Newsletter Archive

STF Events: 2021-2022

HRW’s LA Film Club is In-Person!

A film by Emily Kunstler & Sarah Kunstler (Click to watch the trailer, 2:03)

The Human Rights Watch Film Club invites you to an in-person screening and discussion of: Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.

The screening will be held at New Roads School (map) on Sunday, June 26, 2022. Doors open at 4pm. The film will be followed by a Q&A and reception with food. Student and educator tickets are $10. Not in town? Limited virtual tickets are available. Contact us with questions!

In Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, Jeffery Robinson’s groundbreaking Town Hall on the history of U.S. anti-Black racism is interwoven with historical and present-day archival footage, Robinson’s personal story, and interview footage capturing meetings with Black change-makers and eyewitnesses of history. From a hanging tree in Charleston, South Carolina, to a walking tour of the origins of slavery in colonial New York, to the site of a 1947 lynching in rural Alabama, the film brings history to life, exploring the enduring legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it.

STF volunteers are needed to support the event! Let us know if you’re available to help.

About the Film Club: Through regularly-scheduled screenings and discussions, the Human Rights Watch Film Club in Los Angeles creates a forum to advance awareness of human rights issues and empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.

Email stf@hrw.org if you can volunteer!
Reserve your tickets: hrw.org/LAFilmClub | STF Admission – $10

Standing Strong for Climate Action

To end the academic year strong, several STF chapters hosted events throughout May. They demonstrated their firm commitment to the Human Rights and the Climate Crisis Campaign by continuing efforts for climate action and education within their communities.

May 3, 2022: Sierra Canyon STFers presented at their May Board of Trustees meeting. Their request to transition the upper school campus to 100% renewable energy by installing solar panels was met with support and requests for next steps. The students will work with school administrators to secure quotes from solar companies and do an energy audit this summer. Photo by Tom Pollock
May 16, 2022: To ensure candidates running for office are discussing the climate emergency, STF leaders at Palisades Charter HS raised essential climate change questions with candidates for Los Angeles City Council District 11 during an interview with Circling The News, a local online news outlet. The reporter later posed the students’ questions and published this article with the candidates’ responses.
Graphic by Circling the News
May 17, 2022: With a concentrated effort on recruitment, Santa Monica HS STFers held a climate tent event welcoming over 150 ninth and tenth grade students to learn more about renewable energy, environmental justice, and what they can do to fight climate change. Photo by Jordan Todd
May 17, 2022: Partnering with friends and members of the volleyball team, STF Ambassadors at Valencia HS conducted a sit-in. Their goal was to raise awareness about how climate change is affecting their community and the need to take action against it. Photo by Kiera McInnes
May 19, 2022: In an effort to empower younger students to be human rights advocates, a New Roads School STF leader shared her experiences participating in STF at an All Middle School Meeting. Also at this weekly event, two STFers interviewed a climate columnist from the New York Times. Photo by Sean Brookes
May 20, 2022: Hosting their first-ever tent event, Hamilton HS STF climate tent event took place in the school’s main quad. Math, government, and physics teachers brought their students through the interactive exhibition on the global impacts of climate change and the need for renewable energy sources. Signing STF’s petition, students showed support for their efforts to include solar energy in the school’s upcoming comprehensive modernization project. Photo by Jordan Todd
May 21, 2022: STFers from multiple chapters gathered for the Year-End Beach Celebration to share reflections, advice for the future, and what it means to be an effective advocate. Reflections included: “Persistence is really important, I never understood that until this year. It really does pay off.” and “We tend to think too much about what other people will think or what might happen. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do something just because it’s the right thing to do.” Photo by Kristin Ghazarians
May 24, 2022: In partnership with their district’s Sustainability Coordinator, Culver City HS STF leaders asked school board members to transition their campus to 100% renewable energy by purchasing “Green Power” through the Clean Power Alliance. A motion for district staff to conduct a feasibility study was approved by four board members. STFers will also be invite to a future meeting to discuss prioritizing this transition. Photo by Kristin Ghazarians

Save the Date! Saturday, May 21, STF’s Year-End Celebration

STF leaders collaborate at the 2019 STF Fall Leadership Workshop at New Roads School.
Photo by Pam Bruns

Please join us at the beach for STF’s 2021-2022 Year-End Celebration on Saturday, May 21! We will have a short program reflecting on the year’s accomplishments and a chance to get to know members from across STF. Lunch and tents will be provided. Bring a beach chair or blanket!

RSVP by May 14 to let us know if you can attend!

Who: STF members, teachers and stakeholders
What: 2021-2022 Student Task Force Year-End Celebration at the beach!
When: Saturday, May 21, 11am to 1pm
Where: 2400 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (map)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Earth Day The STF Way

Students across STF campuses participated in events to acknowledge Earth Day. From educational activities on environmental justice and renewable energy to die-ins and climate games, STFers raised their voices for the planet and challenged their peers to do the same.

