Skip to content

Celebrating Community and Collaboration: Reflections on the 2024 Birth to 12th Grade Water Cooler Conference

water cooler conference 2024

We want to thank everyone who was able to be part of our  2024 Birth to 12th Grade Water Cooler Conference - Bridging Systems to Center Racial Justice for Children and Families. Your presence, engagement, and commitment to educational equity truly made a difference. 

Over two dynamic days, we gathered with dedicated advocates, community leaders, students, and policymakers from across the state of California. Our shared goal: to explore ways to bridge systems and center racial justice for children and families in our education landscape. 

The conference was a melting pot of insights, discussions, and collaborative efforts. We delved into the current state of education from birth to 12th grade, exchanged ideas on transformative approaches grounded in community-shared power and partnership, and explored strategies to safeguard equity during times of economic uncertainty. 

At Catalyst California, we are deeply grateful for your ongoing support in the fight for educational equity. Together, we are working towards a future where every child, regardless of background, has access to a racially just, whole child-centered education system that uplifts all families and communities of color. 

Let's take a moment to revisit some of the highlights from our action-packed conference: 

Chris Nellum at water cooler conference 2024

“I believe in public schools. I would not be in this type of work if I didn’t believe in our schooling system. We must continue to push and advocate for more funding from the state,” said Chris Nellum, Executive Director of Ed Trust West

Brooklyn Anderson at water cooler conference 2024

“Your voice MATTERS, regardless of your background, where you come from or how you identify,” said Brooklyn Anderson, student and advocate from Temecula Valley School District

Martha Hernandez at water cooler conference 2024

“Children do best [in school] when they enter a biliteracy school program because that means they maintain their true identity and culture,” Martha Hernandez, Executive Director of Californians Together

Maeva Marc at water cooler conference 2024

“We must ensure that our child care providers not only have a livable wage but a professional wage,” Maéva Marc, Community Organizer of Kidango

Dr. Bernadette Pilar Zermeno water cooler conference 2024

“Our family members are our first teachers in our early years. It’s important to include our parents, caregivers, and guardians into the child’s curriculum and beyond,” said Dr. Bernadette Pilar Zermeño of Oakland Unified School District

Dr. Bettina Love at water cooler conference 2024

“We live in a county that has a prison to school pipeline. It is maddening to know these statistics! They call this data but this isn’t data, this is harm," our keynote speaker Dr. Bettina Love.

Ben Chida at water cooler conference 2024

“When you want to advocate for change, be more aggressive and resist more!” Ben Chida Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Office of the Governor

Resources from our Panels

  • UCLA Resource 1: Rebuilding More Humane Schools Post-COVID-19: Prioritizing Student Engagement, Social-Emotional Learning and Well-Being 
  • UCLA Resource 2: When the Lights are Turned On: Documenting the Impact of COVID-19 on California’s Education Landscape 
  • Cayla J. Settlement PPT 

These resources serve as guideposts on our journey towards educational equity and justice. Let's continue to learn, grow, and collaborate as we strive to build a brighter future for all. 

As we bid farewell to this year's conference, we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to reconnect at next year's event. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries, challenge the status quo, and champion the cause of educational equity. 

If you'd like to revisit our agenda, click here.

Watch the 2024 Panels

Full list of Speakers