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Action Civics and Service Learning

If service learning happens at all, it is often disconnected from civic learning.  How can we strengthen the natural links between these two forms of learning?  Recent research suggests we might need to think “outside the box.”  For example, one recent study (ex: Laura Padilla Walker’s BYU study for found that students developed a stronger civic disposition simply as a result of offering help to perfect strangers.  Other research has found that service learning can promote civic engagement when students are prompted to explore the underlying inequities that give rise to the needs for service in the first place.


Action Civics helps educators to uncover these links by starting from the students’ perspective. Students begin by identifying issues that matter to them and then they identify groups and strategies for addressing these issues. Teachers need tools to help students make these connections and to help establish meaningful or “critical” service learning opportunities that support a reciprocal relationship between the students doing the service and the community being served.

The Panelists

Alexis Bucknam

Utah Campus Compact & Doctoral Student, University of Utah Department of Educational Leadership and Policy

Alexis has worked in higher education and community engagement for nearly two decades. Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of Utah Campus Compact, she served as the Director of Student Programs with the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to working in the Blum Center she held two other positions at Cal as a program coordinator in the Public Service Center and coordinating all the Academic Dean Searches for the university. She also spent two years directing student activities for Mills College and served a year in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps as a Team Leader. She earned her B.S. Management from the University of Utah (U.), M.A. Counseling in Student Affairs at UCLA, and is currently a student in the Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration program in the Educational Leadership & Policy department at the U.

Cameron Diehl

Executive Director, Utah League of Cities and Towns

Cameron became Executive Director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns in October 2017. He started his career at ULCT as a legislative intern in 2006 while at the University of Utah and returned to ULCT after graduating from the University of Colorado School of Law. He has served on the Utah State Bar Civics Education Committee. In high school, he was a member of the Murray City Youth Government. He now oversees the ULCT Local Officials Day at the Capitol for youth council members that he attended as a teenager.

Sidney and Bill Price

Specialists, JustServe

William D. (Bill) Price, a graduate of BYU, had a 33-year career in business and education. Sidney Howk (Sid) Price, also a BYU graduate, has been active in many community organizations and church-related endeavors. They are the parents of three children and 14 grandchildren. In December 2011 the Prices accepted an assignment in San Jose, California to help pilot a community service initiative called JustServe. In January 2013 JustServe was introduced in Denver and Dallas, and thereafter was gradually introduced throughout the United States and Canada. JustServe in now beginning in Mexico, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom and Australia. Prices currently serve as the LDS Church’s JustServe specialists and continue to give support and training for JustServe representatives wherever it has been introduced.

Burton Rojas, Esq.

Development Director, Latinos in Action

Burton was born and raised in the great San Joaquin Valley in central California. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors degree in Education and earned his law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law. He has worked as a juvenile probation officer, the Coordinator of Diversity and Student Services at Pepperdine University School of Law, as an executive assistant to a renowned film writer/director/actor, as an immigration attorney, and most recently as the Director of Development for Latinos In Action.

Andrew Wilkes, Respondent

Generation Citizen

Andrew Wilkes serves as Generation Citizen’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, where he leads GC’s thought leadership, coalition building, and policy initiatives as a part of the national leadership team. Andrew comes to this role with nearly ten years of experience in public policy, advocacy, and community organizing, particularly among congregations and community-based organizations. Prior to joining GC in 2017, he served as the executive director of the Drum Major Institute, a social change organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In that capacity, he executed public affairs events in Dallas, TX and Washington D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act; established the Beloved Community Initiative, a national resource on spirituality and social justice for faith communities; and relaunched the nationally renowned Marketplace of Ideas Forum – a forum for bringing policy ideas to an audience of changemakers, policy professionals, and nonprofit leaders.

As a Senior Grants Manager at The American Red Cross of Greater New York, he worked with elected officials, public agencies, and community stakeholders to administer a $45 million budget for Superstorm Sandy recovery in New York state and Connecticut. Before that, he worked at Habitat for Humanity – New York City, where he mobilized 140 faith communities across the city to serve, donate, and advocate for affordable housing.

