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May 1, 2008, Grove of Anaheim

“Just like the Oscars!” exclaimed a student from Sycamore Middle School who was one of over 500 guests attending an inspirational evening at the Grove of Anaheim. On May 1, OC Human Relations rolled out the red carpet to honor schools, community members and police departments for their efforts in making Orange County a respectful and safe place for all people to live, work and attend school. Awards 37 raised almost $150,000 to help fund OC Human Relations’ school and community programs.

Announcing the 2008 Awards Recipients

Distinguished School Awards

Recognizing schools that have made an exceptional contribution to promoting, nurturing, protecting and/or cultivating a campus that is safe, welcoming and equitable.

Carona del Mar High School

Corona del Mar (CDM) High School Human Relations Council (HRC) is a student led organization that serves as a catalyst for positive action and change by promoting unity across campus. The Council is dedicated to creating an interconnected campus that listens, accepts, and respects the voices of people of all backgrounds. Students develop their leadership potential by participating in activities that will increase knowledge and awareness of self and others. This year, the group launched a campaign to promote student voices and unity by bringing diverse groups on campus to integrate our message of “Ubuntu” or the “spirit of community” into their programs and activities.

The Council has made significant strides in institutionalizing an integration of human relations issues and student voices to many aspects of school wide policy. HRC led the way in bringing together key student leadership groups in biweekly Leadership Council meetings. These meetings have ensured that a wider scope of students is involved in spreading the message of safety, equity, and inclusion on their campus. The effort is early in its development; however, it is unprecedented and has led to an amazing change. Groups which rarely communicated or united are now regularly looking toward each other for suggestions and support. The What Students See Forum brought together key stakeholders in the community – leadership groups, Newport Beach Community Services Youth Council, and CDM’s administration and faculty – in a final dialogue and celebration of the collaboration which has taken place throughout the year. The event provided an opportunity for the groups to make recommendations and commit to actions that will be facilitated by the Council through projects to be implemented next school year.

Huntington Beach High School

The Bridges Program at Huntington Beach High School (HBHS) was established only last year and has already experienced much success. The program was funded and brought to HBHS by the Huntington Beach Human Relations Task Force (HBHRTF) to promote and encourage school unity and equity among the school’s diverse students. The Bridges Program members have hosted two Campus Pride Days involving over 500 students, supported “Rachel’s Challenge”, an anti-violence campaign, hosted Human Relations retreats, facilitated a district wide dialogue, helped with the Huntington Beach city-wide program Read One Book, and is currently in the process of organizing an International Fair to represent the various cultures of the community. The purpose of these activities is to provide inclusive and equitable opportunities for students to get to know one another, work together, and communicate beyond cliques that are found on any high school campus.

In addition, the Bridges Program, along with the administration at HBHS, is working to establish a Parent Leadership Institute, an outreach program for English Learner students and their parents so that both can be more involved with the campus. The Bridges Program is also taken steps to involve the local community in its work, through both participation and donations. The success of HBHS Bridges Program is due to the consistent commitment and boundless energy of the Bridges members along with support from the HBHRTF, the mayor and city council-members, city staff, the HBHS administration, OC Human Relations and the Huntington Beach community. It is through this network of passionate individuals interested in improving the school and community that the goal of creating positive change remains viable.

Sycamore Junior High School

Beginning in 2006, Sycamore Jr. High initiated a Bridges United Task Force, comprised of 40 students, the school Principal, 3 Assistant Principals, over 20 teachers, counselors, and office staff as well as community organizations such as Project Say. The Task Force has a mission of improving the campus climate by creating a safer school that respects diversity and equality. The goals of Bridges United are to build leadership within the school community, engage students to become proactive and part of the decision making process, and create alliances within families, school, and the community. In its first year the Task Force surveyed more than 400 students to identify the most important issues on campus. The survey was accompanied by a huge marketing campaign. This year the students have begun to work on addressing the highest priority issues: teacher-student relationships; campus pride, student involvement during school, and dress code. By focusing on these issues, Bridges United expects to see less conflict on campus, more positive clubs created and improved teacher-student relationships. A potential side-benefit is an increase in test scores as students become more engaged and better understand the value of education.>br/>Throughout this entire process trust and team work has improved, creating better relationships within the Bridges United Task Force and with Sycamore’s administrative team. Participating students have learned life skills such as leadership, organizing skills, public speaking skills, and an understanding of the educational system. The Task Force has developed a three year plan to institutionalize its initiatives and intends that all students will realize and understand how much power their voices have and the importance of reinforcing positive attitude in the classroom and beyond.
Community Policing Awards