Scroll to see a sampling of STF’s Earth Day events!

Student at Animo Venice Charter High School reads a climate migrant testimony during STF’s tent event in April. Over 180 freshmen and sophomores participated in the activities. Photo by Jordan Todd
Students at Carson HS scan a QR code that reveals how far they live from oil wells as part of the Environmental Justice tent. More than 300 attendees learned about climate change, renewable energy, environmental justice and climate migrants. Photo by Kristin Ghazarians
STF Ambassadors from Dwight Global School launched the Dwight Climate Committee as part of their Earth Week activities. Participants from five Dwight School campuses identified first projects to make their individual campuses more environmentally conscious.
Flyer designed by Kendall Arjoon
Students at Los Osos High School lay in their school cafeteria with signs that say, “The oceans are rising and so are we”, “The sky should not be orange”, “Here lies 1 of 5 million killed by climate change every year” and “R.I.P. Here lies 1 of 138,366 dead from Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar”. Three campuses in the Green Chaffey Coalition hosted die-ins to honor Earth Day. Photo by Rohan Chowdhury
At the New Roads School tent event, STFers lead students and their Head of School through an exercise to identify active oil wells in their communities. Photo by Kristin Ghazarians
Palisades Charter High School hold their first-ever Climate Summit Day on Earth Day. Among many other activities, Student Task Force members set up learning tables during lunch on fast fashion, sustainable household items, and environmental justice initiatives.
Photo by Angelica Pereyra
Pali Climate Summit Day attendees write their hopes and fears about climate change on recycled paper, which are added to a chain hanging from trees in the quad. Photo by Angelica Pereyra
At Santa Monica High School, STF introduces guest speaker Amy Butte of Climate Action to discuss renewable energy during a special Featured Flex-Time event with students. Photo by Jordan Todd
After partnering with the SC Green Club for an all-school presentation focused on recycling and renewable energy, the Sierra Canyon STF chapter hosts a lunch table event where participants signed their petition to transition their school to 100% renewable energy and added to an Earth Day art display. Photo by Lance Lysholm

We Mourn the Loss of a Witness to the Holocaust

Bill Harvey speaks with STF students at the February 2020 Winter Workshop. Photos by Patricia Williams

March 31, 2022: STF mourns the loss of William (“Bill”) Harvey, who generously shared with students his heartrending story of surviving the Holocaust, including two of the infamous Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In 2020, right before Covid closed our schools, Bill spoke at the STF Winter Workshop. How fortunate we all were to meet and learn from his testimony.

Afterwards, STF student leader Iris Erwin wrote on behalf of STF:

“Dear Bill, Your life story and wisdom has impacted and inspired us as future activists and change-makers. What really stuck with us was how you said that we come into this world as we leave it — with nothing, and all we can do during our time here is make a positive impact on others. Many of us have now adopted this as a life motto. We know that we will not have a fulfilled life if we spend it just indulging ourselves, but we will fulfill our lives if we spend our time helping others and making our world a more just and equal place. Thank you for being so truly inspiring!”

Later in a note to STF Executive 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.”

STF students give their full attention at the 2020 Winter Workshop.

Bill’s impact endures and is treasured, especially because the opportunity of meeting with witnesses to the horrors of Nazi genocide is becoming rarer with their passings each year. Annually, STF commemorates the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned, especially during April Genocide Awareness month.

Excerpts from Bill’s video testimony housed at the USC Shoah Foundation:

Born on May 20, 1924, in Berehovo, Czechoslovakia (now Ukraine), Bill was the youngest of two boys and four girls. His father, Aron, a veteran of World War I, was a winemaker, and his mother Zali was a dressmaker.

Bill grew up in a traditional Jewish family. In 1943, Berehovo was occupied by the Germans and his family was forced into the town Ghetto. The following year his father was beaten in the street by the Nazis and later died, soon after which Bill and the rest of his family were deported to Auschwitz.

In his recorded testimony he gave to the Shoah Foundation in 1995, Bill describes that moment.

“They put us into wagons and transported us to Auschwitz. It’s very difficult to describe the whole thing. It didn’t seem real that these things were possible, that this was really happening, that we were treated like animals. You had no future, and you could see it.”

After 12 days at Auschwitz, Bill was moved again, this time to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Thereafter he was forced to work on a labor crew that was cleaning a nearby oil refinery damaged by Allied bombers and digging mountain tunnels. Bill was subsequently injured and shipped back to Buchenwald in such terrible physical condition that the people unloading the cattle train used for transport presumed him to be dead.

Bill was miraculously able to survive until Buchenwald was liberated in 1945. At the time U.S troops entered the camp, he weighed just 72 pounds. He then spent a year in a German displaced person’s camp, where he learned that his siblings had survived the war but that his mother, aunt, cousin, and her children had been murdered immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz.

Bill recalled encountering his neighbors from Berehovo soon after his liberation from Buchenwald.

