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Civic Learning Award of Excellence - 2018 (student article)


California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye at the Marshall’s Civic Learning Award event with Marshall Fundamental students April 13, 2018

Link to online article: Published in on August 11, 2018

Marshall Fundamental is the only high school in California awarded the Civic Learning Award of Excellence in 2018. The Chief Justice of California came to Marshall to hand the award in person.

For those of us that might doubt some of our young people volunteer or care about their communities, we present an Op-Ed piece on the Civic Learning Awards Program penned by student Toros Margaryan.

On Friday, April 13th Marshall Fundamental High School was given the “Civic Learning Award of Excellence” embedded in the Civic Learning Awards program, an award with such high merit that all schools in California dream to achieve it. The award was presented to the students and staff at Marshall on behalf of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye as she had given the award in person at the Marshall Fundamental Library.

By Toros Margaryan

The reason this award was presented to Marshall was because of the creative solutions that students constructed through collaboration and critical thinking. A few outstanding groups were selected to display their projects to all those that attended the ceremony. Some of these groups even met with companies that offered to invest in the ideas they saw fit for a better future. This kind of opportunity does not often come knocking on the door, and I was honored to be selected as the student representative to give a speech on the importance of student contribution in our democracy.

The year the innovation projects started, California was in a major drought. For that reason, the students were assigned to create a drought project. Initially, many students did not think much of the project. Instead, they associated the project with the idea of more homework, simply ignoring the fact that the project was assigned to give the students an idea of how the world works. The project was also assigned with the intent of teaching students the critical ability to communicate efficiently in a diverse group with a plethora of potential ideas.


In the year following the drought project, the second innovation project was based on transportation and its current efficiency. This topic was a lot more effective in grabbing the attention of students since many of them have already used public transportation in their lives. What I enjoyed most about the transportation project was its broad spectrum of topics that I could choose to focus on, i.e.: parking, road sizes, sidewalks, new vehicles, energy used to power vehicles, etc. I believe this project was a lot more successful than the drought projects for these reasons. What’s more, some selected group of winners from the transportation project were asked to display their project at the award ceremony, and they did so enthusiastically. Most of those attending the ceremony commented that they were surprised that students were so enthusiastic about sharing their projects. I think that these students were so eager to share their ideas because after doing all the research and putting so much time into their projects, they had an opportunity to show their ideas and get some valuable feedback.

Waste management project

The most recent of the innovation projects was the waste management project, which is the one that I was most personally passionate about. Throughout some of my own investigations on the internet, I have stumbled across a few articles on how human waste has impacted the globe. A large proportion of those studies had negative conclusions. After reading those articles, I would generally blame everyone except myself for being over consumers. However, after the waste management project I realized that I too can change some of my own habits to produce less waste. But I did not focus my project on how I can lower my waste consumption, but rather a new way to process waste that is currently in landfills that take years to decay. These multivariable problems also gave me the ability to think outside the box. After reviewing the work of my peers, I also concluded that they felt the same way as, throughout my classrooms, I could not find any two identical projects.

What all these projects have in common is their theme of civics, a subject that is now receiving attention for the benefit of my generation and generations to come. I deem that the innovation projects are a great way to get students to use their intellect from their various courses and is overall a genius way to introduce the process of democracy into the school system.

For the overall amazing experiences and lessons that these innovation projects have given me, I would like to personally thank the California Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, for setting up the Civic Learning Award program. I would also like to thank the entire staff at Marshall Fundamental and at PUSD for all that they have done for the students and the future.

Toros Margaryan is enrolled in the Puente Project, one of Marshall’s Signature High School Programs. He’s in the National Honor Society, participated in Mock Trial, and played on the Boys Tennis Team.