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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #21-47
June 15, 2021
Contact: Communications
Email: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Thurmond Names Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dolores Huerta, and Karen Korematsu to Serve as California's Education Ambassadors

SACRAMENTO—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dolores Huerta, and Dr. Karen Korematsu are living icons who have made significant contributions to culture and society with work and messages that transcend divisions of race, gender, and other social and political constructs and inspire us with universal lessons that can take us in new directions with their talent and impact.

Today, these significant figures received special recognition as Ambassadors to California Education by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond for demonstrating outstanding dedication and contributions to support the education of California’s students. Abdul-Jabbar was honored for leading efforts to boost after-school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning opportunities for California's students. Huerta and Korematsu received the recognition for being key voices in the development of California’s new Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which provides guidance to assist local high schools in developing ethnic studies courses, which are classes that research shows can improve graduation and college-going rates among all students—and especially teens of color.

“Extraordinary models of social justice inspire us to do better and be better. There are few that rival the inspiration of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dolores Huerta, and Karen Korematsu. Each are standard bearers in their own right and have held up a torch to tirelessly lead the way to better educational opportunities for all of California’s students,” Thurmond said.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center is famous for his indefensible “skyhook” and dominating the NBA for 20 years. But as Abdul-Jabbar himself says,“I can do more than stuff a ball through a hoop; my greatest asset is my mind.”And indeed, he can. He is also a New York Times best-selling author; a recipient of the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama; and is the founder of the Skyhook Foundation. The Skyhook Foundation’s mission is to “give kids a shot that can’t be blocked” by bringing educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities. To learn more about Abdul-Jabbar, the Skyhook Foundation, and its programs, please refer to the Skyhook Foundation website External link opens in new window or tab..

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta earned her teaching credential over six decades ago and, at age 91, continues to educate, organize, and work on behalf of those most directly impacted by injustice. Most recently, the Dolores Huerta Foundation has provided education and outreach to stop the spread of COVID-19 and motivate individuals to get vaccinated. The foundation has distributed thousands of pounds of non-perishable food to those in need and directed $250,000 in financial assistance to community members in need during the pandemic. Huerta is a recipient of the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama. Last month, she received an honorary doctorate from Yale University, where she said that: “A formal education obligates one to serve workers and create a world of justice.” To learn more about Dolores Huerta, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and its programs, please refer to the Dolores Huerta Foundation website External link opens in new window or tab..

Dr. Karen Korematsu
Dr. Karen Korematsu is the founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of the late civil rights icon, Fred Korematsu. Fred Korematsu was a graduate of Oakland public schools and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton. Since her father’s passing in 2005, Dr. Korematsu has carried on his legacy as a public speaker, educator, and civil rights advocate. She shares her father’s passion for social justice and education and in 2009 established the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to advance racial equity, social justice, and human rights for all. The Institute’s work has expanded from K–12 civic education to promoting public civic engagement and participation. Dr. Korematsu crisscrosses the country speaking to audiences from kindergarteners to judges and promoting Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on January 30. She has received many awards, including her first honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, in May 2019. To learn more about Dr. Korematsu, her father, the Korematsu Institute, and its programs, please refer to the Fred T. Korematsu Institute website External link opens in new window or tab..

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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