Andrew is a graduate of Hampton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, the CORO public affairs fellowship, and is a doctoral candidate in political science at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He also serves on the board of directors for the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State and Habitat for Humanity – New York State.

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Moderator: Stephen Masyada (also a keynote)

Controversial Topics and Current Events


Nothing prepares young people for civic life more effectively than discussing controversial issues and current events. But in these highly polarized times, facilitating such discussions can be downright uncomfortable for teachers and administrators. Some topics are so fraught with conflict that it’s hard to know where to start the conversation or how to make sure that all students feel safe speaking their minds.  But with the right scaffolding and lesson plans, such discussions can promote a broad range of learning outcomes, including literacy, listening skills, and thoughtful dialogue. 

This session gives teachers the tools and the confidence they might need to resolve the political classroom paradox: balancing the need to facilitate nonpartisan discussion with the need to prepare students to participate in inherently partisan political life.

The Panelists

Chelsie Acosta

ELD and Latinos in Action Educator, Glendale Middle School

Chelsie serves on the Board of ACLU Utah. She is currently ex-officio of the Utah National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME), the NEA/SLEA Social Justice Trainer of Trainers, member of the UEA Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, NEA Social Justice in Education and Teaching Tolerance blogger, NEA Hispanic Caucus Western Director and active with Racially Just Utah. Chelsie was a finalist for the NEA Social Justice National Activist Educator of the Year 2017. Chelsie is currently a grad student in the University of Utah, in the Education, Culture and Society Department. She is a social justice activist locally and nationally centered on institutional racism, immigration and the School to Prison Pipeline. 

Steven Camicia, PhD

Associate Professor of Social Studies Education, Utah State University

Steven's research focuses on curriculum and instruction in the areas of perspective consciousness, queer theory, and social justice as they relate to critical democratic education. He is a former elementary school teacher.

James M. Curry, PhD

Assistant Professor of political science at the University of Utah; Co-Director of the Utah Chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network

Curry’s research focuses on U.S. politics and policymaking processes, especially the U.S. Congress. He has been teaching courses on American governance to undergraduates for almost 10 years. Curry received his Ph.D. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland in 2011, and previously worked on Capitol Hill in the offices of Congressman Daniel Lipinski and the House Appropriations Committee.

Roderic Land, PhD

Special Assistant to President and Chief Diversity Officer at Salt Lake Community College

Having received his PhD in Educational Policy, Organization, & Leadership, Dr. Land committed his life and work to higher education. As a scholar activist, he has insisted on bridging the gap between theory and practice. His hands-on approach to communities broadly defined, is paramount and largely significant to his research and social agenda.  As such, he has taught at the University of Utah in the Department of Education, Culture & Society & The Ethnic Studies Program.

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Moderator: Peter Levine (also a keynote)


Historical Literacies for Citizenship: Preparing Hearts and Minds for Civic Engagement

In his forthcoming book, Historical Literacies for Citizenship: Preparing Hearts and Minds for Civic Engagement, Dr. Nokes contends that civic engagement requires knowledge, skills, and dispositions. He argues that teachers can reach these three types of objectives concurrently by having students conduct historical investigations of case studies involving civic action of various types. The book includes all of the materials needed for teachers to conduct twelve historical investigations related to: looking out for the rights of others, collaborating with like-minded individuals, compromise, getting along with political adversaries, demonstrating disapproval, and civil disobedience. The book will be released around the summer of 2019.

Featured Presenter

Jeffery D. Nokes, PhD

Associate Professor, History Department, Brigham Young University

Jeffery D. Nokes has a PhD in teaching and learning from the University of Utah. A former secondary teacher, his research focuses on history instruction, historical literacy, teacher preparation, and civic engagement. He wrote Building Students’ Historical Literacies: Learning to Read and Reason with Historical Texts and Evidence and co-authored Explorers of the American West: Mapping the World through Primary Documents.

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Introduced by: Kaye Rizzuto, a teacher at Elk Ridge Middle School.  Kaye teaches US History and AP Human Geography and is the President of the Utah Council for the Social Studies. 


Institutionalizing Civic Engagement: What Can K-12 Learn from Community Colleges?

