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San Diego students have mixed reactions to Supreme Court confirmation hearing

This week’s confirmation hearings in Washington D.C. have provided history lessons in real-time for students. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez takes us to class with some high school seniors on the verge of voting for the first time.

This week’s confirmation hearings in Washington, D.C. have provided history lessons in real time for students.

At High Tech High International in Liberty Station, a civics class of seniors tuned in to watch Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson make history Wednesday.

Elena Apalategui is the teacher who meets with her students for government and civics discussions three times a week. Her assignment for the class was to watch the hearing Wednesday and listen for the types of questions senators asked the nominee, then journal their reactions.


Nick Ngo, 17, hopes to attend either UC San Diego or the University of Southern California next year to study aerospace engineering. He said about Jackson, “She is great representing people of color, women, and marginalized communities because of her history of being a public defender.”

There has never been a justice seated on the U.S. Supreme Court who has experience as a public defender. Like most of the other students in the civics class, Ngo will turn 18 this year and be eligible to vote in the next election.

“I am excited about voting because it gives me a voice,” he said, “I would like to have an influence on this country because I’m a citizen of it.”

M.G. Perez
Nick Ngo, 17, watched confirmation hearings in his civics class at High Tech High International in Liberty Station, San Diego, CA, March 2022.

Apalategui said she has to act as a referee when discussions get too lively with her students. “A lot of them have very strong opinions or political affiliations,” she told KPBS News, “so that can be challenging to kind of balance and make room for everybody to share the air.”


The school has a motto that says “make that room for everyone to share the air” in order to have diverse representation.

High Tech High International is a public charter school known for its open-concept classrooms and open-minded students especially when it comes to social justice and defending marginalized communities. Parker Lebhar, 17, said the line of questioning by some senators was often inappropriate “because she’s a woman of color and they probably feel threatened by her just being there.”

Malia Oto, 17, is a high school senior who will be old enough to vote soon. She plans to exercise her right and is encouraged by Jackson’s pending appointment to the Supreme Court. She said the judge inspires her, “I’m really excited to see what my generation does. I hope that we can be a group of people to be proud of and make some meaningful changes for people.”