To honor the day-to-day efforts advocating for the betterment of humanity and their community, local Santa Monica High School and New Roads School students were recognized Tuesday during the Human Rights Educators USA special Youth Engagement Recognition.

Students from a number of Southern California high schools, including Samohi and New Roads scholars, were included in the recognition Tuesday, Dec. 10 on International Human Rights Day as a result of their participation in the Human Rights Watch’s LA-based Student Task Force.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the youth leadership-training program, which engages high school students and educators from the Los Angeles area and empowers them to advocate for human rights issues, has many different chapters spread throughout public and private campuses in Southern California.

Santa Monica High School STF co-president Josh Teichman joined after hearing about the organization in an engineering class last year as a sophomore.

“I felt it was a good way to get involved and help people who don’t have the fundamental rights or abilities that all students should have,” Teichman said in an interview.

“It’s not an actual award or trophy that we received,” he added, “but it feels really great to be recognized because I feel like a lot of the time teens don’t really get recognized for the impacts we’re making because we’re seen as too young or inexperienced to be knowledgeable on what we’re working on; so to get that recognition is really nice.”

Sean Brookes, New Roads’ Student Task Force liaison, agreed that the recognition is great news for the local students who have worked so hard and passionately during their time on the task force.

“Awards like these also bring more attention to the overall work that the Student Task Force is doing and hopefully that increases our ability to reach more people and have a greater impact,” Brookes said, mentioning New Roads’ students meet twice a week to plan activities and events that support the annual National Human Rights Watch Student Task Force campaign.

“I think all of us have a responsibility to help — help other people, help make the world a better place for all,” Brookes said. “A lot of conversation has been focused on our differences lately, but we’re all part of the same global community and none of us wants the world to be a horrible place. So this is our group’s way of doing what we can to make it better.”

Samohi’s chapter recently invited Human Rights Watch’s Tamar Chafets to host a presentation that discussed youth homelessness and some resources that are available to students experiencing a similar situation, according to Teichman, who said his chapter is now working on an initiative that would allow senior students to donate school supplies they no longer need so less fortunate children would no longer have to worry about finding the funds to cover the often pricey purchases every school year.

“There are a lot of kids who can’t afford the new things they need for school and there’s not really an outlet for teachers or educators to provide them with these things,” Teichman said, describing the multitude of ways the prospective program would benefit the local area and planet as a whole.

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