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The NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year: California’s Union City Educators

Award recognizes three Filipino American educators for making a difference in the lives of students


WASHINGTON - June 30, 2016 -

More than 1,000 educators attending the 2016 Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women today recognized Ivan Viray Santos, Joe Ku’e Angeles, and Tina Bobadilla with the 2016 Social Justice Activist of the Year Award for their infusion of Filipino culture into their activism and their decade-long fight to rename a local middle school after two Filipino American labor leaders. Their quest marks the first time a public school in the United States has been named after Filipino American heroes.

“These three outstanding educators – Ivan Viray Santos, Joe Ku’e Angeles and Tina Bobadilla – recipients of the 2016 Social Justice Activist of the Year award, embody the rich and robust history of social activism associated with educators,” said Lily Eskelsen García. “Their energy is contagious; their vision is clear; and their actions, inspiring. Through their fearless collective activism, they are leaving their mark on the world and making a difference in the lives of students and communities.”

Known collectively as the Union City Educators, the California the trio has injected Pilipino heritage into the schools through ethnic studies curriculum, student and community engagement, and social justice activism. “Social justice activism should matter to educators,” said Bobadilla. “We are the adults who work most closely with the youth who have the power to bring about change. It is our responsibility to teach them to critically analyze our society and to recognize injustice and act upon it in order to bring about a world that is more just and fair.”

Members of the New Haven Filipino American Society for Education, the activists also fundamentally believe that young people are critical to movement-building. “In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, it is often our youth that are the quickest to access and disseminate information,” said Viray Santos. “Their immersion in the realm of social media trumps most of what their teachers know and understand. Their ability to create and navigate networks is important in spreading awareness in pretty much all different movements. They are realizing their power, and to get their voices, minds, and opinions out there as a resource for their voting-age counterparts can be integral to any movement for positive social change.”

Each of the award recipients has a deep history in education, community organizing, and activism. Bobadilla has taught 25 years in the New Haven Unified School District. Viray Santos has been involved in community organizing and activism since 1995. He organized the opposition to propositions in California that targeted poor, working class, immigrant populations, and public schools and students. “Being an activist goes back to my college days when I was introduced to the indigenous community movements of the Native Americans, Polynesians and the Filipino community,” said Ku’e. “Those three movements really captured my mind and turned me to social activism and social justice.”

“Their rich history of activism demonstrates their continuous dedication to social justice through meaningful action and organization,” said Eskelsen García. “Every day, educators like Ivan, Joe, and Tina take extraordinary actions to demonstrate leadership on social justice issues in and out of the classroom. We are proud of the exemplary work that earned them the 2016 Social Activist of the Year Award.”

The NEA Social Activist of the Year Award recognizes members who demonstrate 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 their communities.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, NEA Communications  202-822-7823, mgonzalez@nea.org