Recognizing exemplary community-oriented policing projects or initiatives.

Fullerton Police Department

In early 2005, the Fullerton Police Department launched a program to enhance Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) related training, education and enforcement within the City. Along with the strong growth and revitalization of the Downtown area had come concern about alcohol related problems that were affecting community peace of mind and adversely impacting public safety resources. The Police Department believed it could best respond and serve the community by establishing a single point of contact for ABC related issues. The principle intention was to identify one officer to coordinate merchant training efforts, police training programs and joint Police Department/ ABC enforcement operations. Corporal Garry Mancini was selected to serve as the ABC Liaison Officer. The Department began working closely with staff from Cal State Fullerton to address alcohol related concerns on and around the campus. At the same time the ABC Program actively involved several agencies in a multi-disciplinary effort to identify, understand and address behaviors associated with problematic alcohol use. The strategies developed included: providing licensed establishments with expert training in alcohol responsibility; offering alcohol awareness presentations to community groups; providing alcohol awareness presentations to at-risk groups such as high school students; and reducing the availability of alcohol to underage minors. The program has fostered a better working relationship between members of the ABC, Fullerton Police Department, community groups and licensees and has resulted in a dramatic increase in licensee compliance with ABC regulations and 12% drop in crime in the Downtown Bar area.

Tustin Police Department

In October of 2006, Tustin Police Department created its Neighborhood Improvement Task Force (NITF), a problem solving policing program. The program’s primary objective is to address quality of life issues with cooperation and collaboration from other City Departments, outside government agencies, local businesses and City residents. The NITF is both proactive and resonsive. Since they are an autonomous unit, they have the opportunity to singularly focus on problems either referred to them by officers and other City Departments or they can handle situations based upon their own observations. Currently on the committee are members from the Orange County Fire Authority, the Tustin School District, Code Enforcement, the Tustin Police Department and City Departments such as Community Development, Traffic Engineering and Field Services. This format allows for direct interaction, coordination, and collaboration of response by the various participants. The NITF has focused its efforts on high-crime, blighted neighborhoods, holding community forums to determine residents concerns, organizing Neighborhood Watch Block Captains, and partnering with community organizations to hold neighborhood cleanups. The results speak for themselves. The neighborhood experienced record drops in the crime rate: 16% reduction in graffiti vandalism, 17% reduction in vehicle burglaries, 23% reduction in auto thefts, and a whopping 60% reduction in commercial burglaries. More importantly though, the residents feel comfortable walking the streets of their neighborhood, kids readily play outside in front of their homes, and the gang members and drug dealers no longer frequent the area.

Westminster Police Department

The need for a more focused response when police officers handle calls involving people suffering from mental illness is essential. In recognizing this need, the Westminster Police Department began analyzing the manner in which such calls were handled and determined a change was necessary. Chief Hall brought in experts to train the entire force on crisis intervention with people suffering from mental illness and built partnerships with other agencies, including OC Mental Health and OC law enforcement, to devise best practices in dealing with people suffering from mental illness. One outcome was the development of the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team or PERT. This program, the first of its kind in Orange County, pairs a mental health clinician on the streets with patrol officers, allowing calls to be answered with a mental health technician to immediately assess if the person is in need of treatment. In addition, the department joined mental health coalitions, participated in community conferences and collaborated with the OC Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies in the development and implementation of a protocol document to be used for OC law enforcement response to mentally ill persons. The initiative shown by the Westminster Police Department in building partnerships throughout the community has provided an enhanced service to people with mental illness. Their efforts have resulted in a reduction of repeat events, an alternative course of action to incarceration, and an improved response to the welfare of mentally ill members of the community.
Community Leader Awards

Recognizing individuals or groups who have made extraordinary contributions to Orange County in the area of human or civil rights.

Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble

The Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble is a non-profit that was founded in 2003 to serve the Orange County community through performance and visual arts. As a CalArts theater graduate, artistic director Sara Guerrero aims specifically to enrich the lives of Latina artists through Breath of Fire. The company not only fills a void in the artistic community of Orange County by highlighting Latinas and Latinos through all aspects of a theater stage production, but the content of its plays are particularly relevant in this regard as well. Starting with its ambitious landmark production of The Mexican OC in the spring of 2006, Breath of Fire has continually used the stage to grapple with a variety of social issues facing the Orange County community. In this, they have placed themselves in the unique position of continuing in an important lineage of activist theater groups such as Teatro Campesino, using theater to advance the cause of social justice. Where Breath of Fire also excels is in the voluntary efforts of its members. Demonstrating the level of dedication given to the goals of the organization, the ensemble is run by the volunteer efforts of everyone from the artistic director, to the board members of the non-profit, to the actors, right down to the stage crew as well. Students, as well as other members, who are involved in school or work, and sometimes both, recognize the value of the theater company’s presence in the community and work extremely hard to promote it. With an ambitious program set for 2008, the work of the Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble is powered by the loyal volunteers who believe in its mission.

Sande Hart

Sande Hart has been volunteering her energy and resources to create a more inclusive Orange County since her involvement in OC Human Relations 2002 Living Room Dialogues. As a member of Temple Beth El, Sande joined a South County dialogue group to get to know and learn about people from the Muslim and Christian faiths. That particular dialogue group decided to take an interfaith trip to Mexico to build a home for a family in need. Following the Mexican volunteer initiative, Sande spearheaded the foundation of SARAH (Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope). Through SARAH, Sande invited women from different faiths to monthly meetings to dialogue, listen, share and learn from each other. At this time there are over 200 women who call themselves SARAH Sisters. By creating a website,, Sande has spread the spirit of SARAH Sisters throughout Orange County and the world. In addition to dialogue, SARAH is committed to helping to empower the community. Their projects include Peace Tapestries, which are made at community events by people of all ages, cultures and religions. The intent is to have these creations travel from community to community, spreading a message of peace and love. Sande is also involved in promoting panel discussions to places of worship and universities, youth empowerment programs, and interfaith festivals. By building bridges between communities of faith, Sande is creating harmony and unity in Orange County.

Ken Khanh Nguyen

Ken Nguyen has been a dedicated volunteer in Orange County since 1979, participating on numerous boards, commissions, and organizations, and taking on leadership roles for the purpose of educating others about the Vietnamese community’s contributions, culture and history. His efforts have helped Little Saigon to flourish and become an educational and cultural asset to the County. Ken has led landmark efforts like the Vietnam War Memorial in Westminster, the annual Christmas Wish Program and the Moon Festival as part of his goal to build a multicultural county that acknowledges and appreciates the contributions of each community. Among his many community involvements, Ken is founder and chairman of the Little Saigon Foundation – a Vietnamese community-based non-profit organization that focuses mostly on programs for youth and in offering community service. The Foundation’s advocacy services have benefited countless Vietnamese who have recently immigrated, assisting them to adapt to a new country and helping them become engaged participants in the community. Ken serves as a Vietnamese Community Resource Specialist to the cities of Garden Grove, Westminster, and Santa Ana and on the Santa Ana Parks and Recreation Commission. In his many roles, Ken has effectively advocated for Vietnamese-American rights, while exposing elected officials, community members, and others to the Vietnamese community, using a multilateral approach in not only identifying the community’s needs, but also in identifying the community’s strength and contributions.