“Our neighbors, who practically used to live in my mother’s house—her door was always open to help anybody, she was that type of person—those same people told us that it was too bad that Hitler left a few of us behind to hate,” Bill recalled.

“I was astonished. I didn’t know how to answer. I thought that when we come out of the camp and we’re going to walk on the street, everybody will bow to us, that they wouldn’t believe a human being could survive such a suffering what I endured, what I witnessed, what I had seen. So, to me, it was unbelievable that people still had that much hatred and that much discrimination.”

In 1946 Bill immigrated to the U.S. and settled and worked in New York City before moving to Los Angeles in 1950, where he soon earned his California cosmetology license. He subsequently opened a pair of well-known beauty shops.

Bill Harvey dedicated his life to countering the hatred and discrimination he endured during and after the Holocaust by sharing his story widely with schools, museums, and even a California state prison.

He is survived by his two daughters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing.”

Thank you, Bill, we will not forget you or your story and inspiration.

This testimony from Holocaust Survivor William “Bill” Harvey is from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive, an online portal that allows users to search through and view more than 55,000 video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of genocide.
(Click to watch, 1:56:28)
Bill Harvey with STF members and teacher advisors at the February 2020 Winter Workshop.

Crisis in a Tent!

Student Task Force members experience an abundance of solar at Pali’s tent event. Photo by Genessi Lizama

Wednesday, March 23: Palisades Charter High School STF hosted their all-day climate education tent event in the center quad. Seven classes with students from all four grade levels visited the tents. They learned general climate crisis facts and filled out a survey to share if they’ve learned about climate change in school. They explored four types of renewable energy and heard more about STF’s goal to transition Pali to solar-powered energy. In the environmental justice tent students discovered injustices globally and in Los Angeles. Those who contribute the least to climate change suffer the most! Exhibit visitors also explored stories of the millions of climate migrants who have been forced to abandon their homes due to extreme weather and severe droughts.

Discovering how close they live to active oil drilling, one ninth grade student remarked, “I can’t believe I live right next to five oil wells, and I had never even heard about this before!” Another student described evacuating during the 2019 fire in the Palisades. Comparing her experience with climate migrants, she said, “We had to leave in the middle of the night. I threw an entire dresser drawer in my bag and realized later I didn’t have anything I needed.” Climate-induced heat waves and drought will only make stories like hers more common. STF member Maddy said, “It was so gratifying when students would ask us questions because it showed that they really cared about these issues and that we were getting through to them!”

STF’s tent event paves the way for Climate Summit Day on Earth Day, Friday, April 22. Pali’s first ever Climate Summit Day will feature a special class schedule so that every teacher can offer a lesson related to climate change. Students will participate in lunchtime activities including tables about sustainable household products, the dangers of fast fashion, how and why to eat less meat (welcome, Rainforest Menu!), and more. LAUSD Board District 4 Representative Nick Melvoin will attend Pali’s Climate Summit Day to learn about student initiatives and to speak about his support of Pali’s advocacy to transition to 100% renewable energy.

Students gather to hear the Climate Education welcome message from a Pali STF student leader. Photo by Kristin Ghazarians
Students take notes on& how the climate crisis is impacting land, air, and seas around the world. Photo by Angelica Pereyra
STF’s tents in action on Pali’s center quad. Photo by Angelica Pereyra

TREE Academy’s Board Stands With STF

STFers ask their Board of Directors to support their efforts to transition TREE Academy to 100% renewable energy.
Photo by Storey Sheinberg

[Editors Note: This report was submitted by Adelaide Jarnot, a freshman at TREE Academy and a student leader in TREE Academy’s STF class.]

February 11, 2022: Students from the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (STF) class at TREE Academy for the Creative Arts, New Technology & Social Justice met with their Board of Directors to ask for their support to switch TREE’s campus to renewable energy. Along with giving the Board their petition signed by 85% of students and teachers, STFers presented a proposal asking for financial support to invest in solar panels and purchase renewable energy from the Southern California Edison Clean Power Alliance to transition the school campus to 100% renewable energy.

The presentation was a resounding success! The Board was intrigued by the discussion and plans to move forward with implementing the proposal.

STF’s class participants are proud of their fantastic first step in reducing their campus’ carbon footprint and leading by example to motivate both their fellow students and the Board of Directors to make more environmentally-friendly choices on- and off-campus now and in the future.

STF Meets LAUSD Board Rep. Nick Melvoin

STF members from Palisades Charter High School ask LAUSD Board Rep. Nick Melvoin for support in the urgent need to transition their school to 100% renewable energy. Photo by Myrna Cervantes

[Editors Note: This report was submitted by Amanda Shane, a junior at Palisades Charter HS, co-secretary for Pali’s STF chapter, and a West Coast Region Coordinator for the Green Schools Campaign.]