Over 450 college presidents and chancellors across the country made public promises to create Campus Civic Action Plans. Salt Lake Community College completed its Civic Action Plan in the spring of 2017 and kicked off the implementation of the plan with the first college-wide day of service. Attendees of this session will learn about SLCC’s process in creating its Campus Civic Action Plan, explore the components of the plan, and hear about current implementation efforts.

Featured Presenter

Sean Crossland

Director, Thayne Center for Service & Learning, Salt Lake Community College

Sean obtained his BA in Psychology from Iowa Wesleyan College, his MA in Community Leadership from Westminster College, and completed the Leadership, Organizing, and Action Program from the Harvard Kennedy Executive School. Sean is currently pursuing his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah and will earn the Higher Education Teaching Specialist and Community College Teaching certificate. Sean has been teaching undergraduate and graduate community engaged learning at a community college, a research-intensive flagship university, and a private liberal arts college for over 5 years. Prior to working in higher education, Sean was a counselor in a wilderness therapy program for adjudicated youth, managed a day service for people with disabilities, and worked in a group-home treatment setting.

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Introduced by: Martha Hales Ball. Mrs. Ball taught History for 26 years in the secondary public schools of Utah and California. In 2000 she was chosen Outstanding Teacher of United States History by the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1997 the Utah State Office of Education joined a new national initiative called the 3Rs(  Rights, Responsibility, Respect).  Mrs. Ball became the project director and raised the money for the program. The purpose was to educate teachers and students about what the First Amendment meant regarding teaching about religion; to learn to debate differences and come to mutual understanding. 


Multicultural Perspectives on Civics Education

Utah’s increasing diversity points to the urgent need to improve equity in education more generally and to make civics education more relevant and meaningful for all students. But contemporary political debates along with school reforms can make civic life feel inaccessible or even alienating for many students of color. For students from ethnic minority communities – as for all students -- it is critical to create a democratic classroom environment where all are heard and diverse viewpoints are respected. —as a microcosm of ideal political life. Such a pedagogy creates a safe or “brave” space for frank discussion of difficult topics, many of which disproportionately impact diverse students (such as bullying, microaggressions, benign neglect, bystanding, and implicit or explicit racism). 


For some groups the economic barriers to civic involvement are considerable. Refugees and other newcomers may face additional cultural obstacles to civic participation, for example the fear that getting too involved in their new culture will erode their connection to their home culture. These are thorny challenges, but with the right tools, all teachers can make important strides forward in addressing these issues. 


Leaders from some of Utah’s diverse communities will share their own observations about how K-12 classrooms can help prepare all young people for civic life, and beyond the classroom: What can schools and school boards do to support a more inclusive environment where all students can succeed. 

The Panelists

Kathy Abarca

Executive Director, Racially Just Utah

Originally from Los Angeles, California, Kathy graduated magna cum laude from Westminster College with a bachelors degree in Sociology and a bachelors degree in Justice Studies. After graduation she was Racial Justice Associate at the ACLU of Utah where she helped establish Racially Just Utah and served as coordinator.  She then spent time at Pepperdine Law School and the Housing Rights Center in Los Angeles working on housing discrimination research, advising self-help clients, and writing articles on the legal vulnerabilities of domestic violence victims. She is now back in Utah and serving as the first Executive Director for Racially Just Utah. She is also in a Master of Social Work program studying child welfare and Master of Public Administration Program studying nonprofit management and public policy analysis.

Forrest Crawford, PhD

Professor of Secondary Education, Department of Teacher Education, Weber State University

A native of Oklahoma, Dr. Crawford has worked in the state of Utah since 1972, earning his bachelors from Weber State College in 1975, his Masters from the University of Utah Graduate School of Social Work in 1977, and his Doctorate in Education Administration from Brigham Young University in 1990. Forrest founded Utah’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Commission, helped to establish the Utah Coalition for the Advancement of Minorities in Higher Education, and co-founded the Ogden Alumnae (Now greater Salt Lake) chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a professional society for African American Women. He served as board chair on several non-profit/NGO's like Northern Utah HIV/AIDS Coalition, Disability Law Center, Utah Humanities Council, Utah Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters-Education Division and is currently serving on the board of Utah's American Civil Liberties Union. Dr. Crawford has presented numerous papers internationally and received many awards, and was recently invited to lecture at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.  He also completed a six-year elected term as Secretary General to the International Society for Teacher Education.

