involvement (in human rights) will surely make this world a better place to live in. And if I left even the smallest impact on their lives, then my day was made.”

Imran Mohammad

Imran Mohammad, a Rohingya writer and activist, speaks at the 2019 HRW Voices for Justice Dinner. Photo by Maya Myers

At the last HRW Voices for Justice Dinner, Imran Mohammad inspired STFers to stand up for those without a voice and to take action against human rights violations around the world. Imran, a Rohingya refugee, fled for his life at age 16. Despite achieving refugee status by UNHCR, Imran was held in immigration detention in multiple countries, including the notorious Manus Island Detention Center on Papua New Guinea, where he sustained physical and psychological torture.

Imran will meet with STF members again and speak about genocide and climate change on May 5, 2021 at 7pm. RSVP today to participate in this virtual event!

Do Not Miss: Climate Crisis Town Hall April 22

Join STF’s HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS Town Hall on Thursday, April 22 at 7pm on Zoom. Celebrate Earth Day by learning how STF is fighting climate change as we advocate transitioning our schools to 100% renewable energy.

This event is open to the public so please invite your friends and family!

RSVP today to receive the link to participate.

Important Information:
Who: 
You, STF students, teachers, alumni, community members
When: Thursday, April 22, 7:00-8:00pmPT
Where: Virtually on Zoom. RSVP to STFClimateTownHall@gmail.com

Progress towards Cleaner & Greener Schools

STF advocacy is in full swing on the Green Schools Campaign. Check out recent STF activity for how to build allies and transition your school to 100% renewable energy!

STF Action Handbook

Simon Aron presents the Action Handbook for STF to the Palisades Charter HS STF chapter on February 10, 2021. (Click to watch, 28:16)

February 10-18, 2021: Simon Aron, Green Schools Campaign co-founder and 15-year-old climate activist, participated in STF chapter meetings at Palisades Charter High School (February 10) and Culver City High School (February 16) to help the students determine first steps in their advocacy to transition their campuses to 100% renewable energy. Using the Action Handbook for STF, Simon also trained representatives from 11 other STF chapters (February 18) to launch the campaign.

Download the Action Handbook for STF to launch the Green Schools Campaign on your campus today!

Google Earth and Environmental Sustainability

Watch Pali STF’s special event with Mr. Steve Engelmann (Click to watch, 48:24)

February 19, 2021: The Pali STF chapter hosted AP Environmental Science teacher, Mr. Steve Engelmann, as he shared steps he has taken to encourage Palisades Charter High School to transition to 100% renewable energy. He discussed various student sustainability projects, the obstacles they faced, and provided campaign recommendations. Mr. Engelmann used Google Earth screenshots to demonstrate solar power on other campuses.

Dr. Pam Magee, Pali’s Principal, expressed her support for the students’ passion and initiative towards the campaign to the more than 80 students, teachers and Pacific Palisades community members present. Since this event, Dr. Magee has met with STF members to discuss the facilities survey, and has a third meeting scheduled for Friday, March 19.

“Keep Applying Pressure…”

Watch SAMO STF’s special event with Ansel Garcia-Langley (Click to watch, 19:16)

March 2, 2021: Ansel Garcia-Langley, SAMO alumnus and former Team Marine president, met with the SAMO STF chapter to share his experience working with school administrators and district staff on sustainability issues.

“When it comes to projects like these, it’s really important to keep applying pressure. We need to use student voices and that kind of activism to our advantage [to produce the change we want to see],” said Ansel.

Ansel provided students with information about initiatives and projects started while he was involved with Team Marine, including hiring a district sustainability coordinator, a position Team Marine advocated for while he was president. Ansel emphasized that STF should revisit these discussions to maintain accountability at both the school and district levels.

Take Action!

Sign each chapter’s petition to support STF’s advocacy to commit their schools to 100% renewable energy!

What’s Your Climate Story? Part 2

Thank you to all for sharing your climate stories! We are eager to know how you use them to build your ally networks and as part of your advocacy to transition your campus communities to 100% renewable energy. Check out STF’s Green Schools Campaign materials for more resources.

Here are four more stories to help you think about how climate change is impacting your community:

“Since I have not always lived near my LAUSD schools, there were years when I would have a two to three hour car commute home. I was uninterested in these time-consuming rides, having nothing to play with and constantly getting car sick. Looking out the window held my interest, there were endless things to see. It was not until I reached middle school that I realized I had been occupied by the trash on the ground, the foggy and unclear air, the wild amount of cars on the road, and the unnecessary signs and lights I saw daily. There are millions of people surrounded by an unhealthy environment without even being aware of it. It has been normalized and hidden in plain sight.”
– Victoria Valdez, 9th grade, Hamilton High School
“I have always been obsessed with nature and the environment, finding fulfillment in being surrounded by nature and animals. I love standing on the beach, enjoying my feet in the sand, the cold water crashing into my shins, but am devastated when I turn around and look helplessly at the massive oil field. I imagine what it would be like to not know there is a rapidly shrinking window to protect the natural world I hold so dear. But it’s a truth we all have to face. I hope future children won’t have to carry the same environmental concerns as youth today. That’s why I’m using my privilege to fight for the environment, for animals and their rights, for future children, for plants, for minorities and the oppressed/unheard, for everyone. We are all impacted by the destruction of the environment, therefore we must all fight for a sustainable future.” – Dane Pearson, 11th grade, Culver City High School
“People have debated climate change my whole life. Deniers ignore the fact that temperatures are hitting record-levels and that entire species are dying faster than new ones evolve. One climate change topic important to me is environmental racism. I have learned about fast fashion: how large, Western corporations exploit third-world countries, their manufacturing wreaking havoc on the local communities, degrading their environments because it’s cheaper to build factories there than in the West. STF intern Josiah Edwards’ video highlighting environmental racism in my own community opened my eyes to how climate change is affecting my friends, family and neighbors. Raising awareness and education in my school community, in the town that I’ve grown up in, is the first step in taking action for our future on this planet.” – Noelle Guzman, 12th grade, Carson High School
“Growing up, I had no idea about the urgency of the climate crisis, until a girl my age spoke up: Greta Thunberg. As I saw youth take center stage in environmental activism, I decided not to shy away or stay silent. I have traveled internationally. I have had the opportunity to cherish the colorful, strong-scented streets of Mexico City and the lush, green forests of England. I wouldn’t feel the same about climate change without these experiences. Climate change makes me feel a range of emotions: relief that people are coming together and spreading awareness; and uneasy about the alarming rate at which these dangers are increasing. I also feel inspired to make a difference. This planet should be seen by every person as a source of happiness and hope. As Greta Thunberg says, ‘You must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.’” – Isabel Umekubo, 12th grade, Da Vinci Schools

