CONTACT:  Renee Semik, Samohi                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

310.395.3204, ext. 71226                                   01 AUG 2012



Samohi’s Freshman Seminar Aims to Help Students Make a Positive Impact on School Community


Teachers of Samohi’s Freshman Seminar participated in a three-day advanced seminar from July 17 to 19, offered by the district in partnership with the educational organization Facing History and Ourselves. Freshman Seminar, taught by twelve teachers, is a required course for all ninth graders, and includes in-depth explorations of history to help students make connections between the choices people made in the past and their own actions today.


During the course of the year, students explore the history of race in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement, the 1992 L.A. riots, and the Holocaust in order to walk in the shoes of others in history. This study of times of crisis often leads to challenging conversations in the classroom around those legacies. The three-day seminar, led by Facing History Associate Program Director Mary Hendra, was designed to give teachers more tools to handle those teachable moments. It also was a time for them to work collaboratively together and explore some of Facing History’s new resources.


“The Freshman Seminar course is designed to help students learn how to be more caring, informed, and active by analyzing choices people made in the past, whether they were perpetrators, bystanders, or what we call ‘upstanders’ – those who speak or act against injustice and prejudice,” said Los Angeles Director Marti Tippens Murphy. “This advanced training for Freshman Seminar teachers demonstrates the ongoing commitment from Santa Monica Malibu School District to create a strong and caring community.”


“As the administrator who oversees freshman seminar, it was great to partner with Facing History for this advanced seminar,” said Renee Semik, I House principal at Samohi. “It definitely helped to re-inspire me as part of the team as well as leading the team.  As we work to continue to lay a solid foundation with our students and spread what we are doing to all of our staff, this professional development was vital to help make all of that happen. Our ongoing partnership with Facing History and Ourselves is invaluable, especially as it relates to our goals for this year.

The feedback I received from staff was very positive and enthusiastic as they looked forward to the next school year,” Semik added.

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators, and its active teacher network reaches nearly two million students annually. For more information, visit and watch a video at





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