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Organization: Wm. S. Hart Union High School District
Date: June 22, 2009
Valencia H.S. Receives Valuing Diversity Award

Valencia High School Principal Paul Priesz (r) receives the Hart District's Valuing Diversity Award from Greg Lee, the district's coordinator of diversity.
    Valencia High School and Principal Paul Priesz have received the Hart District's Valuing Diversity Award for the 2008-09 school year. The award was presented at an end-of-the-year Administrative Council meeting by Diversity Coordinator Greg Lee in recognition and appreciation of diversity on the Valencia campus.
    The award recognizes the Valencia administration, staff and students for outstanding efforts to raise diversity awareness and appreciation not only on campus but also throughout the community. Dr. Priesz was particularly commended for his hands-on efforts, for his willingness to say 'yes' when approached with a new concept and for his drive to create a multicultural learning environment.
    "Since its opening in 1994, Valencia High has always been a campus where diversity has been a source of pride and celebration," Lee told the audience of district administrators. "The full spectrum of the student population is reflected in the faces of those representing the school in the arts, athletics and academics. The staff itself may be the most culturally diverse in the district, evidence of Principal Paul Priesz' commitment to creating and sustaining a multicultural learning environment."
    The award cited such programs as Circle of Friends, which pairs general education and special needs students to increase peer interactions and reduce social exclusion. Valencia's Safe School Ambassadors have been trained to reduce interpersonal and intergroup tensions, with a minimal amount of adult involvement.
    The school also trains peer mediators and peer counselors, who work closely with students to resolve personal conflicts, and the school regularly hosts Open Forum public comment sessions, where students freely dialogue about topical social issues of the day. The school also conducts its own Unity Week event each year.
    "These campus-wide efforts bring students together to recognize their common interests and values as Valencia Vikings," Lee continued. He also cited the school for its outreach programs to sixth grade students at elementary schools across the valley.
    Through the STRIVE program, Valencia students reached more than 2,300 grade school students, presenting class-based lessons about stereotyping and prejudice. Lee complimented the program for having a "community-wide impact" on youth culture.
    "Thanks to the enduring efforts of staff and students at Valencia High School, a culture of respect is thriving there," Lee continued. He noted that positive student activism was on display recently when students raised consciousness about modern day genocide and the worldwide exploitation of children as soldiers.
    "At Valencia, students are comfortable having discussions about race, culture and respect," Lee concluded. "They readily identify diversity as a strength of their school. They proudly embrace it, and continue to cultivate it as one of the best parts of being a Valencia Viking."
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