TAKE ACTION: Sign the Convert Our Schools to 100% Renewable Energy Petitions

Now that the STF Green Schools Campaign is underway, wondering how to start taking action?

Sign the petition to get your STF chapter to convert to 100% renewable energy. Leave a comment on the “I’m signing because…” section to let others know why you support the campaign. Share the link via message and across social media!

What’s Your Climate Story?

STFers share their personal reasons for fighting climate change and explain their urgent advocacy to transition their schools to 100% renewable energy.

To learn more, check out STF’s Green Schools Campaign materials.

For motivation, view these four personal climate stories:

Hi everyone, my name is Josiah Edwards. I’m an STF intern and this is my climate story. As a child, I always had difficulty breathing. That’s mostly because I had asthma, but it was made even more difficult because of the environment I lived in. Los Angeles County is ranked as one of the worst places in terms of air quality and air pollution. That means that I had difficulty breathing every day as a consequence of the horrible, horrible pollution in our air. That means, I didn’t get the chance to enjoy beautiful days like this one, and I don’t think that’s right. No child should have to suffer because we don’t know how to deal with pollution. That’s why we need to tackle this climate crisis, with the full force that we possibly can muster, in order to ensure that children don’t have to suffer like I did. (Click to watch, 0:57)
Hi, my name is Erin Vinson and I attend Santa Monica High School. I believe my passion for the environment is an accumulation of everything I’ve witnessed in terms of photos of our dying planet, as well as tangible experiences I’ve had with it. David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet” truly struck me as a thundering call to take action for our environment, providing a voice for our melting glaciers and our dying animals who are soon to take their last breaths if we don’t take action now. Rising sea levels and climate change itself makes me feel as though I’m trapped inside a small room that’s rapidly losing air, like I’m suffocating. This feeling was amplified by the all too recent California fires. In many instances, I felt like I couldn’t breathe even weeks after they had been put out. If my school made the transition to clean, renewable energy, I’d feel as though the air would be seeping out of that room just a bit slower, and I’d feel able to have a short moment of relief, because any step of any size towards a cleaner present is progress. (Click to watch, 1:04)
Hello, my name is Abdullah Rafique. I am a senior at Sierra Canyon and this is my story. Cracked desert land had replaced lush farms which had once covered the hills surrounding my grandparents home in Pakistan. The drive which was once full of beauty was now only a reminder of what once was. The land had been destroyed. My uncle described how excessive use of fertilizers caused this grand scale of destruction. While this was not directly caused because of climate change, the lack of environmental care which was fueling climate change was present here as well. Thus, I doubled my efforts to become a better climate advocate. (Click to watch, 0:48)
Hi, my name is Lila Bragard and I’m from Culver City High School. I inhaled the dark brown air around me as I walked through the smoke to get to school. My cousins were evacuating. The Torahs from my temple were being evacuated. My favorite forests, my friends’ homes, my favorite trails and campsites were all burning. This was not nature’s fault. This was not normal. When neighborhoods near me were burning, when I learned that animals were going extinct 114 times faster than usual, when half the world population is supposed to be homeless by the time I’m 65, when there are more environmental refugees fleeing from environmental disasters than political refugees fleeing from wars and other conflicts, when my ability to simply live in a habitable world is at risk – how could I focus on anything else? I fight climate change because it’s real, because not enough is being done about it, and because my life depends on it. I fight climate change because in twenty years when it’s too late, I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t do more. Will you regret that you didn’t do more? (Click to watch, 1:14)

Join Us for a Free Screening: “Mai Khoi & the Dissidents”

Free online screening of Mai Khoi & the Dissidents presented by the LA Film Club in partnership with SIMA Studios.
Reserve your spot today!

We are thrilled to invite you to the LA Film Club on February 12-14 for a FREE screening of “Mai Khoi & the Dissidents“. The film will be accompanied by a panel on February 14th at 3pm PT, featuring Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director, and Mai Khoi herself!

Spread the news, because this is open to all! You must RSVP to participate!

Ten years ago, pop singer Mai Khoi’s patriotic hit song “Vietnam” launched her quickly to fame and fortune, encouraged and supported by the Communist party and state-run media who saw her as a promising new role model. When Khoi’s creeping unease with government censorship of her songs pushes her to release her controversial new album without their approval, it results in a media and performance ban, constant surveillance, and threats of imprisonment. Compared to Russian musician-activists Pussy Riot and dubbed “Vietnam’s Lady Gaga,” Khoi must now go to great lengths to disseminate her music as she fights to champion women’s rights, LGBT rights, and free speech.

(Click to watch trailer, 2:53)

Never Underestimate the Power of A Student

Diana Michaelson introduces Workshop participants to the Green Schools Campaign and explains how STF can urge their high schools to transition to 100% renewable energy. (Click to watch, 1:12:06)

January 30, 2021: Over 90 students, teachers, alumni and guests gathered virtually to launch the Human Rights and the Climate Crisis Campaign at the 2021 STF Winter Workshop.

