Weekly roundup: Local teachers are among OC Register’s 125 most influential, students spread acts of kindness, and more

GGUSD Shannon Bennett 2
Santiago High School teacher Shannon Bennett received the Linda Kearns Community Prevention Award from OCDE during a surprise classroom visit on October 2022.

Two impactful OC educators and four student leaders were hand-picked for the Orange County Register’s 125 most influential people list of 2023.

The OC Register annually selects distinguished figures, community members and others who have made a difference, highlighting their contributions throughout the county.

Featured among the first-time honorees is Shannon Bennett, a health teacher at Santiago High School in Garden Grove and advisor for the campus’s Friday Night Live club — an initiative led by OCDE that encourages young people to help lead alcohol and drug prevention campaigns alongside other community service initiatives.

“She is a tireless advocate for prevention and goes above and beyond her job as a teacher to impact the health and safety of the young people in her classroom and beyond,” said Stacy Deeble-Reynolds, OCDE’s director of student initiatives, partnerships and events. “In October 2022, our team presented her with the Linda Kearns Community Prevention Award on behalf of the Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Network. It is wonderful to see her continue to receive well-deserved accolades and recognition.”

The Register highlighted trailblazing students like Laguna Beach High School football player Bella Rasmussen, who became the first girl in the state to score two touchdowns in a game. Bella was joined by Northwood High School senior Kristen Lew, a political advocacy committee chair and founder of a teen mental health podcast.

Rounding out the group of distinguished student leaders were Henry Hill, an award-winning University High School student and advocate for braille accessibility in classic texts, and Jiin Yun, a senior at Orange County School of the Arts who authored a children’s book to teach kids about smarter recycling.

Buena Park School District teacher Leslee Milch was also recognized by the publication for creating the Read to Me program. For the past 25 years, the longtime educator has hosted a weekly story time for hundreds of children during summer break.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be recognized as one of the OC Register’s 2023 Most Influential  for simply doing what I love — reading to children and serving the community,” Milch said. “I am also grateful and thrilled that teachers are recognized as part of such an inspiring group of individuals.”

A complete list of the OC Register’s 125 Most Influential People of 2023 can be found on the OC Register website.

Here are the other stories we’ve been following this week:

  • From collecting presents to visiting older adults living in senior care centers, students and educators spread cheer last month by giving back to their communities and sharing acts of kindness during the holiday season.
  • The Philharmonic Society of Orange County recently donated a new French horn to a Mission Viejo student as part of its “Strike Up the Band” grant program that awards musical instruments as well as teaching materials to local schools.
  • Elementary school students will be required to learn cursive writing starting this year under a new bill by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva that was signed by Gov. Newsom in the fall.
  • A county-run juvenile detention center in Santa Ana will soon be converted into a corrections campus with additional services and housing to support detained youth and those transitioning out of the center.
  • More than 250 organizations will receive $150 million in grants to strengthen mental health services and programs for kids through Gov. Newsom’s statewide Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.