In recent years, there have been several proactive accelerators underway to ensure that basic human rights and equal access to benefits for all members of society are being met. The longstanding concept of social justice is being practiced ambitiously within a number of organizations and institutions, including labor rights and healthcare. It is a progressive initiative that has taken close-grained root in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“Students need to learn to recognize the importance of not only advocating for themselves, but for others within their community,” said Christina Soliz, a teacher and leadership advisor at Arleta High School. “Exposing our students to understanding their societal rights obligates them as community contributors to create personal commitments to support social justice rights for all and be responsible for maintaining ethically responsible behavior.”

How is your ethnic background benefiting students?

“I live near the same community where my students reside. Like most of the students at Arleta High, I am of Latin descent and am personally aware of the social issues affecting this community.”

What inspires your students to pursue a career within L.A.’s criminal justice system?

“We invite community partners, like the Los Angeles Police Department’s Explorer Program, to visit our school. Our students also attend a day-long conference that includes attorneys and police officers. This allows students to network with professionals and get involved in governmental services and non-profit community work, in hopes of exposing them to future job opportunities.”

How has your program changed in recent years?

“We have increased the amount of experiences our students can participate in that promote social justice through our lessons, mock trials and service learning opportunities. Leadership students are now required to become members of both our school’s site council and the city’s neighborhood council.”

How would you like to see your program advance?

“Our school can further develop our social justice program by continuing to connect with community resources that can offer internships to our students. I would like our school to include more of our alumni, who have moved on to become successful in various careers connected to social justice.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist. Some news articles she has authored are archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

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