Welcomed by student speakers, Diana Michaelson, 15, from the Green Schools Campaign, introduced an advocacy strategy to transition schools to 100% renewable energy. She discussed her involvement in the campaign and inspired STFers, saying, “We were worried that they (administrators) wouldn’t respond to us. We’re just students. But it’s really important to remember, you ARE students and you have a really important voice… never underestimate the power of your voice as a student.”

Josiah Edwards, STF spring intern and Los Angeles-based climate activist, shared his experience with environmental racism growing up in Carson, CA and how his fundamental human right to clean air was violated by oil and gas wells located next door in his hometown. “Government inaction was what enabled my suffering at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, so I had to fight back…Time is a luxury we do not have. In order to tackle a crisis, you must act with the urgency required to meet it,” Josiah said.

Participants discussed how STF action against climate change can help combat this global emergency. STF’s new campaign toolkit supports our goal of schools achieving 100% renewable energy, plus background on California state legislative action.

Join us!

Recording of the complete STF Virtual Winter Leadership Workshop. (Click to watch, 1:12:06)

Join STF for a Special Screening: I AM GRETA

I AM GRETA movie trailer (Click to watch, 2:00)

Please join us for a special screening of I AM GRETA hosted by the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, Can You Hear Us and SIMA Studios. STF members, teachers, and alumni are invited to view I AM GRETA as introduction to the launch of STF’s Climate Crisis and Human Rights Campaign at our Winter Leadership Workshop on January 30. RSVP today to receive the link to view I AM GRETA! (A separate RSVP is needed for the STF Winter Workshop!)

Important Information:

  • WHEN: January 23-30, 2021. The film will be available via a password protected link for you to watch at your convenience between these dates. RSVP to receive the join information.
  • WHO IS INVITED: STF members, teachers, alumni and special guests
  • Where: Virtually in partnership with SIMA and Can You Hear Us

About the film: I AM GRETA is the story of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as told through compelling, never-before-seen footage in this intimate documentary from Swedish director Nathan Grossman. Starting with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament, Grossman follows Greta—a shy student with Asperger’s—in her rise to a galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The film culminates with her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean including her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Check out the Can You Hear Us? Educator’s Toolkit

RSVP today to receive the link to participate in this special event!

This event is brought to you by:
Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, SIMA Studios and Can You Hear Us

Save the Date: Saturday, Jan. 30 2021 Winter Leadership Workshop

Climate change damages our environment in multiple ways. Here’s what that damage looks like. Photo by Canadian Geographic

Please join us virtually at the 2021 STF Winter Leadership Workshop to launch our spring climate change advocacy campaign. RSVP today to receive the link to participate in the workshop!

Important Information:
Who: STF students, teachers, alumni and special guests
When: Saturday, January 30, 11:00am-1:00pm PT
Where:
 Virtually on Zoom

Mark your calendars and RSVP today!

We hope to see you there,
STF Team: Pam, Kristin, Nancy, Brennie, Karina, Sea and Josiah

International Human Rights Day

Watch this video of STFers reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in commemoration of Human Rights Day (Click to watch, 5:50)

Today is International Human Rights Day! Human Rights Day is celebrated by countries across the globe annually on December 10 to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The United Nations first established this day to highlight the UDHR as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations. This milestone document proclaims the inalienable rights to which everyone is entitled, without discrimination. STF created a video featuring STF members reading the 30 articles of the UDHR in acknowledgment of Human Rights Day. Watch our STFers in action!

We hope you will celebrate Human Rights Day with us! HRE USA is honoring Pam Bruns and her work with STF. There’s still time to register for the event!

About this Event:
Date: TODAY! Thursday, December 10, 2020
Time: 12:30pm Pacific (3:30pm Eastern)
Where: Live Stream on Zoom, register to receive the join link!
Cost: FREE!

In solidarity,
STF Team

Register to participate in today’s event!

You’re Invited to Celebrate with Us! Dec. 10

You must register to participate!

HRE USA honors:

2020 O’Brien Human Rights Education Award winners:

Pam Bruns, Founder and Director of the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, Los Angeles

and

ACT Center for Disability Leadership, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Also featured: youth voices from the HRW Student Task Force joined by youth from around the world honoring the significance of the UDHR, plus introduction of the 2020 Flowers Fund grantees and the Edmonds Summer Fellowship.

Keynote speaker, Loretta Ross, is a nationally-recognized women’s rights and human rights leader.

About this Event:

Date: Thursday, December 10, 2020
Time: 12:30pm Pacific (3:30pm Eastern)
Where: Live Stream on Zoom, get registered today!
Cost: FREE

Join HRE USA, the nation’s network of human rights educators, as we commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

Register soon to receive a Zoom link via email prior to the event.

2020 O’Brien Human Rights Education Award Winners

This event is hosted by Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA), a project of the Center for Transformative Action, with special thanks to the Puffin Foundation for their continued support. For further questions, please contact us at info@hreusa.org.

Growing Power of Our Vote

More than 150 million US citizens voted in the 2020 elections, including an estimated 53% of eligible 18 to 29-year-olds! The votes are still being tallied but while we wait, here are some STFers’ voting experiences:

Daisy Camarena: Carson HS ’17
First time voter

It was my first year voting and I never thought I was going to experience it during a pandemic. When I received my ballot from the mail, I screamed! I was so excited to finally vote for the first time but for some reason I was scared. I was scared of messing up on my ballot and on the propositions. I made sure that this year I voted and my friends and family voted too. I made sure to vote for my parents’ rights, African-Americans’ rights, women’s rights, our environment, and basic human rights. If you ever feel scared or confused when voting, especially about the propositions in your state, ask for help and do your research. My siblings and I each researched a different proposition and then we decided whether each one benefited us. The fear then goes away once you turn in your ballot! You feel good and nervous at the same time because you don’t know what’s going to happen until Election Day.

Helen Cristobal: Santa Monica HS ’17
First time voter

This was my first time voting by mail in Santa Monica, CA, and while it was not as exciting as I think voting in person will be, I knew the importance of sending my ballot early and am proud of taking part in civic action.
 
