WATCH: Orange County youth engage and inspire at OC Civic Learning Celebration

Last month, teams of students and educators across Orange County gathered at the OC Holocaust Education Center in Newport Beach for the annual OC Civic Learning Celebration.

Organized by the Orange County Department of Education, the event aimed to promote and empower civic engagement among youths, encouraging participation from students, educators and administrators across the K-12 system to foster a culture of active citizenship and responsibility. 

The evening was hosted by Dr. Marika Manos, OCDE’s history and social science manager, and Shelby Rommelfanger, the department’s coordinator of advancing learning. 

The celebration, which took place Friday, April 25, brought together local dignitaries and experts who are developing criteria, identifying pathways and designing curricula for students to earn the State Seal of Civic Engagement. Guests included OCDE Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ramon Miramontes, California Courts Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero and Presiding Superior Court of California Judge Maria Hernandez. 

“Civics education is so important because it helps develop critical thinking for our youth,” Judge Hernandez said. “We want to make sure that we have our students, our future, our country understand what democracy is and where it came from, and this is the best way to do it.” 

Empowered youth

Students from Panorama Elementary in the Orange Unified School District presented at the 2024 OC Civic Learning Celebration.
Students from Panorama Elementary in the Orange Unified School District presented at the 2024 OC Civic Learning Celebration.

The event also provided opportunities for the adults in the room to learn from youth, gaining insights into the issues they’re witnessing in their own communities and the innovative projects they are leading to address these challenges. 

“Civic projects are extremely important because it really helps students become more aware of issues that are specifically going on in their community,” Leticia, a high school student from the Anaheim Union High School District, said. “It also gives you an opportunity to tackle specific issues that you really care about.” 

Following the event, the high school district earned three 2024 Civic Learning Awards on on May 1. Sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and California Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero, these awards celebrate schools providing top-notch civic education and engagement opportunities.

OCDE’s Media Services team captured a few highlights of the 2024 OC Civic Learning Celebration in the video above.