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NEA names UTLA’s Jose Lara Social Justice Activist of the Year

Craig Clough | July 7, 2015

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UTLA's Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

UTLA’s Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

Jose Lara, a prominent leader of the LA teachers union, UTLA, was recently named the 2015 Social Justice Activist of the Year by the National Education Association (NEA).

Lara helped lead a successful grassroots effort to get the LA Unified school board to adopt ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. He is vice president of the El Rancho Unified School Board, dean at LA Unified’s Santee Education Center and a member of the UTLA board.

Lara received the award Sunday at NEA’s Representative Assembly in Orlando, Fla., which was attended by 7,000 members. The award honors the member who “demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the communities they serve,” according to the NEA.

“As I accept this award, I ask you once again to always remember that social justice is a verb and as Frederick Douglass once reminded us, ‘power concedes nothing without demand,’” Lara told the NEA crowd, according to a UTLA press release. “It is time we organize and start making demands.”

Lara led several rallies and protests outside LA Unified headquarters in the fall as leader of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition, and spoke before the board in November when it voted to approve the new graduation standards.

The news made headlines around the state, as the district became the second in California to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. (District leaders have since, however, expressed some reservations about moving forward with the requirement.)

“Educators have always been rabble rousers, activists and true believers,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. “Jose Lara embodies this tradition, and his work illustrates how we make our mark on the world—as educators who understand the fearless power of collective action.”



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