 
 

Iris Erwin: New Roads School ’20
First time voter

I registered in Philadelphia, PA and requested a mail in ballot in September. I faced some complications not having a signature on record. It was so stressful not knowing if I was registered to vote. Ultimately it worked out and I was able to return my ballot at a drop off! It was pretty quick and easy.
 

Cooper Komatsu: Culver City HS ’20
First time voter

As soon as I got my address at UChicago, I immediately cancelled my California pre-registration and got registered in Illinois, requesting a mail ballot. First, the California ballot (which I didn’t want) arrived at my house in LA, so I had my parents shred it. Then, I got my Illinois ballot in the mail, albeit slightly late. I was so excited to vote, so I went right to work. I knew my choice candidates for most major offices, but I had to do several hours of research for positions like Water Commissioner and 62 (!) judicial confirmations (all of which I did research on). When I was ready to turn in my ballot, I went to a poll location near me to drop my mail ballot off at a secure ballot box. That was quick and easy, although someone there asked me if I wanted to vote in person (using their voting machines) instead of by mail, which I thought was weird. After that, I was able to track the status of my ballot using the Chicago Board of Elections website, which I was thankful for! I’m very happy that I voted.

Anisah Moutra: Da Vinci Schools ’19
First time voter

My experience voting by mail from Los Angeles, CA was a bit difficult and stressful. My university held a town hall where we learned about the propositions. I still had to take time to research because it was a lot to digest. It took me an entire day to sit down and vote, but it’s always important to be educated and to understand what you’re voting on.
 
 
 

Carolyn Stein: New Roads School ’19
First time voter

My experience voting by mail from Palo Alto, CA was easy and quick! I’m likely to vote by mail again.
 
 
 
 

Josh Teichman: Santa Monica HS ’21
First time voter

Although I didn’t get the experience of voting in person, my first time voting was exhilarating. I was very anxious when I was filling my ballot out, double and triple-checking that I completed everything correctly and signed my name perfectly. I felt the weight of how important it was to get my vote counted. I also felt a responsibility to do tons of research on the props and was surprised by the amount of cross-referencing and energy it took to come to the right decision. I thought it would be more clear cut i.e. that you vote one way based on your political party. I felt very patriotic when my ballot was dropped off in the ballot box.
 
 
 

Gowri Vadmal: Sierra Canyon School ’20
First time voter

My experience voting in person in Los Angeles, CA was very good. There was no line and it was very sanitary.
 
 

Kleya Dhenin: Spring Intern ’19
Voter since 2018

My experience was great! Oregon makes voting by mail quick and easy. I had a vote by mail party with my mom on FaceTime and helped her vote.
 
 
 
 

Janelle Eley: Valencia HS ’18
Voter since 2018

I spent the summer doing non-partisan get out the vote phone banking across some of the swing states. My experience voting by mail was great! It was simple for me to fill out and I was able to track my ballot once I dropped it off at the mail ballot drop off location in my town in Santa Clarita Valley.
 
 
 
 
 

Ariam Negash: Santa Monica HS ’17
Voter since 2018

I dropped my ballot off at a voting box in Santa Monica, CA and it was very simple!

 
 
 

Darin Torres: Palisades Charter HS ’18
Voter since 2018

Voting by mail from Arcata, CA was simple and clean! I dropped it off at the ballot box. Post election, there have been protests by alt-right groups here in Northern California so I’m working with associates to raise awareness by contacting local news media and telling folks to be safe.
 
 

Brennie Dale: Spring Intern ’20
Voter since 2016

I had a very difficult voting experience this year. I have moved a couple of times recently, so despite not receiving vote-by-mail ballots sent to my previous, current and permanent residences, my Registrar’s Office in Santa Rosa, CA said they legally could not print another ballot. They recommended I apply to receive my ballot using the Remote Accessible Vote by Mail (RAVBM) system. Nearly a month after my vote-by-mail ballot was sent out, it arrived at my current address in Fort Collins, CO. I let my Registrar’s Office know I voted on the vote-by-mail ballot, in fear that it would be voided by my request to use the RAVBM system. With it being so close to Election Day, I decided to mail my ballot to my mother using a private carrier to ensure it arrived in time. She dropped off my ballot directly at our Registrar’s Office. On Election Day, I noticed my ballot tracking had not updated to say it was “accepted”, so I made one more call to my Registrar’s Office who found my ballot in the “void” pile. They assured me my vote would have eventually been counted, but it would have taken much longer to process if I hadn’t called!
 
Sofia Weiss: Academy of the Canyons ’13
Voter since 2016

My family had a Zoom call to discuss each part of the ballot. We didn’t always agree, but it gave us a chance to review and debate each issue. I mailed my ballot from San Francisco, CA. It was nerve wracking to wait for the BallotTrax confirmation email!
 
 

Rachel Kiekhofer: Santa Monica HS ’14
Voter since 2014

My experience voting by mail from Oakland, CA was uneventful. I walked to the ballot drop box and dropped it off!
 
 
 
 

Nancy Nazarian Medina: STF Program Advisor
Voter since 1992

Going through the ballot it was a great experience to discuss the various propositions with my sons and husband and make it a family affair. This was the first time I did mail in ballot. I missed seeing neighbors at the polls in Canyon Country but this was a safe and efficient way to participate in democracy!
 
 
 
 

We congratulate all STF alumni who voted in this election and celebrate our first time voters!

Ever onward,
Pam, Kristin, Nancy and Brennie

Human Rights in this Moment

Image by Oxfam America

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As I write, people in the United States have cast their ballots, but the will of the electorate is not yet clear. We are entering a moment of uncertainty while the votes are counted, and the predictable political and legal battles are waged.