February 11, 2022: Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (STF) members at Palisades Charter High School met last week with Nick Melvoin, who represents LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) Board District # 4. Their meeting was a result of Pali’s clean energy resolution — the first-ever student-led resolution presented to the Pali Board of Trustees, which was unanimously passed last May, and commits the school to 100% renewable energy within the next 10 years. Palisades students are now looking for Nick Melvoin’s support to push their renewable energy resolution forward in LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school district.

At the meet-and-greet, Melvoin received a warm welcome from STF members, who presented him with an STF shirt with the slogan “Oceans are Rising, So Are We.” After a quick introduction, Melvoin expressed his enthusiasm for renewable energy efforts “driven by real student leaders” who understand the urgency of the climate crisis “in a way that many adults don’t.”

Going on to address the school’s air conditioning initiative, Melvoin explained that, “When Pali was first built (1961), there wasn’t a need for air conditioning, you just opened the windows and doors, but with global warming, temperatures are rising.” Adding air conditioning systems throughout the school will raise Pali’s energy consumption and STF leaders emphasized that this will also increase the importance of transitioning to solar. STF co-president Peter Garff pointed out, “Within the last year there have been 19 blackouts or brownouts in local neighborhoods,” highlighting the fact that the area is already running on unreliable power, and cannot handle increased energy usage.

Fortunately, solar energy production at Pali could help mediate this situation. The school could potentially produce a surplus of solar energy to be returned to the LADWP energy grid. Solar power at Pali would not only provide for all of Pali’s electrical energy needs and create surplus clean and reliable energy, but Pali could also set an example for the surrounding community of what fighting climate change looks like. To make this possible, leaders of Pali’s HRW Student Task Force are counting on support from Board District Nick Melvoin to continue pushing for climate action in LAUSD.

A masked Melvoin admires his new t-shirt which declares, “Oceans are Rising, So are We!” He said, “Let’s turn that into recyclable bumper stickers!” Photo by Yahir Lopez
Students at Palisades Charter High School pose for a photo with Nick Melvoin after giving him a 
t-shirt and securing his support for their renewable energy efforts. Photo by Myrna Cervantes

The Road To “Yes” Is Paved With “No”

At STF’s 2022 Winter Leadership Workshop, guest speaker Anisa Nanavati shared her experiences with climate advocacy, encouraging students to talk with their teachers about the need for climate change education. Click to watch the full recording of the workshop (1:10:15).

January 29, 2022: “Don’t be afraid of rejection. Every conversation you have is a little step in the right direction, and those inches become feet and the feet become miles,” said Anisa Nanavati, a 17-year-old climate advocate from Tampa, Florida, to participants at the 2022 STF Winter Leadership Workshop on Saturday, January 29. Anisa shared her experiences as a climate advocate and encouraged students not to give up on their efforts to transition their schools to 100% renewable energy.

STF teacher advisors echoed this call to action, reminding students that they are the change our world needs. “It’s so important to educate the next generation of leaders to push for change. Education is what builds the courage to say what you know and fight for what you believe,” explained Angelica Pereyra, STF Advisor from Palisades Charter High School.

As we continue our push for 100% renewable energy, STFers set goals for what success will look like on their campuses and discussed how to use student and teacher surveys to further their efforts. By advocating for climate education in and outside the classroom, we know that our campaign will end with school communities ready to be the change our world needs to continue fighting climate change!

Let’s keep pushing for “yes”!

Watch STF Teacher Advisors share why students should advocate for climate change education at their schools! (Click to watch, 11:16)

Action: Louder Than Words

As we kickoff the final push of our current Human Rights and the Climate Crisis campaign tomorrow at the STF Winter Leadership Workshop, we will reflect on our efforts to transition our schools to 100% renewable energy. STFers have demonstrated time and again that action speaks louder than words!

Here is a sampling of STF chapters’ accomplishments so far:

Canyon High School

Success: We hosted a chalk event for Human Rights Day and a lot of people came and wanted to know more about our club.

Challenge: Recruitment is a challenge for us, we spent too long trying to target specific groups.

Advice: Take a step back, get organized, and strategize to get your message out widely!

Culver City High School

Success: Last semester we built a relationship with our district’s Environmental Sustainability Board which we look forward to growing!

Challenge: We struggled to get in touch with all the right stakeholders on campus for our events.

Advice: It’s good to have relationships with important staff, such as the principal’s secretary, who will know how to reach them.

Hamilton High School

Success: We all wore green on the same day to draw attention to the need for renewable energy and got signatures for our petition.

Challenges: It took us awhile to get in touch with our new school principal, but she got back to us and we’re working on scheduling a meeting to discuss solar panels for our school.

Los Osos High School

Success: Getting an energy audit for our school.

Challenges: We faced apathy from our school leaders at first; they didn’t take us seriously.

Advice: We recommend persevering with your decision-makers! We met with our school leaders multiple times, approaching them from different perspectives. With some trial and error we were able to get through to them.