Muhammed Shoayb Mehtar

Imaam, Central Masjid, Salt Lake

A regular guest speaker at BYU, U of UT, UVU, and other local colleges, Imaam Muhammed has been a part of the yearly interfaith prayer session at the Utah Senate, and has repeatedly represented the Muslims of Salt Lake as an honored guest of Governor Herbert. He is active in presenting Islam in a mild and moderate manner.  His interviews can be seen on television, heard on radio, and online at, where visitors can find audio recitations and tafseers (interpretation of Quran) from the Holy month of Ramadaan. Imaam Mehtar holds a degree in interpersonal and organizational communication. He has also memorized the Quran and has a degree in sharia from Arabia Islamia, Johannesburg, South Africa. Through his writings, Imaam Mehtar has contributed to the discussion of issues relating to Muslims in the West; the need for continual intercultural and interfaith dialogue; personal and social reform, protecting the environment from continual abuse, and social justice. No matter what the issue, Imaam Mehtar is ardent about presenting contemporary Islamic thinking without letting go of core Islamic concepts and principles.

Eruera "Ed" Napia

Director of Sacred Paths Youth Services and Special Projects, Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake

Eruera Napia is a member of the Te Whiu and Te Popoto  Hapu (subtribes) of the Ngapuhi Iwi (Tribe) from the Tai Tokerau District of Aotearoa-New Zealand.  He currently serves as the Director of Sacred Paths Youth Services and Special Projects  at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake. In that capacity he also works with the Utah Indian Health Advisory Board, the Title VI Indian Education Program,  the Native American Research Internship Program in the University Health Sciences, and the American Indian Resource Center Advisory Board.   He is one of the founding members of Community Faces of Utah, works with the Center of Clinical and Translational Science at the U of U, and is on the National Patients, Public and Providers Work Group for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program.  He is also a clay artist.

O. Fahina Tavake-Pasi

Executive Director for the National Tongan American Society (NTAS)-Utah

NTAS programs have assisted thousands of Pacific Islanders achieve healthy life behaviors, become citizens, increase civic engagement, obtain higher educational opportunities, and cultural appreciation & preservation. Fahina worked 10 years for the University of Utah as an Academic Advisor with focus on Pacific Islanders to successfully navigate higher education. Her degrees include AA in Aeronautics, BA in Sociology, MS in Health Promotion & Education. She received various leadership awards from local, state and national organizations. Born in Tatakamotonga, Tonga,  Fahina grew up in San Mateo, California and currently resides in Holladay, Utah with her family.

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Moderator: Judi Hilman, Policy Catalyst (Conference Planner)


My Story Matters: Civic Learning Through Personal Narrative

This session features My Story Matters, a 501c3 charity organization, that helps everyday heroes to craft, record, and share their own life story.  By engaging individuals in this process, My Story Matters promotes healing, inspires hope and cross-cultural understanding, and cultivates civic disposition and a deeply rooted sense of personal character and purpose.  Our vision is to help communities to draw out and embrace the unique stories of all individuals, helping them to reflect on and celebrate their own personal journeys and through that process become more united in compassion, understanding, and empathy.

Featured Co-Presenters

Amy Chandler

Executive Director, My Story Matters

Amy is the mother of 4 beautiful children and wife to one amazing man! She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in Recreation Management Youth Leadership. She has worked in event planning and program development for multiple adult and youth programs. She is a woman passionate about story and the impact your personal narrative can have on your life. She is the founder and President of the non-profit foundation, My Story Matters.  She is a certified LifeStory Transformation coach and LOVES sharing the mission of the power of conscious creation and helping others realize their dreams.  She loves spending time with friends, traveling and exploring our beautiful world, and working on worthwhile projects to benefit her family, friends, and community.

