Honoring Upstanders

Posted by Julia Rappaport on November 6, 2014

Facing History and Ourselves in New York is celebrating its 21st annual benefit dinner tonight, and honoring individuals who are making a difference in their communities, and in the world, by speaking out against injustice and creating meaningful change.
The second annual Upstander Awards will be presented to students, educators, and author and featured speaker Wes Moore. Two of the students being honored are actually in the process of petitioning the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to add the word upstander to its pages!

"It's sending out a bad message to youth when the word bystander is in the dictionary, but upstander isn't," Sarah Decker, a former Facing History student and intern from New Jersey, told us. "It's such an important concept and we believe it needs to be defined and universally shared."

It's work that began for Decker in her Facing History class at Watchung Hills Regional High School. In her senior year, Decker—along with classmates Engy Gadelmawla, Catherine Higgins, and Monica Mahal and support from teachers Jamie Lott-Jones and Mary Sok—created a massive "White-Out to Erase Bullying" event, which brought together 13 New Jersey school districts and raised awareness of bullying and upstander behavior. Even New Jersey elected officials joined in. The four students and their teachers will be honored tonight.

In high school, friends and Facing History students Monica Mahal (left) and Sarah Decker organized community events to raise awareness of bullying. In high school, friends and Facing History students Monica Mahal (left) and Sarah Decker organized community events to raise awareness of bullying.

Army combat veteran, national best-selling author, and social entrepreneur Wes Moore will be honored for his work helping young people succeed and make the right choices through education and awareness alongside the support of their parents, teachers, and mentors. Moore's autobiographical book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, conveys the importance of individual decisions, as well as community support. As a troubled youth growing up in an urban area, Moore's life could have tumbled down a dangerous path, but a series of positive factors, including the transformative power of education coupled with faithful mentors, helped launch him into success and gave him a powerful platform for making an impact on the lives of today's troubled youth. Moore frequently speaks in Facing History classrooms across the United States. His second book, The Work (due out in January), chronicles Moore's journey to find meaning in his work, and how he found that meaning in service of others.

moore_wes(300) Author Wes Moore will be honored as an Upstander for his work with young people.

Encourage young people to choose to participate in their communities with our Choosing to Participate resource collection.

Who is the upstander in your life? Tell us – comment below!

Topics: Classrooms, Student Voices, Choosing to Participate, Events, Human Rights, New York, Facing History Together, Upstanders, Facing History and Ourselves, Teachers

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all