Equipping students with the confidence and competencies that allow them to civically engage with their local communities was the focus of a webinar organized by OCDE’s Educational Services team.
The virtual symposium — ”Celebrating Democracy in the OC: Supporting the State Seal of Civic Engagement” — was held on April 22 and brought together nearly 75 educators, law professionals and community leaders to discuss civic learning across the county.
With opening remarks by County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares, the webinar offered participants a chance to learn more about the State Seal of Civic Engagement as well as hear from many prominent, civic-minded community leaders.
Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda, who was recently named a Champion of Civics by the California Courts, was one of the event’s featured speakers. He addressed the importance of professional development for educators.
“Democracy is about building empathy and understanding,” said Matsuda. “There is a lot on the line for educators. Where are our students going to learn to debate in a civil way and disagree civilly if not in our public schools? It is up to us to teach them.”
OCDE Chief Academic Officer Jeff Hittenberger later led a question-and-answer session with Alvin Lee, executive director of GENup and a student advocate in the Fremont Unified School District. Lee shared his personal experience and the connection of the State Seal of Civic Engagement to youth advocacy and leadership.
“I think the most beautiful thing is when students speak up and become engaged,” said Lee. “Whether or not they agree or disagree on issues, as long as they are fundamentally engaged and advocating for their perspective, that is really critical.”
Other breakout sessions offered strategies on the following topics: global competence and civic pathways, teaching civic online reasoning, and civic learning integration by building community partnerships.
The event also included remarks from OCDE History/Social-Science/Civics Coordinator Dr. Marika Manos.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Linda Marks wrapped up the webinar, calling on educators to go back to their schools and think about a plan to ensure that every child in Orange County has the opportunity to engage in civics education and earn a seal on their high school diploma.
“We all stand together as partners, and we are the gatekeepers to ensuring the next generation will be equipped and knowledgeable in understanding our American democracy in order for it to continue and thrive,” said Judge Marks.
“One of the key ingredients to a republic is an educated and engaged citizenry,” she said. “Such participation does not only involve voting, but also serving the community and working constructively to make this a more perfect union.”
Those who were unable to attend can watch a video the forum below.