Dr. Amy Miner

Director of Elementary Professional Development, Alpine School District

Dr.  Miner taught elementary school in Jordan School District before going on to receive her Masters degree in children’s literature at BYU and her PhD in curriculum instruction from Utah State University.  Dr. Miner worked at BYU for seven years as the social studies methods professor and is now full time at Alpine School District responsible for elementary professional development, integrated curriculum, and research. For over 20 years, Dr. Miner has written curriculum for school districts and private entities in Colorado, Texas, New York, and Utah and is excited to be a part of the My Story Matters team. 

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Moderator: Jefferey Nokes, BYU. 


News Literacy: Tools and Strategies

A recent Pew Research Center study finds that today’s young people are less interested in the news than earlier generations. They are also much more likely to consume news online or in social media spaces. This has obvious advantages. For example, “new media” consumers generally enjoy unlimited, 24/7 access to a seemingly infinite number of sources, including traditional news outlets; they can easily share content with friends; comment on, ask questions about and re-frame coverage; and, hopefully, use their access to credible information as the basis for digital activism, self-publishing and other forms of civic engagement.

For every advantage of this information landscape, however, there is a downside: “fake news” and other forms of misinformation; evermore subtle forms of advertising, sometimes mixed in with real news; incessant distraction and information overload, increasingly convincing digital fakes and algorithms that suggest and curate content in problematic ways. Fortunately for social studies teachers, there are a number of quality pedagogical tools, lesson plans, and discussion groups devoted to cultivating news literacy in the information age. This panel features some of those tools and strategies along with perspectives from leaders in Utah’s news media.

The Panelists

Kevin Coe, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Communications, University of Utah

​Professor Coe’s research and teaching focus on the interaction of American political discourse, news media, and public opinion. He is the author of more than 40 academic articles and chapters, and the coauthor, with David Domke, of The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. He is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network and the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

Lois Collins

Reporter and Columnist, Deseret News

Lois is a reporter and columnist for the Deseret News. While she writes primarily on family issues for the national and news sections, she also writes a biweekly column and her work appears often in the feature section. Collins spent most of her childhood in Idaho Falls and graduated a long time ago from the University of Utah with a degree in communications. She's won numerous national, regional and local writing awards, but is most proud of the fact she once stepped out of a perfectly good airplane in midair for a story. She and her husband, Beaux, have two nearly grown daughters and live in Salt Lake City. She uses her middle initial because there are a LOT of Lois Collinses out there.

Cristina Flores

Reporter and Anchor, KUTV Channel 2

Cristina Flores has been a TV journalist in Utah for 23 years. Currently, she is a reporter/anchor at KUTV Channel 2. Cristina has reported on a wide range of topics and her job has taken her all over Utah,  other parts of the country and even the world. Telling stories is her passion and she always looks to give a voice to all members of the community - not just to those who are in power. Cristina is a wife, mother of three children and the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants.  She was born and raised in California and has been in Utah since 1995.

Dale Larsen

Academic Librarian, Marriott Library, University of Utah

Dale has been working in libraries for the past 25 years, the most recent 10 years as an academic librarian.  Dale works with classes from the Department of Communication (journalism, rhetoric, history and other writing) as well as Sociology and Social Work (social justice, underrepresented students, information & community literacies and other research).  Dale has two kids in elementary school and loves to promote discussions about representations of information and authority in media and how to decide what is most relevant.

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Moderator & Co-Presenter: Peter Adams, News Literacy Project (also a keynote)


Simulations of Democratic Processes

Programs that simulate or replicate democratic processes (for example mock trials, “We the People,” Model United Nations, and others) have clear civic learning benefits and more:  Besides meeting required state curriculum standards, they teach “21st century” skills such as public speaking, teamwork, analytical thinking, and thoughtful dialogue.


What does Utah offer in this regard and how can K-12 teachers make better use of these programs and resources for their classrooms? Finally, given the many benefits of these programs, how are Utah’s simulation programs positioning themselves to engage students from more varied socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds? 

The Panelists

Wendy Rex-Atzet, PhD

State Coordinator, National History Day

Wendy  is the state coordinator for National History Day in Utah, a program of the Utah Division of State History. She has worked with NHD for more than 9 years in both Utah and Colorado. Through the NHD model, students learn history by doing history. They develop the research and critical thinking skills to answer "how" and "why" questions about the past and the present. 

