13 OC schools honored and considered models for civic engagement

Corona Del Mar High School students held their Model United Nations conference on Zoom earlier this year.

More than half of the schools recognized by the California Courts system for engaging their students in civics, particularly during the pandemic, are in Orange County. 

Twenty-five schools and one teacher received the 2022 Civic Learning Award, co-sponsored by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. 

The chief justice announced this year’s award recipients in a video broadcast on the Power of Democracy’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The award honors programs, projects, classes and individuals engaging students in civic education. The process inspires young people to develop the knowledge, skills and commitments to interact effectively with others, improve their communities and the larger society, and participate in democracy. 

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye announced the top honors.

Corona Del Mar High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Doig Intermediate School in the Garden Grove Unified School District join Tarpey Elementary School in Clovis Unified School District in earning the Awards of Excellence. 

Corona Del Mar High School’s Speech and Debate/Model United Nations team has become an outlet for students to become involved in their school and community. The members pride themselves on being a forum for all students to improve their speaking skills and become more “politically informed and internationally conscious.” The team of 80 students meets weekly in the evenings to develop and enhance their speaking skills.

Doig Intermediate School’s Action Committee opens the invitation for all students to engage in community service. The students look at their own communities and analyze issues within them. Using their research, writing and speaking skills, they bring attention to these problems and determine the ways they can be solved — with students as part of the solution. For the second half of the year, the members collaborate to campaign on the issues they agree on. 

“We are pleased that three GGUSD schools were among the elite schools selected from across California for exemplary civic learning programs,” Board of Education Trustee Walter Muneton said. “Our students take pride in contributing to their communities and even amid the adversity brought on by the pandemic, they still made that a priority.”

Anaheim High School in the Anaheim Union High School District earned an Award of Distinction along with Los Altos Elementary School and Orange Grove Middle School from the Hacienda La Puente School District in Los Angeles County. 

Next, seven schools in Orange County joined campuses in five other counties in receiving the Awards of Merit: 

  • Cypress High School (Anaheim Union High School District)
  • Garden Grove High School (Garden Grove Unified School District)
  • Loara High School (Anaheim Union High School District)
  • Magnolia High School (Anaheim Union High School District)
  • Santiago Charter Middle School (Orange Unified School District)
  • Santiago High School (Garden Grove Unified School District)
  • Sycamore Junior High School (Anaheim Union High School District)

In total, 54 California schools submitted applications, many for the first time. 

“Students, teachers, and administrators at these award-winning schools show an extraordinary dedication to civics — whether providing forums for healthy debate, campaigning on community issues, or partnering with local groups to effect change,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye. “The future of our democracy depends on engaged students like these — our future leaders — who understand their government and are deeply invested in the health of their communities.”

The Champion of Civics Award winner was teacher Joel Snyder from Animo Pat Brown Charter High School in Los Angeles. He’s considered a thought-leader, an innovator, risk-taker and a champion of civics. 

The California Courts system also acknowledged Woodcrest Elementary in the Fullerton School District along with two other schools in Fresno County with the Spirit of Liberty Award, which focuses on equity and inclusion in civics education. 

Finally, Los Coyotes Elementary and John F. Kennedy High schools in Orange County received honorable mentions. 

The Civic Learning Awards were launched in 2011 and are part of the Chief Justice’s Civic Learning Initiative, which is supported by statewide partners to improve civic education in California. 

For more information about the program, or to see a complete list of the winners, visit www.courts.ca.gov/civiclearningaward.htm.