The stakes are enormous. Human Rights Watch will be devoting the time and resources that this difficult period demands. We will be guided by our commitment to careful and objective fact-finding, and to certain overriding principles:

  • We will insist that every vote counts. We will monitor and resist any maneuver designed to deprive people of their democratic right to choose their leader.
  • We will uphold the right to peaceful assembly. Given the passions of the moment, we can expect people to take to the streets. That is their right, and we will insist that it be protected.
  • We will monitor demonstrations to deter violence, whether it comes from law-enforcement officials using excessive force, the protesters themselves, or counter-protesters seeking to curtail the rights of others.
  • We will track the rhetoric of leading politicians and officials and call out anyone who encourages violence, promotes lawlessness, or undermines the democratic process.
  • And we will seek to uphold the rule of law—the duty of election officials and others to honestly and conscientiously apply the law and respect the will of the voters regardless of the result.

These are difficult times. Our best way forward—the way to ensure that the voice of the people is heard and respected—is to abide by these guiding principles of human rights. I know we can rise to the challenge because we have such a dedicated Human Rights Watch community—staff, committee and board members, and supporters—who understand the importance of this moment.

With vigilance,
Ken Roth
Human Rights Watch
Executive Director

A Brief Guide to Voting Safely in Person

Public health experts say it should be possible to vote safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

LA County in person voting begins today! CNN has some helpful tips to keep you safe if you plan to vote in person:

Check your polling station

What’s the level of protection that will be in place at polling centers? Know in advance, if:

  • You’ll be spending the majority of your wait standing outside
  • Masks are required of both voters and poll workers
  • 6-feet spacing markers will be visible to control social distancing
  • There is a separate entrance and exit from the voting area
  • There will be a Plexiglas barrier between the voter and the poll worker
  • Poll workers will wear face shields, surgical face masks and gloves
  • There will be adequate space between voting privacy booths
  • Poll workers will sanitize frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, voting booths and bathrooms regularly

Vote at less busy times of the day

Most people are likely to vote before or after work or at lunch time. If you can aim for mid-morning or early to mid-afternoon, you may encounter fewer lines.

You may also encounter fewer people if you vote early in the window of opportunity your state provides for early voting.

Carefully choose your mask

Be picky about your mask. Studies have shown that cotton masks with two or three layers of fabric are more protective than single-ply masks or bandanas. A recent study found bandanas and gaiter masks to be least effective protection.

Cover your nose, please

It’s not safe to stand in line with your snout exposed even if your mouth is covered, experts say. That’s because wearing a mask over the mouth but leaving the nose exposed defeats the purpose of a mask, studies have shown. Since the vast majority of us are not mouth breathers, the virus is mostly likely to enter as you take a breath through your nose.

Vote alone

Unless you have a disability that requires assistance, vote alone, experts say. This is not the year to bring your children or other non-voting family members to the voting location.

Come prepared

Along with that highly protective mask, you should definitely bring tissues and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or disinfecting wipes, the CDC says.

Voter intimidation

If you believe that you are a victim of election fraud or have witnessed a criminal violation of the California Elections Code, use the Election Voter Complaint Form to report the violation to the California Secretary of State. You can also report intimidation to the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español).

Read the full list of recommendations online.

Vote in STF’s Mock Election: October 15-22

Gif by INTO ACTION

You have the potential to be a powerful force in elections, but only if you get involved and make voting a habit.

To encourage STFers to become active voters once old enough to cast a ballot, we invite you to participate in the 2020 STF Mock Election, which will take place October 15-22, 2020, for the Presidential General Election. This election is open to STF students, teachers, alumni and friends.

Vote today using this Google Form!

STF Team,
Pam, Kristin, Nancy and Brennie

Educate. Advocate. Vote.

Watch STF’s Virtual Town Hall Event on October 14, 2020. (Click to watch, 56:48)

October 14, 2020: Approximately 80 STFers, family and friends participated in an STF Virtual Town Hall event to learn about the human rights issues involved in the pros and cons of California Propositions 16, 17 and 18.

Welcomed by student speakers, Justin Connolly, HRW’s Senior Director of Southern California, congratulated STFers on their commitment to human rights advocacy. He also shared updates on HRW’s recent work to protect voting rights in the U.S.

CA State Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber was key in getting Prop 16 on the ballot. Participants were honored to hear her speak about why voters should reinstate affirmative action by approving Prop 16.

“I’m excited about the leadership of tomorrow, it’s great! Or I should say, the leadership of today! You are voting and taking care of business,” said Dr. Weber, who was impressed by the audience’s engagement during the event.

Currently disenfranchised due to their past incarceration in California’s criminal justice system, Anti-Recidivism Coalition’s Director of Advocacy Esteban Núñez and #YesonProp17 Fellow Jose Gonzalez, shared what it would mean to have their right to vote restored by Prop 17.

“To be told that you are not worthy of having your voice heard, not worthy of your opinion… is not only hurtful, but is also a constant reminder that this country has a lot to work on when it comes to inclusiveness of everyone as far as their word, not looking at them by the color of their skin or their past actions,” said Jose Gonzalez.

Rounding out the evening, Ryan Beam, an advocate for Prop 18, and Valencia High School STF President Ayden Reading debated the pros and cons of Prop 18, which would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they are 18 by the next general election.

“If you turn 18 between March and November in an election year, then you, me and 200,000 other Californians are trapped in an electoral gray zone,” Ryan Beam said. “Despite the fact that we have an equal stake in the outcome of the election, we don’t have an equal say in who is on our ballots… Our vote is weaker than the votes of others, which those of you in STF know isn’t quite in the spirit of Article 21 [of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights]… Proposition 18 eliminates the gray zone.”

The STF team thanks all of our guest speakers and participants! We hope this event will help everyone be more educated about the election.

Participants thank guest speakers for educating them on Propositions 16, 17 and 18.

Save the Date: Oct. 14 STF Virtual Town Hall

Make a plan to vote for human rights! Photo by Granite School District

Please join us for the STF Virtual Town Hall to learn more about how you can vote for human rights this election season! This event is open to the public so please feel free to invite your friends, families, etc. to join us too. RSVP today!