Victoria Dyatt

Utah Mock Trial Coordinator

Victoria (Mock Trial Coordinator) was the Mock Trial Coordinator for the Ventura County Office of Education in California for thirteen years.  In 2014, she moved to Utah and has been the Utah Mock Trial Coordinator since 2015.  Between California and Utah, Victoria has spent sixteen years building and coordinating Mock Trial Programs.  In 2014, she received the basic Paralegal Certification from the University of Arizona.  She has been a member of the Order of Eastern Star, the largest fraternal organization for men and women in the world, for over 35 years.

Brooke Gregg

Teacher, Woods Cross High and Secretary-General, Utah High School Model United Nations Program

Brooke has been an educator for 31 years and has been involved with the Model United Nations program as a student, a staff member, and an advisor. She teaches at Woods Cross High School in Davis district, and currently serves as Secretary-General of the Utah High School Model United Nations program.  She is a Sorenson Fellow for Diplomacy Education with the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.

Dawn Harvey

We the People Coordinator

Dawn has had a love for history and civics for as long as she can remember. She participated in the "We The People" program as a High School student and competed on a district, state and national level in mock senate hearings centered around constitutional principles. Dawn went on to graduate with a B.S. in History Teaching with a minor in ESL. Dawn has taught several private courses centered around the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. She also continued to participate in the "We The People" program as a volunteer for 20 years until 2015 when she was asked to direct the program on the State level. Dawn is passionate about the program because of how well it prepares its students to become informed and involved citizens.

Rique Ochoa

Teacher, Alta High School

Rique has been a public school teacher for 40 years, all at Alta High School. Rique has coached or taught Debate & Speech, US History, American and Comparative Government, Project Citizen, We the People and soccer. Rique grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Catholic schools for 12 years. He is a graduate of both BYU and Westminster College. A major objective in his classes is to create active citizens and create an informed electorate. His success has been recognized Nationally with the American Civic Educator Award (2012), the Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education Award (2013), and has a scholarship named after him dedicated to students demonstrating excellence in public service.

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Moderator: Bill Spence, MA (BYU). Bill has over 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher in US History and Government and 14 years as Project Citizen State Coordinator for the state of Utah. His Pleasant Grove Jr. High Students regularly placed in We the People state finals and finished 1st four times. His students presented numerous projects for improvement to Pleasant Grove City through the Project Citizen program. Since retiring from classroom teaching in 2017, Bill has been teaching US History at Utah Valley University and assisting with We the People, and the Citizen and the Constitution program. Bill’s awards include: Ackerman Fellow from the Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship at Purdue University; Utah Council for the Social Studies Jr. High Teacher of the Year (1995); Alpine School District Accent on Excellence recipient; Alpine Foundation (2012); and Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education Torch Bearer Award (2012).


Turning the Tables: Students Weigh In on Civics Education

Now it’s time to turn it around – what do the students’ think?  What changes would they like to see in civics education?  How can educators make it more relevant and engaging for them and their peers?  We bring together two different panels of students with diverse backgrounds to reflect on their experience with civics education and civic engagement. They will share their perspectives on what worked, what didn’t, what was missing, and what to build on to help students participate in the civic life of our community.

The Panelists

Neah Bois

College Student, Occidental College (graduate of Waterford School in Sandy, Utah)

Neah Bois is a senior at Occidental College in Los Angeles studying Comparative Literature and Politics and is originally from Alta, UT. In high school, Neah was an active member of the High School Democrats of America serving as their Program Director in 2015 after running the High School Democrats of Utah. Upon entering college, she switched gears and began to focus on policy, working for the Los Angeles LGBT Lab and her college sexual assault education and advocacy office. In the summer, Neah has worked on impact investing and social impact at the University of Utah.

Saida Dahir

17-year old poet and refugee from Somalia

Saida Dahir is a 17-year-old poet and refugee from Somalia. "When I was 3 years old my family left everything they knew and came to the United States for a better life. Growing up in the US has not been easy. I have been placed in many marginalized groups as a Black, Muslim, Women, Refugee. Although I am disproportionately affected by racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and more I have found a way of coping with activists. Poetry is my median for activism. Somalia is known as the land of the poets, so you could say poetry is in my blood. I am excited to be a youth panelist for the Civics Education Conference and can’t wait for the journey ahead."