OC Human Trafficking Task Force

The mission of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) is to abolish human trafficking and related crimes in Orange County through collaboration, prevention, protection, and prosecution. In 2004, recognizing the growing population and the increasing prevalence of human trafficking incidents in neighboring counties, law enforcement agencies and social service providers in Orange County began to discuss proactive strategies to counter crimes related to human trafficking. Led by the CSP Victim Assistance Programs, the OCHTTF was formed to facilitate communication and cooperation among all relevant agencies. OCHTTF began as an informal, small group of concerned public, private, and nonprofit agencies wanting to address victims, suspects, and issues involved with human trafficking. Today, led by Westminster Police Department and CSP Victim Assistance Programs, OCHTTF is a collaboration of more than 40 agencies including law enforcement, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor Wages & Hours Division, and a host of passionate, non-governmental agencies and individuals from the community.

Agency representatives participate on a voluntary basis, often as a collateral duty to their primary job responsibilities. In order to build up its infrastructure and to enhance its ability to properly respond to human trafficking incidents, Westminster PD pursued and received federal funding for OCHTTF to improve the following categories: personnel, training and outreach, police involvement. Outreach efforts have established a greater, more active presence for OCHTTF in Orange County, neighboring counties, and aligned activities with state and federal outreach such as the Health and Human Services campaign, Rescue and Restore. An increase in community tips to the National Human Trafficking Resource number, 1.888.3737.888, has led to improved identification of possible trafficking victims, which has resulted in treatment consistent with victim services standards rather than assumed criminalization.

Reverend Robert Rohdenburg

Twenty years ago, Rev. Bob Rohdenburg, then-pastor of the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, began engaging his congregation in faith-based community organizing to make broader, systemic change for the community. Since then, Rev. Rohdenburg has served as an active pastor, community leader, and member of the board of directors of the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO). Rev. Rohdenburg is committed to integrating faith-based community organizing into the life of the churches he has served and has been at the forefront of speaking out for and with some of Orange County’s most marginalized communities. His contributions and efforts include motivating his congregation to press forward with working with neighbors to clean up West Fullerton’s Baker Street neighborhood from gang activity, despite their fears and threatening graffiti painted on church property; speaking out for immigrant rights and for fair and comprehensive immigration reform; leading organizing efforts to make more transportation options available for senior citizens in Garden Grove and playing an integral role in the PICO National Network advocate for universal health care for children. However, Rev. Rohdenburg’s greatest contribution is the inspiration he has provided to countless congregation and community members to pursue justice with courage and conviction, and to always retain a strong hope in their collective vision for their communities.

Adrienne Santellan

For the past ten years, Adrienne has given her time to provide a safe and inviting space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), youth as well as for girls of all ages and sexual orientation, to develop positive identities and relationships. Adrienne’s work began when she joined The Center OC’s youth program and was provided with the encouragement, skills and self-esteem to herself become a leader. Since then she has blossomed into The Center’s lead youth organizer, dedicating her time to ensuring that Orange County’s LGBT youth and girls have their own safe spaces and showcases. Adrienne facilitates The Center OC’syouth group every Wednesday night, organizing discussions, workshops, movie nights and dances. She helps youth find opportunities to be activists and mobilize to become advocates for themselves and their peers, including promoting legislation that includes LGBT youth in educational policy development. For the past six years, Adrienne has been the volunteer organizer of Grrl Fair, a celebration of International Women’s Day. The event promotes and showcases local artists, musicians, and other girl talent and includes a conference in which young women dialogue and learn about issues affecting their everyday lives. It draws in large crowds and has developed impressive momentum as other young women have been inspired to take the lead in the planning and implementation process. Other initiatives she has organized as a volunteer include an annual LGBT Valentine’s Day Dance and Prom. There are very few people as committed as Adrienne to advocating for and organizing LGBT youth in Orange County.