Learn about “The New Corporation”

HRW’s LA Film Club features a virtual screening of “The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel” presented in partnership with SIMA Studios.

We are excited to kick off the year with an HRW Film Club screening of The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel streaming virtually from January 21-23 in partnership with SIMA.

STF students and teachers are eligible for comp tickets to the virtual event. RSVP to receive the film link and access to the live panel discussion and Q&A on January 23 at 4pm PT.

About the film: From Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott, filmmakers of the multi-award-winning global hit, The Corporation, comes this hard-hitting and timely sequel. The New Corporation reveals how the corporate takeover of society is being justified by the sly rebranding of corporations as socially conscious entities. From gatherings of corporate elites in Davos, to climate change and spiraling inequality; the rise of ultra-right leaders, to Covid-19 and racial injustice, the film looks at corporations’ devastating power. In the face of inequality, climate change, and the hollowing out of democracy The New Corporation is a cry for social justice, democracy, and transformative solutions.

“The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel” trailer. (Click to watch, 1:50)

Two Student Voices

Angel Macario-Flores and Victoria Valdez share their experiences as student representatives on the LAUSD’s Clean Energy Task Force.

December 2021, HRW STF Weekly Update:

Victoria Valdez, STF leader at Hamilton HS, and Angel Macario-Flores, STF leader at Palisades Charter HS attended meetings this fall as the only student representatives on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Clean Energy Task Force. The task force was created to honor LAUSD’s commitment to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

They share about their experience:

What have you learned by participating in this Task Force?

Victoria: The most interesting thing I have learned is the process of getting plans approved. I assumed that because people have important roles, their projects would automatically be easy to start. But actually, many of the Task Force members have spent months and even years on their causes and have to redevelop much of their work to overcome obstacles.

What surprised you most about being on this Task Force?

Angel: I was surprised by how carefully and cautiously people offered their comments and questions. It also surprised me how complicated and technical the material is. Everything from environmental health and safety to climate change curriculum to electric school buses. But each meeting I’ve grown in understanding.

What is it like to be one of only two student representatives on such an important school district Task Force?

Victoria: It’s very liberating to be a part of a community that eliminates the preconception that ‘because we are young, we are incapable’. It’s a great honor to feel welcomed and to be able to express, not only my concerns, but the valid concerns of countless other young individuals as well.

Angel and Victoria: Please send us your questions about clean renewable energy at your school. We promise to ask your questions and share the responses we receive!

STF Honors Human Rights Day

STFers at Los Osos HS pose next to their whiteboard activity honoring Human Rights Day on Friday, December 10. Each wrote what human rights mean to them. Photo by Zayd Chowdhury

Friday, December 10, 2021 was the 73rd anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR), a document that proclaims the rights of every human being, regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, religion, political opinion, birth place, or any other status.

STFers celebrated this milestone and raised awareness about human rights on their campuses with events including all-school presentations, chalk art, information tables, paper chain displays, and more!

Scroll to see some of the events:

Taking advantage of popular gathering spaces, STFers at Canyon HS write messages about climate change and human rights to engage their classmates in conversation and recruit new members.
Photo by Daniela Reyes
Leaders at Carson HS educate their STF members on the history and meaning of the UDHR.
Photo by Brennie Dale
Culver City HS STF members pose for a photo with a QR code linking to their petition to uphold human rights by fighting climate change and transitioning their school to 100% renewable energy.
Photo by Brennie Dale
During Da Vinci Schools’ final meeting of the semester, students watched a video explaining the UDHR, reviewed its articles and played a Kahoot to learn more about the history of human rights.
Photo by Brennie Dale
Hamilton HS STFers make a paper chain with notes students wrote sharing what human rights mean to them.
Photo by Jordan Todd
Following an all-school presentation on the history of human rights and the UDHR, New Roads School students write personal pledges to uphold human rights by fighting climate change and sign the STF petition asking their school to transition to 100% renewable energy. Photo by Zaraya Jordan
Students at Valencia HS write chalk phrases honoring Human Rights Day. Photo by Keira McInnes

Our Shared Humanity

This Human Rights Day, HRW reflects on five ways we can make rights a reality.
(Click to watch, 0:44)

December 10, 2021, by Tirana Hassan, HRW’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Programs Officer:

Human Rights Day – the anniversary of the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is a day to celebrate our shared humanity. We have the chance to reflect areas where we can make rights a reality as we emerge from another period of turmoil.

The climate crisis is taking a mounting toll on the lives, health, and livelihoods of people around the globe. And, as we’ve seen this past year with devastating floods in Germany and the United States and deadly heat waves in Canada and Pakistan, governments are failing to protect at-risk populations from the foreseeable harm of climate change. Their recent pledges of more ambitious action to reducing greenhouse gas emissions still fall well short of what’s needed to avert the most catastrophic outcomes of global warming.

