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A Bold and Powerful Student Panel in LBUSD

From left to right, Californians for Justice leaders Sydney, Sarai, Mel and Didi. 

Above: Above: From left to right, Californians for Justice leaders Sydney, Sarai, Mel and Didi. 


By Sicola Elliot, Capacity Building Manager


Education Reimagined in LBUSD was the theme for the LBUSD Managers meeting held on Friday August 25, 2023, at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach. Californians For Justice student leaders were invited by Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Brown for a rare but exciting opportunity to address over 400 LBUSD managers and leaders of the district. We hope this is the first of many opportunities where space and intentional dedication is given to amplify student voice.

Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Brown opened the conversation by sharing some of the highlights CFJ and LBUSD accomplished in the 2022-2023 school year that spoke to the power of community partners, collaboration, student voice and shared leadership. Some of the highlights were student-led professional development for teachers on Relationship Centered-Schools, student-led classroom observations, and building meaningful relationships across school sites.   

Californians for Justice Capacity Building team opened the conversation with a student panel. Students shared with the audience what they need now as Black and brown students, what would have been helpful earlier on in their educational experience, and what they wished for the generations of students coming after them. The audience had no idea but they were in for a treat. The students approached the stage ready to speak their truth about their experiences as students in the Long Beach Unified School District and did so in a powerful way. 

The students offered their insight, their opinions, and their real life experience during the panel. When asked “What did you need earlier on in your educational experience”: Sydney, a senior at Long Beach Poly, got emotional when reflecting on the heart and dedication of one of her 1st grade teachers who took additional time to teach her English. To everyone’s surprise, that teacher was in the audience.

Californians for Justice staff and youth leaders shared testimony and visions for racially just, relationship centered schools in Long Beach Unified during a recent manager’s training with the district.

Sarai, a senior at Lakewood High School, moved the audience with her response to what her wishes were for the future generations of students that will come through LBUSD. She made it personal and spoke unapologetically about what she wanted for her brother. Sarai mentioned that she wants her little brother to “feel seen, celebrated, and honored, by having more Black representation in history books and school communities. Sarai “My brother is already a Black male in America and the outside world is not the nicest place for him, so when he comes to school I want him to feel safe, seen, and cared for and empowered by his Blackness, not held back by it.” The audience was engaged and applauded Sarai throughout her powerful response.

Didi, a senior at Wilson High School, talked about the amazing experience she had co-leading with educators. Didi, being one of the students that led the Relationship-Centered Schools professional development for teachers at Wilson High School in May of 2023, mentioned it was inspiring to have all teachers in attendance for three one-hour student-led trainings. After facilitating those trainings Didi felt empowered to take on more leadership positions and be seen on her school campus.  

Mel, a former Wilson High School student and now a CFJ staff member, reflected on her experience of working with educators, mentioning that “it is often hard for students to navigate adult-led spaces”. 

The bold and powerful student panel ended with final thoughts from the participants. Didi gave a heartfelt acknowledgement to the audience for all their hard work and emotional labor. Sydney followed with an ask of leadership to help students change the educational systems, and Sarai offered student-led thought partnership to all district leaders on how schools could implement student voice. And with every ounce of Sarai’s bubbly energy she ended with “have your people, call our people!” as an invitation to change the school system together.     

Learn more about our Capacity Building Team’s equity in action services in Long Beach and across the state here.

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