Important Information:
Who:
 You, STF students, teachers, guests, speakers
When: Wednesday, October 14, 7:00-8:00pm
Where: Virtually on Zoom

Mark your calendars and RSVP today!

What’s Your Voting Plan?

With only 33 days until Election Day 2020, have you already made your plan to vote? Here are important tips to help you develop your voting plan and ensure your vote is counted in this general election.

1. Check your voter registration status (and check again)

2. Register to vote (or preregister if you are 16 or 17 in California)

3. Decide how and when you will vote:

Vote by Mail: All registered California voters will be automatically sent a vote-by-mail ballot between Oct. 5-27. If you’ve recently moved, you will need to return this vote-by-mail ballot application by Oct. 27.

  1. Make your selections. Don’t forget to vote all the way down the ballot!
  2. Insert your ballot in the pre-paid envelope provided. Complete ALL required information on the outside of the envelope, including sign and date the back of the envelope.
    • Note: Every signature is verified by county officials before the ballot can be counted.
  3. Return your ballot by:
    • Mail: Ballot must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received by your county elections office no later than Nov. 20.
    • In person: Ballot must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8pm on Nov. 3.
    • Drop box: Find your nearest ballot drop-off location
  4. Track your ballot: California Secretary of State is offering Where’s My Ballot?, a new way for voters to track when their ballot is mailed, received and counted. Sign-up to receive email, text, or call notifications about your ballot every step of the way.

Vote in Person:

  • Early voting: Find early voting hours and locations near you. You can vote in person Oct. 24-Nov. 3 in LA County.
  • Election Day: California polls are open 7am-8pm. Your polling location is on the back page of your County Voter Information Guide mailed on September 24. You can also find your polling place online, call (800) 345-8683 or text “Vote” to 468683.
  • What to bring:

Now that you’ve developed your own voting plan, encourage others to do the same. Let’s get out the vote early this year!

Do You Use New Technologies? Watch “Coded Bias”, Oct. 2-4

Watch the film’s trailer (click to watch, 2:27)

Purchase Tickets Today

Student Tickets – $5          General Tickets – $10

Comp tickets available for STF students and teachers. Contact Kristin for information.

On October 2-4, join us for a screening of Coded Bias, a “vital” documentary, exploring the dangers of biased technology, an issue that too often hides beneath the surface. And on the 4th at 4pm, we invite you to a conversation with HRW’s Senior Researcher on Artificial Intelligence, Amos Toh, and the movie Director, Shalini Kantayya.

Purchase your ticket to get the link to participate!

Hope to see you there!
Pam, Kristin, Nancy and Brennie

Modern society sits at the intersection of two crucial questions: What does it mean when artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly governs our liberties? And what are the consequences for the people AI is biased against? When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces and the faces of women, she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms. As it turns out, artificial intelligence is not neutral, and women are leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected.
 

Join our panel: Sunday, October 4 at 4pm PT

with Director Shalini Kantayya and HRW’s Senior Researcher Amos Toh

Purchase Tickets Today


Student Tickets – $5          General Tickets – $10

Comp tickets available for STF students and teachers.
Contact Kristin for information.

Defend the Right to Vote

Nicole Austin-Hillery speaks with STF from Virginia at the 2020 STF Virtual Fall Leadership Workshop.
(Click to watch, 43:28)

September 12, 2020: Inspired by Nicole Austin-Hillery, HRW’s Executive Director of the U.S. Program, STF launched their Vote for Human Rights Campaign at the 2020 STF Virtual Fall Leadership Workshop.

“When we talk about voting and strengthening our democracy through the power of the vote, let’s, as justice warriors and justice seekers, focus on telling everyone you have to get out and vote… It’s your right and it’s the way you ensure you will be heard above and beyond anything else,” Nicole said.

Nicole urged participants to defend the human right to vote by getting people registered to vote, signed up to be poll workers and monitoring for instances of voter suppression. Watch Nicole’s conversation and Q&A.

Participants learned the mechanics of registering and how to be student poll workers. Everyone broke into brainstorm groups to discuss the best ways to launch the Vote for Human Rights Campaign in their communities.

Following the workshop, student leaders have been meeting to implement workshop ideas and utilize the new Vote for Human Rights campaign toolkit.

Recording of the complete 2020 STF Virtual Fall Leadership Workshop. (Click to watch, 1:18:59)

Introducing 2020-2021 STF Chapter Presidents

Click on the name to see the STF Chapter President’s full response to:

  1. Why they wanted to lead their STF chapter?
  2. Why they joined STF?
  3. Why they believe our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important?

Uchenna Akanno, Carson HS, 12th Grade:

Leading my STF chapter provides me with the opportunity to be at the forefront of raising awareness and advocating for human rights while ensuring engagement during impactful activities at school. I joined STF to collaborate with other like-minded individuals to facilitate change in our local communities. The “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is critical to empower youth to urge for change necessary to mend and improve the shortcomings of society.
 
 
Jacob Chong, Sierra Canyon School, 12th Grade:

I wanted to lead my STF chapter because I wanted to help my school and classmates be more educated in human rights. At first I didn’t know much about human rights issues, but I learned through STF. I want to share this information with as many students as I can.

I joined STF because my friend introduced me. After attending a few meetings, I got involved in projects that sparked my interest.

I believe the “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important because every vote matters. Not a lot of young voters realized the impact that their vote makes in deciding the future of our country.

Brian Cuellar, Hamilton HS, 12th Grade:

I  wanted to build on my leadership, communication, and teaching skills. Helping with leading the STF Chapter at Hamilton High School has given me the opportunity to communicate with others, educate people on societal and world issues, and learn from people’s experiences.

I  joined STF because I wanted to learn more about the campaign, how human rights are being violated, and the important issues that are happening all over the world.

With the campaign, I was able to learn about the issues with Human Rights being violated and the campaign provided a way to hopefully bring ease and change to these violations.