Governments need to recognize and learn from the extensive know-how of local communities and civil society groups to address the impacts of climate change with equity. And, above all, they need to heed the calls of climate activists to drastically ramp up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late.

Human Rights Day 2021 isn’t a day to lament the losses or fear what may come – it is a call to action. It is a reminder that the hard-won fights of the past need to be protected and advanced and that human rights for all requires action from governments and international bodies. But it also highlights that protecting our human rights is driven by human rights activists and defenders in every corner of the globe.

Read Tirana’s 5 Lessons Learned online.

Student Task Force members honor Human Rights Day by reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 11 languages. (Click to watch, 5:50)

Heartbreak into Action

Katie-Jay Scott and Gabriel Stauring at a Darfur United soccer match. Photo by iAct

To the thousands of STF students and teachers who met and worked with Katie-Jay Scott and Gabriel Stauring,

Last Tuesday evening a local car crash took the lives of our friends Katie-Jay and Gabriel. The devastating news brings not only heartbreak, but also a flood of memories of their actions to spread peace and love. Many of us were blessed to work with these two wonderous humanitarians since 2005. Over the following years, thousands of us followed them via satellite phone transmissions on trips to the Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad, and they continually found new ways to introduce us to survivors they befriended in the camps, putting faces and hearts to a distant crisis. We learned from Katie-Jay and Gabriel how to broaden awareness by building Camp Darfurs, and Children’s Rights Camps in our schools, and they worked with us to assemble mobile human rights libraries that traveled in the refugee camps. STFers were inspired to meet with policy makers to press for support for the refugees and ending the genocide. We were all emboldened by Katie-Jay and Gabriel’s call for “Humanity Over Politics.” Once they touched our lives, that can not be taken away.

From the Stauring family comes this message:

“The impact they made in people’s lives is immeasurable. They were exceptional parents, family members, and friends. They were the personification of the word “humanitarian” empowering people around the world — especially refugee communities affected by genocide. The essence of their mission was to create hope through various programs for these communities that ranged from soccer camps to educational programs with the goal to empower the communities they served. Gabriel and Katie-Jay were not bystanders to the injustices around the globe; they initiated change through action.

“The Stauring Family is grateful for the overwhelming expressions of love and support. Your messages are of comfort to our families during these difficult times. Let us all continue living in a community of mutual care in honor of Katie-Jay and Gabriel’s lives. Always in our hearts and minds, their memory will keep us strong.”

May all of us who are grieving, find the strength to turn heartbreak into action,

Pam Bruns, on behalf of the HRW Student Task Force

To learn more about iAct and to help go to: https://www.iact.ngo/

Gabriel met Adam in 2008 in refugee Camp Koukou in eastern Chad. Adam, a teacher, later decided he must go back to Darfur to his embattled home. Despite the dangerous journey, Adam returned to Chad to meet his great friend Gabriel in 2012. (Click to watch their reunion, 3:28)

Sky’s the Limit

Students at Palisades Charter High School form a 100 as part of their advocacy to transition their school to 100% renewable energy. (Click to watch, 0:17)

Dear STF Leaders and Teacher Advisors,

Check out this drone footage of Palisades Charter HS STFers collaborating with 5 classes to form a “100” to represent 100% renewable energy for Pali.

This demonstration was their November 5 advocacy event. Pali STF leaders are using this video to raise awareness at school, in the community and in their advocacy with school decision-makers.

We invite each chapter to share their creative activism to fight climate change!

Ever onward!
Pam, Kristin, Jordan, Brennie and Joel

Allies in Action: Part 2

Students at Palisades Charter High School stand in the shape of 100 representing efforts to transition their school to 100% renewable energy. Video by William Rene (click to watch, 0:17)

Dear STFers,

Thank you for demonstrating your commitment to human rights and fighting climate change by campaigning to transition your schools to 100% renewable energy. Your chalking and lights out events, petitions, presentations, photos and paper chains made the climate crisis something your schools and district decision-makers can no longer ignore!

Check out photos from Monday-Thursday and scroll to see Friday’s events!

In Solidarity,
Pam, Kristin, Jordan, Brennie and Joel

STFers at Animo Venice Charter High School pose outside a classroom during their “lights out” event, inviting teachers and students to commit to energy efficiency and sign their petition. Photo by Tina Rose
In front of their human rights mural, Carson High School STF students make the shape of 100 to highlight efforts to transition their school to 100% renewable energy. Photo by Brennie Dale
Partnering with members of La Fuerza and AVPA Art, Culver City High School’s STF students designed climate change awareness chalk murals on campus. Photo by Lila Braggard
STF Ambassadors at Los Osos High School created a paper chain out of their classmates’ hopes and fears around climate change and displayed it on campus. Photos by Raneem Trad
Valencia High School STF students drew climate phrases in chalk to raise awareness for STF’s campaign. Photo by Erin Kim

Allies in Action

STFers at Da Vinci Schools invite students and staff to participate in a school-wide climate chalking event on Thursday.
Photo by Lincoln Evans

November 1-5: Throughout the week, students across Southern California echoed the efforts of global leaders at COP26, asking their schools and districts to make commitments that will change the future of this planet. Raising awareness about the need for their schools to transition to 100% renewable energy, STFers made their voices heard through “lights out” initiatives for energy efficiency, letters to decision-makers, class presentations, writing climate messages in chalk and more.

