The women's studies class at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater has received a key state award for its groundbreaking efforts to empower students to achieve success.
The class taught by Annie Delgado received the Civic Learning Award of Merit, cosponsored by Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, and state Supreme Court Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye.
Merced County Superior Court Judge Mark Bacciarini presented Delgado and the students with the award. This is the first year the Civic Learning Award was offered to public high schools in California.
"We applied for the award earlier in the academic year," Delgado said. "Our goal was to afford California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson the opportunity to see what we are accomplishing in this area. The long-term goal is that this is a program that will be replicated throughout California."
Delgado and Buhach Colony High Principal Stacy McAfee believe the class is the only one of its kind in the nation. In the just-ending school year, Delgado taught 49 students. More than 400 students have taken part in the class over five years.
"It's refreshing to see how creative educators and motivated students learn about the power of democracy," Cantil-Sakauye said. "These courses and programs help motivate our leaders of tomorrow."
The chief justice said a panel of experts assessed the applications according to the depth and breadth of their civic learning courses. The objective of the program is to celebrate schools' efforts to engage students in civic learning, identifying civic learning models that are effective and can be replicated.
Debbie Genzer of San Francisco, the senior court services analyst with the Judicial Council of California and the state Supreme Court, attended the award ceremony in Delgado's classroom. Statewide, 22 schools were recognized, and Buhach Colony was the only one named in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
"The teacher is doing a wonderful job with the students," Genzer said.
McAfee said the class shows students they can be successful and achieve their dreams.
Through Skype, women's studies class students have interacted with former California first lady Maria Shriver, women's advocate Gloria Steinem, press secretary DeeDee Myers, and Amy Trask, chief executive officer with the Oakland Raiders professional football team.
Delgado said the class empowers young men and women to recognize the strengths each person has to offer to society and helps all students reach their potential.
Bacciarini is a former high school teacher who taught 17 years before attending law school and becoming a judge.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.