Morgan Daniels, Da Vinci Schools, 12th Grade:

I want to lead this STF Chapter because, as a member last year, I really fell in love with it. I want to lead this year because I want to further my leadership skills and stand up for the rights of those whose human rights are being violated.

I joined STF because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough in my community and my school, this club has allowed me to give back to my community and teach those around me.

I believe this campaign is important because we as young people have a lot to say and if we learn the right ways to voice our opinions big change can happen. A lot of people don’t realize the power of voting and how it can impact others and this campaign will show them the importance of it.

Logan Evans, Da Vinci Schools, 12th Grade:

I want to lead my STF chapter because I really enjoyed being a general member last year and since I was given many opportunities to help out last year’s Co-Presidents it only felt right for me to want to take on even more of a leadership role. I love STF and everything it stands for so being a Co-President this year is amazing!

I joined STF because one of last year’s Co-Presidents told me about what they did in the club and all the amazing things they had accomplished so I wanted to give it a try. I definitely made the right choice because in just one school year, I feel like I have already learned so much and become more aware and conscious of the world around me.

I believe the “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is incredibly important because it emphasizes how important voting is and how vital it is for everyone to understand that their vote matters. This being an election year, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way for high schoolers to get involved in protecting our rights by showing how people’s rights and voting are interconnected.

Isabel Gill, Palisades Charter HS, 12th Grade:

As a Student Task Force leader, I am excited for the opportunity to inspire and unite my STF team, so that we can effectively work towards community-wide change. I am looking forward to leading my club by implementing creative projects and events that will cater to our diverse student body and more deeply educate myself and my club members about human rights abuses all over the world.

I joined STF because I yearned to be a part of a school organization that was actively striving towards making a difference; I wanted to be part of a group of people that weren’t shying away from the issues plaguing our world, but rather confronting them head on.

Our “Vote for Human Rights” Campaign is of the utmost importance because we are facing a year like no other; without voters who put human rights above political party, our democracy, our livelihoods, will be in jeopardy. My peers and I have the power to influence this election by educating our families, neighbors and friends, but in order to educate, we need to learn. This campaign will allow STF members to focus on learning about voter suppression, about human rights abuses currently at work against Americans, so that we are well equipped to inspire our communities to vote with human rights in mind, in November.

Reese Gonzalez, Da Vinci Schools, 12th Grade:

I want to lead my STF chapter because it’s an amazing feeling to work with others who have the same aspirations as you do to change and acknowledge the world one issue at a time.

I joined STF because I wanted to be a part of something and with being in STF for the past year it made me realize that I’m a part of something so much larger than I thought.

The “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is extremely important, especially in a time where so much is happening in our world. It’s important for everyone to vote for change and especially towards their human rights. We are all valid humans and without rights what would we have?

Anna Kite, Culver City HS School, 11th Grade:

I love helping out in any way I can and I am always open to challenges. As public speaking/leading is a challenge for me, I thought this first step would be perfect. I love learning new things and STF has shown to be a very educating and rewarding experience. I wanted to try something new and what better way to do it than helping make the world a better place at the same time!

To be completely honest I joined the STF club at my school because my friends were in it but, as I learned more, I became interested and excited about everything STF does. I loved brainstorming ways to help the homeless youth at my school last year and, when we went into quarantine, listening to the virtual Q&As with multiple people who strive to end human rights violations. It’s been super eye opening and, as I said, really educational.

I believe this campaign is important because, for a democracy to work properly everyone should have access to ways to vote and get registered or preregistered. I think it’s also important for people to be aware and educated on who and what they are voting for. I’m super excited to help make resources available for communities so they can formulate their decision more easily and with less stress.

Madison Liberman, Palisades Charter HS, 12th Grade:

I wanted to lead my STF chapter to work side by side with the bold and intelligent students that are in the Human Rights Watch club.

I joined the Student Task Force in order to become more hopeful and create the changes in policy and in education that I wanted to see. I wanted the ability to listen to others and raise my voice about issues I was passionate about, and STF gave me the opportunity to do so.

The “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is so important because we need to vote for policies and leaders that will ensure our human rights are being protected and protect the most vulnerable individuals in our country.

Miranda Loyer, Academy of the Canyons, 12th Grade:
I want to lead my STF chapter because I have a whole lot of passion for social justice and particularly human rights. I see enormous potential in my school to really enact change in our valley and I want to be part of making that change.

I joined STF because I saw an opportunity to contribute towards some good in my community, as well as meet individuals who also were passionate about social justice the same way I am.

I believe our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important because although people often forget it, the people and laws we vote for directly impact millions of people’s lives in this country. It is important that we exercise our right to vote so our government represents our interests, what we stand for.

Jacey Lozada, Academy of the Canyons, 12th Grade:
I want to lead AOC’s STF’s chapter because I feel that learning about global issues in the classroom is incredibly important and being able to understand and educate others on human rights and when human rights violations are happening are lucrative in making all of us better global citizens.

I joined STF because I wanted to be involved in creating positive impactful change. I also think that at AOC we are encouraged to connect what we learned to the contemporary world and that this club allows students to do just that.

I believe that STF’s “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important because we are in the middle of an unprecedented time in history as seen through the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Though it is 2020 we are still seeing human rights violations all over the world and we must vote for human rights in order to demand and create positive change.
 
Karen Morales, Santa Monica HS, 12th Grade:

I want to lead my chapter because I am able to have a more direct impact on our events throughout the year, in addition to helping our general members get involved.

I joined STF because I wanted to learn more about human rights, as well as advocate for them in my community. It’s not only a great opportunity to get involved and educate yourself, you’re also able to make connections with others who are also passionate about human rights.

I believe our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is more important now than it ever has been. In addition to our local elections this November, people will be voting for President, which can have major implications for human rights throughout the country. That’s why it is crucial to get people registered, educated and out to vote.

