California Charter Schools Association to Present Annual Awards and Scholarships to Charter Public School Leaders, Advocates and Students

LOS ANGELES, April 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) will announce the winners of its Annual Hart Vision Awards and Susan Steelman Bragato Scholarships, in recognition of the exceptional work and achievements of charter public schools, leaders, teachers and students. In addition to the Hart Vision Awards and Bragato Scholarships, CCSA is presenting the first Rachel Willis-Henry Volunteer of the Year Award, in honor of the organization's late parent organizer and advocate, Rachel Willis-Henry.

CCSA logo. (PRNewsFoto/California Charter Schools Association)

CCSA also announced today that it will be launching several policy and educational webinars and handouts that were planned for the Annual California Charter Schools Conference. The Conference was to be held in Long Beach on March 16-19, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Conference participants will have access to seminars, panel discussions and presentations, with taped sessions made available on-demand. Attendees can choose the virtual offerings by filtering "Webinars and Handouts" on the Programming section of the Conference website.  

"Though we are living in unprecedented times, CCSA has always been prepared to adapt and meet these moments of great uncertainty," said Myrna Castrejón, CCSA President and CEO. "The flexibility and innovation that has defined our movement is on full display as we pivot towards virtual learning. And there is perhaps no better time to highlight the student trailblazers and the teachers and leaders who are fearlessly leading the way before, during and after this crisis. This is a moment to recognize the giants in our charter community."

The Hart Vision Awards have been presented annually since 1995 to individuals and organizations with outstanding records of leadership and excellence in public education. The awards are named in honor of Gary K. Hart, a retired California State Senator, former California Secretary of Education and the author of California's landmark charter public school legislation.

The ten $2,000 scholarships also being awarded to charter high school graduates are named in honor of Susan Steelman Bragato, the co-founder of the first charter school in California and founder of California Network of Education Charters (CNEC). CNEC went on to become the California Charter Schools Association in 2003.


Awarded historically as the Hart Vision Volunteer of the Year Award, this year's presentation marks the rededication of the award as the Rachel Willis-Henry Volunteer of the Year Award. Named in honor of CCSA's late staff member, Rachel Willis-Henry, the award's new name pays tribute to the countless hours Rachel put into her work with charter public schools–at first as a volunteer, then later as a parent organizer with CCSA.

Videos of the honorees will be presented on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, at the times below on CCSA's Facebook channel, as well as the California Charter Schools Conference channel:

10:00 am

Hart Awards Kickoff & Presentation of Bragato Scholarship winners

10:30 am

Rachel Willis-Henry Volunteer of the Year Award—Suzanne Cherry

11:00 am

Teacher of the Year—Marissa Espinoza

11:30 am

School Leader of the Year (North)—Frances Teso

12:00 pm

School Leader of the Year (South)—Alison Diaz

12:30 pm

School of the Year (South)—Alliance College Ready Public Schools

1:00 pm

School of the Year (North)—AIMS

1:30 pm

Public Officials of the Year—


State Senator Shannon Grove, 16th state district


Wendy Carrillo, State Assembly member, 51st state district


Nick Melvoin, LAUSD Board Member, 4th district

About the Honorees:

**Susan Steelman Bragato Scholarship Winners:

  • Jose Aguirre, Merced Scholarship Charter School, Merced, CA
  • Matthew Byrd, River Valley Charter High School, Lakeside, CA
  • Destiny Cathcart, Public Safety Academy, San Bernardino, CA
  • Suzanne Choi, Clayton Valley Charter High School, Concord, CA
  • Caleb Edwards, Magnolia Science Academy 3, Carson, CA
  • Norma Garcia, Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rigoberto Garcia, Community Charter Early College High School, Lakeview Terrace, CA
  • Keyara Piri, University High School, Los Angeles, CA
  • Juan Salinas, San Jacinto Valley Academy, San Jacinto, CA
  • Sarah Tran, Granada Hills Charter High School, Los Angeles, CA 

**Rachel Willis-Henry Volunteer of the Year Award: Ms. Suzanne Cherry
Suzanne Cherry, the recipient of this year's award, is a volunteer who puts her all into everything she does. She is a wife, a mother and has a full-time job as a retail-store manager. She's also a board member and an advocate for Encore High School. Suzanne's actions show that you don't have to be a full-time volunteer to make a big impact in the charter community.

The award is named in honor of former CCSA colleague, Ms. Rachel Wills-Henry. In 2019, CCSA didn't just lose a team member, but a part of the charter family. Rachel Willis-Henry was a passionate advocate for parent choice and a force to be reckoned with when she fought for her family and for all the families in her community of Oakland. In honor of Rachel, the Volunteer of the Year award will be known as the "Rachel Willis-Henry Volunteer of the Year Award." Rachel's legacy lives on through all who knew her.

**Teacher of the Year: Ms. Marissa Espinosa
Marissa Espinosa believes in every single one of her students, and that there is no limit to what they can do, guiding them towards the North Star of success. She's a tough cookie, but that's why she's a favorite in the classroom. She is also an inspiration and mentor to her fellow teachers.

**Leader of the Year Northern California: Ms. Frances Teso
Frances Teso does not back down from any challenge no matter how big or how small. She leads battles charter schools face fearlessly. Even as she fights for charter school students, her dual-immersion schools continue to be high-performing and sought in the community.

**Leader of the Year Southern California: Alison Diaz
Alison Diaz's name is synonymous with innovation and tenacity. She raises her students' collective consciousness about the environment and giving students the tools and knowledge they need to be active, committed and passionate participants in their communities. She is a true innovator.

**School of the Year Southern California: Alliance College Ready Public Schools
This southern school of the year, Alliance College Ready Public Schools, is not just one school—it's a whole network. These schools are committed to student success even outside the walls of their schools with programs to ensure just college admission but college completion. Alliance College Ready Public Schools is going above and beyond for student success.

**School of the Year Northern California: American Indian Model AIMS
Our northern school of the year, American Indian Model (AIMS), in Northern California is a diverse and consistently high performing school. Their high standards have allowed them to maintain an amazing high graduation rate. AIMS is an example of a school that rose from the roots of the community to serve the people.

**Public Officials of the Year: Honored for their courage and advocacy of public charter schools.

  • California State Senator Shannon Grove, 16th State District
  • State Assembly member Wendy Carrillo, 51st State District
  • Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Nick Melvoin, 4th District