Hannah Nguyen is the executive director of the EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014 conference. She is a student at the University of Southern California majoring in Sociology and double minoring in Spanish and Musical Theatre. She is also an aspiring high school social studies teacher who believes in revolutionary ideas over reform. This is why she currently fights for educational justice and equity as a mentor for high school students in Los Angeles public schools and a chapter leader and national co-organizer for Students United for Public Education.
Israel Muñoz is a 19-year-old student and activist from Chicago. Growing up in Chicago’s south side, he attended Chicago Public Schools and experienced firsthand the inequalities present in the educational system. During his senior year of high school, he founded the Chicago Students Union in order to provide a voice for students and demand representation in education policy-making. Last spring and summer, the CSU led marches, boycotts of standardized tests, and other demonstrations to protest the largest closure of public schools in US history and the following district-wide budget cuts. Israel is a graduate of Kelly High School in Chicago’s south side and a current student at Fordham University in New York City, studying International Politics and Economics.
Sekai Edwards is the co-founder of the Jefferson High School Student Union, and a strong voice and main organizer in the Portland Student Union. At Jefferson HS, the only majority African American high school in all of Oregon, she is President of her sophomore class and the Jefferson Representative to the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Counsel. She is also the recipient of the Young, Black, and Talented Award, and has openly talked about the struggles of the Black community in the educational system. She is often asked to represent the Black voice in Portland Public Schools and has stood up against the all white upper class school board about the attacks on the Black community. With the rest of the Portland Student Union, she recently bottom lined a walk-out which had over two hundred students walk out in protest to the abuse of their educational system. She consistently challenges the school board in there false statements of equity and social justice, and she is a strong activist committed to social change.
Tre Murphy is a youth organizer with the Baltimore Algebra Project, and a national organizer with the Alliance for Educational Justice. As a high school student, Tre believes that youth have the ability to effectively raise their voices to the adults making decisions about their lives. Tre has traveled all across the country and internationally to Israel, equipping young people with the knowledge and tools to push back against the school to prison pipeline and control their own education. Growing up, Tre came from a less fortunate, (some might even call) poor family but despite the many obstacles Tre has faced, his commitment to social justice, and the lives he hopes to change through his work, is what drives him to keep fighting everyday. Tre’s famous line that he uses anytime he gives a speech is, “The hope and reassurance that somewhere, out there, lies a bigger, better, and more brighter tomorrow and that it does not end with today. That’s my real goal and that’s this country’s last hope in an age where educational and political leaders have failed our youth.” Today, Tre still continues his work in hopes that one day this fight will be over and he will have left a world of peace and prosperity to the next generation.
Kristin Towkaniuk is a junior at Science Park High School located in Newark, NJ. She was elected President of the Newark Students Union. The organization was founded in November 2012, but is still an effective player in the education community surrounding Newark Public Schools. Through the work of the Newark Students Union (NSU), students were able to organize a city wide walkout in the biggest city in the state of New Jersey. The organization also held a Mayoral Forum, Boycott of the school district, and participated in the National Day of Action with the American Federation of Teachers. The NSU continues to fight to put an end to state control of their school system and proper funding for the students of Newark to excel. Kristin is applying to be the student representative on the Newark Board of Education and wants to use the position to make sure that students are never left out of the political process.
Cauldierre McKay is a Senior at Classical High School and the Executive Board Member of the Providence Student Union. He has been involved with the PSU for two years. He joined when an educational opportunity to meet a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee arose. Here is where he learned about the awesome powers students that organize can have. He has been a large spokesman in the “More Than a Test Score” campaign. He has spoken at multiple creative actions such as Take the Test (where 50 adults took the high stakes test and 60% wouldn’t have been able to graduate), State of the Student (where students talked about what was wrong in their schools from their POV), and Zombie March (where he yelled “No Education, No Life” as nearly 100 ‘zombies’ lost their creativity and died because of bubble tests). When not organizing his peers for better schools or speaking truth, he likes to go on early morning sight seeing trips around Providence called “AM Adventures”. He is also a part of the Track&Field team and Rhode Island’s national debate team.
Kate Barnes is an organizer with the Portland Student Union. She has been involved in activism, especially preserving student and youth rights, for the majority of her high school career. She is a Junior at Cleveland High School and on top of her involvement with the Portland Student Union, she is avid about the outdoors and the arts. Recently she’s begun an internship with the ACLU of Oregon where she’s working on a project outlining student rights and making knowledge of these rights accessible for all Oregon students. Recent actions she’s played a role in are the Opt Out Campaign against standardized testing, and the Schools Portland Students Deserve, a campaign to support the teachers as they negotiate a new contract. Kate believes in the potential of youth to change the world, may our generation harness the revolution for equality.
Zoe La Du is an organizer for the Portland Student Union and the president of her high school’s QSA. The Portland Student Union started back in November of 2012 and fights against the inequities of the Portland Public School District. Some of the biggest campaigns she’s helped organize were the Opt Out Campaign, a fight against standardized testing, and the campaign in support of Portland Teachers while they fight for a fair contract. She’s a strong believer in a revolution led by the students, for the students.
Mariam Khan is a current student at Santa Clara University, studying Political Science and Public Health. She is an educational activist who celebrates youth voice and empowerment. In high school, she was appointed by the Mayor of San Jose as City-Wide Youth Commissioner for the San Jose Youth Commission. She has planned three annual city-wide Youth Conferences for high school students in the Bay Area with the purpose of promoting civic engagement amongst youth. She has led many workshops teaching youth how to get involved in the local government decision-making process. At budget meetings, she has consistently fought for City funding of youth services. Her goal has always been to place youth priorities at the top of the agenda. Today she aspires to be a community health advocate and seeks to get involved in health care policy.