The Anaheim Union High School District has announced that over 1,900 AUHSD students will earn the new State Seal of Civic Engagement, which encourages students to become active participants in democracy.
To earn the seal, students must demonstrate excellence in civic learning, participation in civics-related projects, contributions to their community, and an understanding of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and the American democratic system.
“The future of our democracy depends on a knowledgeable and actively engaged citizenry,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond. “With this new seal, we hope to prepare all students with an empathetic concern for others, a deep understanding of democracy, and the civic engagement skills needed to contribute to the welfare of their local communities, the state, and the country.”
“We know that when young people learn to speak up about issues of concern to them, when they learn who is responsible for what, they can be among the strongest change agents in our communities,” said AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda.
Dr. Stephanie Henry, AUHSD’s Director of Assessment and Evaluation, adds, “To my knowledge, AUHSD will be among the state leaders in awarding the State Seal of Civic Engagement to graduating seniors, with almost 40% of 2021 graduates qualifying. I am proud that AUHSD has one of the highest bars to qualify,” which includes:
- Demonstrate a competent understanding of U.S. and California constitutions; functions and governance of local governments; tribal government structures and organizations; the role of the citizen in a constitutional democracy; and democratic principles, concepts, and processes;
- Participate in one or more informed civic engagement project(s) that address real-world problems and require students to identify and inquire into civic needs or problems, consider varied responses, take action, and reflect on efforts;
- Demonstrate civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions through self-reflection; and
- Exhibit character traits that reflect civic-mindedness and a commitment to positively impact the classroom, school, community, and/or society.
Dr. Henry would also like to recognize all the work of our AUHSD teachers: “Because of the meaningful learning opportunities they have provided our students, we were able to hold a very high bar to award these seals.”
A civically-engaged district
The State Seal of Civic Engagement is a perfect fit for AUHSD since it has a history of being at the forefront of civic learning and has been recognized for its students and programs focused on civic engagement.
Six AUHSD schools have now received the Civic Learning Awards of Excellence, the top state award in civics education, in the last three years. The Civic Learning Awards are co-sponsored by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, head of the state’s judicial branch, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to honor outstanding achievements in civics education.
This year, Katella High School and Walker Junior High School earned the Civic Learning Award of Excellence, the highest honor. Last year, Savanna High School and South Junior High School also earned the Civic Learning Award of Excellence, and two years ago, Cypress High School and Lexington Junior High School earned the highest honor. A total of 28 schools in AUHSD have earned Civic Learning Awards in the categories of Excellence and Distinction since the program began nine years ago.
AUHSD is also home to 15 designated California Democracy Schools, more than any school district in California. This designation means that a school has institutionalized civic learning, through projects like TED Talks or Capstones, and all students participate in that learning/project.
AUHSD student and National Soapbox Speech Winner, Viren Mehta, is grateful for the District’s efforts in providing opportunities and platforms for civic engagement: “AUHSD has allowed me to grow as an individual and an active citizen in society by providing me with opportunities to speak out and create change. I was given the opportunity to participate in the National Soapbox Speech Competition, eventually culminating in a trip to Washington D.C. to present my speech on global warming.” In addition, he praises the District for understanding the importance of student voice and participation: “Later, I was given the opportunity to get my own resolution on global warming passed, a testament to how student voice is becoming increasingly important and should be valued.”
Alexis Arteaga, a senior at Kennedy High School, also appreciates how the Anaheim Union High School District has not only provided multiple platforms for students, but has supported students in taking action and changing policy: “I have been given the opportunity to engage in civic action and tackle issues head on by trying to get policy implemented. We have been supported by the District Board, the Orange County Department of Education, and Superintendent Matsuda. This outpour of support has strengthened our pursuit for a better tomorrow.”
“Our civic-engagement work with our young people reaches across the curriculum, reinforcing their identity, connecting their passions with classroom content, and making learning more relevant and meaningful to them,” AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda stated.
“We are dedicated to making this investment in our students to help develop an educated, robust, vital citizenry for our state, our nation, and beyond. And we are excited and encouraged by the results and what they mean for the future of our nation.”
If you are interested in learning more about AUHSD civic learning, please read Superintendent Matsuda’s article published in Education Week focusing on student voice and civic engagement.
About the Anaheim Union High School District
The Anaheim Union High School District serves approximately 30,000 students in the communities of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma, and Stanton. For more information about AUHSD visit our website, subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and listen and subscribe to the AUHSD Future Talks Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts