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“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” - 

Malala Yousafzai, 

addressed to the U.N. Youth Assembly.

the Latest

as seen on the

In honor of Black History Month, 2023.  Helena was invited to be featured as one of four young Black changemakers on the The Disney Channel’s  “In The Nook,”  a short-form talk show hosted by the stars of Saturdays (Disney Channel) Danielle Jalade and Jermaine Harris.  She was interviewed on set at The Disney Studios in Burbank, California in January.

Preview 1

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Invited Keynote

Donato-Sapp, H.  (March 10-12, 2023).  Disability Justice.  “Joy, Justice, Excellence: The Strength of Educators. The Brilliance of Students. The Power of Community.”  National Education Association’s National Leadership Summit.  Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco.

Helena is a keynote speaker for the NEA, the nation’s largest labor union with over three million members.  Helena spoke in a plenary session on the topic of Disability Justice.

“NEA's annual National Leadership Summit helps to develop activist leaders and prepare them with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to lead relevant, thriving associations and to lead in their professions. Our unified, strategic, and interdisciplinary approach to leadership development reinforces and supports key leadership competencies in seven strategic areas.

Each year, the NEA National Leadership Summit features educators, activists, and partners who challenge, inspire, and motivate participants to lead beyond the training.

Read more about the National Education Association’s Leadership Summit.

About the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  Watch the keynote.

In the news

The city of Long Beach invited its young poet citizens to participate in its inaugural Youth Poet Laureate program through the Long Beach Public Library. As an emerging writer, poet and activist, Helena enthusiastically answered the call and started attending poetry events and classes beginning in early Fall 2022. In October 2022, she was honored to read an original piece along with four notable local poets as part of Mercadito Literario, a celebration of Latinx literature and art. In February 2023, as part of its teen programming to honor Black History Month the library asked Helena to teach a poetry class — a workshop where she modeled the creation of a phrase poem using her own public service videos as a prompt. Along the way she discovered the library not only for its treasure trove of books and media, but as a center of civic engagement, a safe refuge for youth to just be themselves, a hub of creation and exploration, and most of all a warm community anchored by loving librarians.

Journalist-storyteller Loureen Ayyoub of Spectrum News 1 beautifully profiles Helena as a participant in the program who describes the power of poetry and imagination, and the potential for role of Poet Laureate as a platform for her work as an intersectional activist and Disability Justice advocate. The 2-minute segment aired on February 18, 2023. 

View it on Spectrum News 1.

Speaking at a Black History Month School Assembly

Helena was invited to share her current work and speak on the theme of Black Resistance at the Black History Month assembly at her school. In a kind of love letter to educators and the school that she has called home for almost a decade, Helena spoke vulnerably yet fiercely about “living Resistance” everyday as a girl, a Black girl, and a person with learning disabilities, and how she empowers herself through poetry, activism, and scholarship. 

 Mentioned in the full video: 

@lwtech @lbcitylibrary @strongblackgirlsbook @the_74 @diversability @disneychannel @dosomething @chicagoartdept @teacherscollegepress @atn_1863 @spectrumnews1socal 

#genz #youthactivism #disabilityjustice #poetry #girlsinstem #changemakers #blackhistorymonth #blacklivesmatter

Poetry workshop

In honor of Black History Month, 2023.  Activist Poetry.  Long Beach Public Library, Billie Jean King Branch.  As part of its programming for teens in honor of Black History Month, the Long Beach Public Library has invited Helena to teach a poetry class for teens and tweens.  Helena will lead a workshop on writing a phrase poem that combines poetry and social justice using some of her recent short videos as prompts on the topics of Black Girlhood, Disability Justice, Feminism, Immigration and Labor.

A phrase poem is a way of presenting your impressions and observations when you hear a speaker or read a piece of text. It is not a complete sentence, but a phrase that captures a certain emotion or that grabs the reader’s attention.

Feature in a book

A scholar in Northern California reached out to Helena and asked to feature the 13-year-old feminist in her book, Young Global Changemakers for a Feminist Future, along with other youth changemakers from 12 countries worldwide.  The recently released book contains Helena’s thoughts on being a feminist and disability activist in 8th grade, featured in a section titled Black Feminism.

Meet Mr. Wooly Pierre, a 14-year veteran STEM educator who is also the prolific, funny, and talented Podcaster behind The Chronicles of Mister. His podcast chronicles the experience of being part of the 2% of all educators in the United States who are Black men, as he connects with other educators on the “joys and realities” of the profession. Mr. Pierre also happens to be Helena’s first Black male teacher and one of very few Black teachers in her K-8 education. Helena turned the table on her teacher when she asked to interview him around several topics that include being Afro-Latinx, the significance of Black teacher representation in schools, their shared goal of improving schooling for all students, their shared connection to the country of Haiti, and the common Math phobia. Stay tuned for this fascinating conversation coming soon!

Upcoming interview

Social gallery

Instagram:  @helenadonatosapp

Instagram @


Grant Award

Abolitionist Education is a teaching approach that centers on abolishing oppressive educational systems, while loving, protecting, remembering, and healing children of color and their communities.


(2022-2023).  Helena Lourdes Donato-Sapp is humbled to have been awarded a grant from the Abolitionist Teaching Network in recognition of her relentless, bold, and courageous work along with others across the nation as an Educator for Disability Justice.  

Read more… About the Abolitionist Teaching Network.  About ATN Grants for Educators.

July, 2022.  Global Influencer Helena Donato-Sapp.  Diversability is an international community of people with disabilities on a mission to elevate disability pride.  Now in its third year, the D-30 Disability Impact List recognizes the unique accomplishments of its most impactful community members globally through a nomination and selection process.  Out of almost 250 nominations from around the world,  Helena has been named as one of 30 Honorees for 2022.  Helena also has the distinction of being the youngest in her cohort and the youngest recipient of the honor to date. Congratulations to the D-30 Disability Impact List Honorees of 2022!! #d30dislist #Diversability

Read more… About Diversability.  About D-30.  About Helena’s Impact.

16 under 16 in stem

August 2022.  Helena is recognized as one of “16 Under 16 in STEM” nationwide.  From The 74:  “After an extensive and comprehensive selection process, we’re thrilled to introduce this year’s class of 16 Under 16 in STEM. The honorees range in age from 12 to 16 and have shown extraordinary achievement in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The honorees specialize in fields from medicine to agriculture to invention. We hope that these incredible youngsters can inspire others — and offer hope that our future can be in pretty good hands.”  

Read more… About The 74.  About 16 Under 16.”  About Helena’s award.

Decolonizing Education

Donato-Sapp, H.  (2022).  “Brave and didn’t know it:  A 12-year-old decolonizes her elementary education.” The Iowa Journal for the Social Studies. Using her positionality as a middle school student, a 12-year-old looks back on her elementary school assignments with a critical lens to decolonize her education.  Meticulously reflecting on what she was taught – and not taught – from kindergarten through fifth-grade, she looks at key assignments to show how a colonized education happened to her and how she grew into political consciousness and began to confront the lies she was being taught.  She offers advice to teachers for presenting students with a more equitable and decolonized curriculum in the lower grades. The article is in the Iowa Journal for the Social Studies.

Disability Justice

On March 14th, 2022, Helena spoke for the Intersectional Disability Studies Speaker Series as part of the the Intersectional Disability Studies Strand of the Institute for Emancipatory Education.  Speaking on the topic of Disability Justice, Helena is the first youth speaker for the series. 

#emancipatoryed #SJSUDisabilityVisibility

View the recording here.

Invited Talk and Publication.  Helena was invited to a "kitchen-table talk" by the education journal Equity & Excellence in Education (EEE). The roundtable conversation on Disability Justice entitled A Kitchen-Table Talk Against Ableism: Disability Justice for Collective Liberation was published on March 9, 2022, in an issue of EEE journal.  (Recorded Virtual Conversation.  January, 2022).

Access the article here.

Lingyu Li, Helena Lourdes Donato-Sapp, Nirmala Erevelles, Lisette E. Torres & Federico Waitoller (2022). A Kitchen-Table Talk Against Ableism: Disability Justice for Collective Liberation, Equity & Excellence in Education, DOI: 10.1080/10665684.2021.2047417

Lingyu Li (L) attended Helena’s presentation of her chapter titled Black Girl Magic is a Glorious Gift in Strong Black Girls:  Patchwork Stories of Remembrance, Resistance, and Resilience in K-12 Schooling (Eds.) at AERA in San Diego, CA, April 2022. Thanks, Lingyu! ❤️

In the Fall of 2021, Helena founded a chapter of Girls Learn International at her middle school, which led to the creation of an elective workshop called “Conversations for Justice.” This Summer, she was accepted to be part of GLI’s 2022-2023 Feminist Focus blog team. Stay tuned for stories, interviews, opinion pieces, and more from the team on TUMBLR. Coming September 2022!

“Perhaps it’s the world that needs changing.”

- Enola Holmes

Black Girlhood

Donato-Sapp, H.  (2021).  Black Girl Magic is a Glorious Gift.  In Danielle Apugo, Lynnette Mawhinney, and Afiya M. Mbilishaka’s Strong Black Girls:  Patchwork Stories of Remembrance, Resistance, and Resilience in K-12 Schooling (Eds.).  New York, NY:  Teachers College Press.

Conference Presentation.  Helena delivered a breathtaking presentation on her chapter Black Girl Magic is a Glorious Gift in a symposium titled Strong Black Girls: Reclaiming Schools in Their Own Image and received a standing ovation at The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in San Diego, CA, April 21-26, 2022. Her presentation as a 12 year-old Black Girl Scholar was electric and unforgettable.

The Editors and Contributing Authors:  (Above, from L:  Taylor Tucker, Lynette Mawhinney, Afiya Mbilishaka, Danielle Apugo, and Helena Donato-Sapp.  Below, from L:  Asia Thomas, Helena Donato-Sapp, Taylor Tucker, and Autumn Griffin)

Paper Publication (in review).  In October 2021, Helena presented on her journey as a young academic at the Locating the Geographies of Black Girlhoods in Education Conference, sponsored by The Black Girlhood in Education Research Collective (BGERC) and The American Educational Research Association (AERA). The paper entitled “Brick-by-brick:  The building of a 12-year-old Black girl scholar” is currently in review.

Working Artist, 2022:  

Below is a sample of Helena’s work as an Artivist from a recent assignment. She received a commission to design the inaugural cover for an open access journal at California State University in Dominguez Hills called “In Dialogue/En Diálogo.” Inspired by an art project in 7th grade, Helena pulled out all the stops for the commission, creating a robust (53-page) portfolio, multiple cover ideas, individual art transparencies, and three custom fonts! #Helenatica2022


“Good poetry and successful revolution change lives.  And you cannot compose a good poem or wage a revolution without changing consciousness.  And you cannot alter consciousness unless you attack the language that you share with your enemies and invent a new language you share with your allies.”

— June Jordan, Poet and Essayist

Invited Inspirational Opening Speaker.  Helena was invited to give the inspirational opening remarks to the College of Education at California State University in Dominguez Hills. She read her poem entitled “Future Me Thanks You” originally written for the National Institutes for Historically Underserved Students in 2019. The poem is beautifully in line with the college’s new mission and vision statements that center on equity and justice for all.  (January 19, 2022).


         👋🏾 My name is Helena Lourdes Donato-Sapp and I am 13 years-old. Humanity is in crisis, and my generation stands to inherit a world still struggling with injustice, under threat of widespread authoritarianism, and on the brink of environmental collapse. It is urgent that young people understand and confront critical issues like anti-Blackness, ableism, Queerphobia, misogyny, poverty, media disinformation, Science denial, and climate change 🌍. I am an #activist for social, economic, and environmental justice. I understand that Activism is as much a fight as it is the pursuit of peace. It is inclusive and intersectional. Thus, I fight not to destroy, erase, or dominate; I fight to build, to remember, and to liberate.

        Guided by my experiences, family values, intersecting identities, and now this historic global pandemic, my work as a young intersectional scholar-activist is currently focused on Black Girlhood, Disability Justice, and Abolitionist Education. I have published 📚 in books, peer-reviewed journals  and magazines, exhibited art in museums, and spoken to audiences 🎤 nationwide. In fact, my work has already been recognized in colleges, universities, and the disability community, and by a national think tank, an award-winning pre-teen girl power magazine, a preeminent education news publication, and even the Disney Channel, where I was recently featured as a “Young, Gifted, and Black” changemaker. I’ve been designated the Poet of the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students and have received national and global honors.

        I play the violin and enjoy different kinds of music 🎵, from classical and classic rock to 1980s pop. At the top of my playlist today:  Lizzo and Harry Styles, of course. My family and I traveled a lot before the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, and I hope to see more of the world again soon.  My early travels include London, Paris, Sydney, and Amsterdam. And New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Parkersburg!! I’m in my last year of Middle school where my favorite subjects are Science and the Humanities, so I naturally love History, reading mystery 🔍 novels, and everything Science Fiction.

        I’m a Storyteller and Poet who dreams of breaking into film or television as a Writer, Actor, and Director 🎥 , already working on my first documentary. Stay tuned! The industry absolutely needs more #BlackWomenInFilm so look out for me! I’m a fan and student of Stranger Things (the show) and get lost in stories about time travel. I also play volleyball and basketball, and practice Martial Arts at which I have earned a second-degree Blue Belt in karate. See my latest projects, read what people are saying about me and my work, and follow me on my blog and social media! ❤️


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