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Chula Vista teen awarded Girl Scouts' top honor for ethnic studies course

Gold Award Girl Scouts_2019.jpg
Posted at 12:08 PM, Oct 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-12 17:26:14-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — Chula Vista Girl Scout Ana De Almeida Amaral was recently given the National Gold Award, the Girl Scouts' top honor, for her work combating racism in education, according to the organization.

“In a time when an increasing number of young people are using their voices to come together and take action, these girls stand out," said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. Nine other girl scouts received the honor as well. "They have made an incredible impact in the worlds of STEM, education, agriculture, the environment, civil rights, and beyond."

Amaral was recognized for creating the first ethnic studies course at High Tech High School. She developed the course to serve the school's large population of students of color.

"Through my first years of high school I saw that the representation of people of color wasn't apparent in our curriculum, in our history classes, or our school clubs," Amaral, now a senior, says.

Amaral ran seminars for peers that would lead the course, covering culturally responsive teaching and how to include diverse perspectives in lessons.

But Amaral says her project goes deeper than her course. She says the course is really a way to address institutional racism in education and help students bridge that educational gap.

"Although it's not that our educators today believe those ideas, but it's just the way our education system was founded," Amaral said. "For ethnic studies to be a place for students to share their identities, be connected with one another, and have the resources to feel empowered by their education means students are engaged with school, students are graduating high school, and students are going to college."

The class is an elective, student-led course that runs during school hours, focusing on historical oppression, marginalized groups, and cultures. Lessons teach students how to identify injustice historically and in their own lives while empowering them to change it.

"It's been running for two years. Now that I'm graduating it will continue with my younger leaders next year," Amaral added.