Scroll to learn about some of these efforts:

At a faculty meeting on Wednesday, STF leaders at Animo Venice Charter HS ask teachers to support a school-wide “lights out” event. Photo by Tina Rose
Carson STF members present the campaign and ask classmates to sign their petition during Zero Period classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Photo by Adia Maghinay
New Roads Upper School participates in a “lights out” event on Thursday to raise awareness about the importance of energy conservation. STF leaders also developed and posted a checklist next to all classroom and office doors to remind students and teachers to turn off lights, electronics and AC units when leaving the room. Photo by Sean Brookes
Throughout the week, as students walk through Sierra Canyon School’s main stairwell, they are presented with climate facts, an ask to take action by signing a petition and an opportunity to share their thoughts about the need to transition their school to 100% renewable energy. Photo by Mariyah Jamali
STF Ambassadors at Wildwood use their campus TV system to share climate fast facts throughout the week.
Photo by Ever Trattner

Together We Rise!

STF members at Culver City HS wear their t-shirts to their weekly chapter meetings. Photo by Miguel Kubota

Across campuses, STFers are wearing their “Oceans Are Rising” t-shirts as part of their advocacy to transition their schools to 100% renewable energy.

Submit your selfie or group shot in solidarity today!

The Carson HS STF chapter next to a human rights mural painted by STFers in 2012. Photo by Brennie Dale
STF leader from Da Vinci Schools. Photo by Pam Evans
Palisades Charter HS STFers. Photo by Angelica Pereyra
STF leader from Santa Monica HS. Photo by Alexandra Raphling
STF team members Brennie Dale, Jordan Todd and Joel Medina. Photos by Evan Todd and Joel Medina

Demanding Climate Action

September 24, 2021: Young people around the world took to the streets to demand urgent action to avert disastrous climate change. STF members demonstrated on their campuses, hosted interactive tent events, collected signatures on their petitions to transition their schools to 100% renewable energy, wrote climate facts in chalk around campus and organized “green outs” with classmates.

Scroll to see photos of some STF events:

Combining Club Rush activities with their Global Climate Strike demonstration, Carson HS STFers organize a school-wide “green out”, display climate change fast facts, and create a space for students to share their commitment to climate action by making public pledges to limit their environmental impact. Photo by Suzanne Cheatham
Participants of Culver City HS STF’s interactive climate tent make climate pledges, sign their campus’ petition, and learn more about efforts to convert their campus to 100% renewable energy. Photo by Madisen Matsuura
Da Vinci Schools students wear green to show their support for climate action. Photo by Lincoln Evans
Hamilton HS STFers plan to share the photo of their “green out” with the yearbook committee to raise awareness on the climate crisis. Photo by Linda Hernandez
After showing the “Three Seconds” video during morning announcements, Los Osos HS STFers host an interactive table during lunch to engage their classmates in climate advocacy. Photo by Aidan Hsu
Palisades Charter High School completes a 4-day series of events to mark the Global Climate Strike: Monday, students write climate phrases in chalk at the campus entrance. At Wednesday’s Club Day, STF leaders explain the campaign to future members. During an interactive climate tent Thursday, classmates draw their favorite nature scene to help them connect personally to the climate crisis. STFers also wear QR codes that links to their petition to get more signatures. Friday, students and teachers participate in a “lights out” event to raise awareness about the importance of energy efficiency on campus. Photo by Cleo Waxman-Lee
Santa Monica HS STF leaders post a recruitment flyer around campus to educate classmates about the climate crisis.
Graphic designed by Matthew McAuliffe, Erin Vinson and Sally Wenger
Utilizing open spaces around campus, Sierra Canyon STFers write climate facts in chalk.
Photo by Kayla Okui

We Have a Voice, Let’s Use It!

“We Have a Voice, Let’s Use It!” video of STF in action. (Click to watch, 0:47)

Watch and Share Video with Your Networks!

STF chapters are participating in Fridays For Future’s Global Climate Strike this Friday, September 24. Get motivated by watching STF demonstration and education efforts in our NEW video!

Check out these actions STF chapters are organizing for Friday:

  • Culver City HS: Participants will visit an interactive climate tent at lunch to make climate change pledges, sign their campus’ petition, and learn about efforts to convert their campus to 100% renewable energy.
  • Da Vinci Schools: Teachers will show a PowerPoint to all classes that include climate crisis fast facts and actions students can take to limit their environmental impact.
  • Hamilton HS: Chapter members will wear green for a “green out”, share climate change information, and get petition signatures at lunch.
  • Palisades Charter HS: STFers are organizing a multi-day event leading up to Friday, including climate phrases written in chalk on sidewalks (see below), inviting students and staff to sign their campus’ petition, and asking teachers to participate in a “lights out” day by turning off their classroom lights.