Natalie Pancho, Carson HS, 12th Grade:
As a leader, I enjoy collaborating with my peers because witnessing how much we can accomplish as a team is such a rewarding experience. I made a lot of great memories in the previous year organizing events that shed light on the current campaigns. I love that I’m able to work with students and staff alike who share the same goal as I do: to advocate for our human rights by educating others.

I’ve always had an interest in ongoing human rights crises so I decided to join my school’s club dedicated to acknowledging said topics to learn more about the issues at hand. Discovering that there were students from different schools coming together to make their efforts and voices heard had greatly inspired me to join STF, because I had also wanted to make a difference in my community.

The fundamentals of human rights asserts that everyone is entitled to basic rights and freedoms that cannot be taken away. These rights are relevant to us because it offers protection from the clutches of oppression and mistreatment, therefore advocating for our human rights provides a universal standard that empowers the individual.
Melisa Ramirez Hernandez, Santa Monica HS, 12th Grade:

I want to lead my STF chapter because I want to remind myself and others that although we’re just high school students we have the ability to create change at a greater scale.

I wanted to educate myself about human rights and be more actively involved in helping others express their voice.

I believe the “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important because it emphasizes that everyone, regardless of where they are from or what they believe in, has the right to human rights education and safe and dignified standard of living.

Alexandra Raphling, Santa Monica HS, 11th Grade:

I became a leader of the Samohi STF chapter my freshman year. I saw that the club had so much potential to do great things within the Samohi community, and that was something I wanted to help direct. My passion for human rights has only grown as our amazing leadership team has grown, and we have been fortunate to put together a number of successful events on campus.

I joined STF at the urging of one of the leaders at the time. I have always been passionate about social justice and activism, and STF was a great outlet to pursue those passions and help get other students involved.

The “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is so important because we stand at the precipice of immense human rights challenges, such as climate change, the refugee crisis, Covid-19, and so much more that will be greatly affected by the results of this election. As minors who cannot vote, this campaign is a great way to further human rights while not yet being eligible to vote on the ballot.

Ayden Reading, Valencia HS, 12th Grade:
I wanted to lead my STF chapter at Valencia high school because I want to be able to make an impact and show everyone how important human rights are and the impact they can have on our society. I also saw many flaws on my school campus which is on a smaller level of course, but I knew we needed to make change.

I joined STF because there are so many people in this world who do not have a voice, who lack human rights even though human rights are universal rights that everyone should have. I joined STF to be a voice for them and to be a voice for change.

I think that our vote for human rights campaign is so incredibly important because now more than ever human rights are at stake. This “Vote For Human Rights” campaign is so vital in today’s society because it is educating people on how important human rights are and how important it is to vote for them in this election. Human rights are rights such as healthcare, education, right to a fair trial, equal treatment and so much more. In today’s society it shouldn’t matter what race, religion, sexuality, or social status you are. Human rights are rights that everyone should have, so go vote for the right thing. Equality and Human Rights for All…

Stella Robinson-Rosendorff, New Roads School, 11th Grade:

Leading my STF chapter is very important to me because I feel as though I have a strong voice that can guide my chapter in the right direction. I am devoted to the members and to our mission!

I joined STF because I knew it was important to make change and be an advocate, and my STF chapter gave me the resources to do so. It is also a good way to stay informed and grounded in human rights.

Our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign addresses one of the easiest and most important ways to make one’s voice heard. Focusing on voting this season is crucial in making sure human rights are protected for the years to come.

Alexis Robles, Canyon HS, 11th Grade:
I have always loved taking on leadership roles so that I can incorporate my ideas and peers into action. I want to lead my STF chapter to raise awareness about the violations of even just the basics of human rights and other necessary issues that are currently happening.

I joined STF to make a difference, even if it is something like executing an event related to an issue. Standing up and speaking out forms a significant impact.

Human rights are meant to protect every individual no matter gender or race. I believe our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is momentous, because we speak up about the many human rights violated when they are supposed to guarantee safety and protection for the people.

Liv Schachner, New Roads School, 11th Grade:

I wanted to lead my STF because being a part of the New Roads community has prompted me to have a growing passion for advocacy and educate the members of my community on human rights violations happening every day. I joined STF to take action on injustices happening in the world, not merely stand by and watch them happen.

I joined STF because I wanted to take action on injustices happening in the world, not merely stand by.

The vote for human rights campaign is important because voting is the best way we can use our voices to make real, systematic change. Educating people on that fact is imperative.

Demi Tamayo, Hamilton HS, 12th Grade:

I want to lead my STF chapter because I think it’s a great opportunity to improve on my leadership skills. These skills can help me succeed in the future.

I joined STF because I wanted to feel like I am making a difference in my community. STF not only talks about issues America faces, but also the world which further educates me and other students. I also want to take advantage of the privilege I have to speak up for others who can’t.

I think at time like this, it is crucial for people to vote. I think voting allows people to express their opinions and feel like they are being heard.

Josh Teichman, Santa Monica HS, 12th Grade:

I wanted to help lead my chapter because I like being involved in finding and executing better ways to plan events more efficiently. I was also passionate about creating new events that are even more impactful and organized.

I see STF as a meaningful way to get involved in helping people who don’t have the fundamental rights and opportunities that should be afforded to everyone. STF seemed like it was passionate about educating others about helping humanity and self-advocation.

I believe our “Vote for Human Rights” campaign is important because it helps people under the voting age reevaluate their mindset from thinking they can’t make a difference to becoming educators and involved in the political climate.

Save the Date: 2020 STF Fall Leadership Workshop

Please join us for the 2020 STF Fall Leadership Workshop to launch our fall advocacy campaign: Vote for Human Rights! This will be our first virtual STF Leadership Workshop. RSVP today!

Important Information:
Who: You, STF students, teachers, guests, speakers
When: Saturday, September 12, 11:00am-1:00pm
Where: Virtually on Zoom

Mark your calendars and RSVP today!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.hrwstf.org/wordpress/2020-2021/