Jaxon Floyd

Student, Integritas Academy

Jaxon is all about connecting with people and building relationships. He knows that he doesn’t have to wait until he is older to live a purposeful life and he has chosen to live deliberately right now by impacting the world around him. For the past four years Jaxon has been practicing the principles of restorative justice through serving as a judge for The Layton Youth Court. He now serves as the Vice President for Layton Youth Court. Jaxon, along with his Integritas Mock Trial teammates, is a two-time Mock Trial State Champion and awarded 9th place at the 2018 Nation High School Mock Trial Championship. Jaxon has developed a passion for the law and principles of government through his experiences with Youth Court, Mock Trial, Debate, Boy Scouts, Public Speaking, Model United Nations, Legislative Internship, and other extracurricular activities. Jaxon currently works as a Legal Assistant for a criminal defense attorney and plans to pursue a Juris Doctorate. He comes from a family of nine is an uncle to eleven nieces and nephews.

Sofia Garza

Graduate of DaVinci Academy

Sofia graduated from DaVinci Academy in May and will be starting her bachelor's degree in the fall at Weber State. She served on Planned Parenthood's Teen Council for two years and was nationally recognized for her work as a peer educator with the APPLE Seed Award. Sofia has been involved in government at both local and state levels, taking part in city government and lobbying and testifying at the state capitol for sexual health education reform in Utah Schools.

Kennedy Pawloski

Student (15 years old)

Kennedy is a current concurrent enrollment student and has been participating in Utah Law Related Educations Mock Trial program for the last 3 years. She loves civics education and is very passionate about the education system.

Mariane Rizzuto

Student, Timpview High School

Mariane Rizzuto is 17 years old and will be a senior this fall at Timpview High School. She is very passionate about social studies and civic engagement and very excited to be a part of this discussion.

Jessica Rodriguez

Student, Occidental College

Jessica Rodriguez is a graduate of Cyprus High School in Magna and a 2nd year at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She has always had a passion for social justice and theater and loves when she can combine both. She currently serves on her College’s Diversity and Equity Board, is on the First Gen e-board, the QTPOC core team, and participates in several other organizations. In high school, Jessica was her school’s Latinos in Action president, Thespian Society secretary, and Debate captain for two years. Outside of school she was involved with the Magna/ Kearns Youth Court and LULAC where She had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC and lobby for the re-enactment of section four of the Voters Rights Act. Jessica is continuing her social justice work as the new Summer Programming Intern at Racially Just Utah, where she hopes to bring about radical change in her community.

Natasha Wong

Senior, Skyline High School

Natasha is a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Skyline high school. She has a passion for social justice and activism and seeks to apply an intersectional approach to her understanding of social justice. She is also involved in volunteering with Planned Parenthood and Sandy Youth Court and is a co-president for both Skyline’s Feminist Club and Skyline’s Social Justice Club and a long-term volunteer and advocate with Racially Just Utah. ​She believes that combatting racism and the systems which uphold it is essential to bettering our community. 

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Moderator, Panel 1: Eric Goldman 

Born and raised in South Africa, Eric has an extensive background in education and training, most recently as the Director of Programming and Training for the U.S. Peace Corps in Lesotho and Malawi. Prior to that he worked for more than 20 years with the Close Up Foundation in Washington, DC, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping high school students become actively involved in civic life. Subsequently, he served as National Field Director of a project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, establishing a vehicle for high schools to incorporate student voices into school governance. This approach to civic education gives students a chance to take action  and develop proposals around issues they care about. Eric has also been a high school principal and has degrees in Sociology and Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.



Moderator, Panel 2: Natalie Blanton

Natalie is an activist academic within Environmental Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah. They work, research, and teach within the veins of social justice. Natalie understands our world-society to be built upon the backs of oppressed communities and actively seeks to advocate, educate, and rabble-rouse to overturn that norm. Natalie is a community educator and curriculum consultant for multiple transnational nonprofits, and teaches the sociology of sex and gender at the university level. 

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