Need more inspiration? Check out advocacy/demonstration ideas developed at STF’s Fall Leadership Workshop. Remember, human rights advocacy starts with the person next to you.

Don’t forget to register your event to show solidarity with Fridays For Future’s Global Climate Strike!

Palisades Charter HS STFers use chalk at the front entrance of their school to raise awareness about climate change. 
Photo by Nicole Andres

Oceans Are Rising, So Are We

Watch STF’s 2021 Fall Leadership Workshop. (Click to watch, 1:04:16)

September 11, 2021: STF leaders, teachers and guests renewed their Human Rights and the Climate Crisis Campaign at the 2021 Fall Leadership Workshop. “We join together every year to learn how to be the best human rights advocates possible,” said Madelyn Rahimi, “and this year our campaign is global and personal.”

“Our future is hotter summers, colder winters, drier droughts, more severe storms and floods and rising temperatures and sea levels,” explained Alisa Zhang, “but we can stand tall in front of climate change, and together drive it out of our beautiful home, planet Earth.”

Participants shared how to have conversations with family and friends about the climate crisis, including a role-play with a climate denier. Then the workshop went global and heard from a fellow youth climate activist from Uganda, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye.

“Voices from the Global South deserve to be heard… We are humans who do not deserve to suffer a crisis that we did not create… Climate change has forced me to risk my education and fight for everyone. I would rather fail my exams than fail my generation,” Hilda Flavia Nakabuye says at a United Nations Climate Change Conference (Click to watch, 5:21)

“Our campaign advocates for environmental justice because this climate crisis disproportionately impacts low-income and communities of color, not just in the United States, but even more in underdeveloped countries around the world,” said STF leader Angel Macario-Flores, underscoring the global impact of the work we do to fight climate change.

The workshop celebrated progress STF students have made since launching this campaign last spring. Advocating for 100% renewable energy at our schools is not just personal but has a global impact. In breakout sessions, attendees brainstormed future education and demonstration opportunities, and identified how we can make our voices heard this fall.

Next step includes STF support for the Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike by organizing events for Friday, September 24.

Register your event and take action to stop climate change.

We have the power to make change, and no effort is too small!

In solidarity,

The STF Team, Pam, Kristin, Nancy, Jordan, Brennie and Joey

Attendees of STF’s 2021 Fall Leadership Workshop on September 11, 2021. (Click to watch, 1:04:16)

Save the Date: Saturday, September 11

Youth protest climate change at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles during the Global Climate Strike, May 2019. 
Photo by Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

You are invited to join us at the 2021 Virtual STF Fall Leadership Workshop. Be a leader. Fight Climate Change.

RSVP today to receive the link to participate in the workshop!

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

Mark your calendars and RSVP today!

The planet needs you,
STF Team: Pam, Kristin, Nancy, Jordan, and Brennie

STF Goes Into Space

[Editors Note: This report was submitted by Alisa Zhang, STF leader at Los Osos HS, following her participation in the ASP2021 Symposium.]

July 23, 2021: Last Friday STF leaders Victoria Valdez and Alisa Zhang presented their Green Schools Campaign to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific at the ASP2021 Summer Symposium. The two-day international event focused on the connection of astronomy and climate change through various panel discussions. At the session titled “Advocating for Adopting Sustainability at Your Institution”, Victoria and Alisa were the only high school panelists.

The session started with presentations by scientists who spoke about the work they did at their own institutes–University of California, Riverside, and the Space Telescope Science Institute, respectively. Victoria and Alisa followed with a discussion of the progress made at their own high schools advocating for 100% renewable energy. Victoria relayed the difficulties of pushing through administrative barriers at her school and with the Los Angeles Unified School District, while Alisa gave four best practice tips to others wishing to transition their own institutes with examples from advocacy at her school district, Chaffey Joint Union High School District (CJUHSD). The student activists’ stories were well-received, and enthusiastic questions for them arose during the Q&A period. The audience even expressed the wish to involve their own youth relatives in climate activism and begin green energy transition movements at their local high schools.

This wonderful opportunity to talk to scientists worldwide is a great testimony to the hard work that all members and supporters of the STF put into the Green Schools Campaign this past year. As one scientist stated after the session, “Youth’s concern for the climate, and their tangible actions as a result, give hope to the scientific community.” Indeed, the STF serves to bring hope to the entire world in engaging and supporting passionate youths toward taking responsibility for their own futures.

By Alisa Zhang, STF Los Osos HS

STF leader Alisa Zhang speaks at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Summer Symposium.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.hrwstf.org/wordpress/2021-2022/