PEN America’s Freedom to Read Student Summit – San Francisco

Freedom to Read Student Summit - San Francisco

PEN America is returning to the San Francisco Public Library this Fall to host a Freedom to Read Student Summit for high school students in recognition of Banned Books Week 2023!

This unique day of thematic workshops and activities led by PEN America student leaders and staff will help equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to combat book banning and educational censorship to preserve the freedoms to read and learn in their schools, libraries, and communities across the region and beyond! Returning students from our March 2023 program are welcome! Our trainings have been updated with new data and insights from PEN America’s latest book bans report, “Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools”.

Our program will begin with brief presentations that introduce students to PEN America and the San Francisco Public Library, as well as the state of book bans and educational censorship issues locally and across the United States. Breakout discussions and activities will follow, where students can engage on some of the most difficult questions related to free expression and schools today. Students will be tasked at the end to work together on presenting advocacy campaign ideas to address freedom to learn challenges, exploring new and innovative ways to address the issues together through creativity and activism.


This event is open to students in any level of high school and is free to attend. Lunch will be provided. Capacity is limited so register as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].




Program Itinerary:


Activity: Starts: Ends:

Welcome and Ice Breaker

12:00 PM 12:30 PM

Opening Remarks from PEN America and the San Francisco Public Library

12:30 PM 1:00 PM
10 min Break 1:00 PM 1:10 PM

Workshop #1

1:10 PM 2:00 PM

10 min Break

2:00 PM 2:10 PM

Workshop #2

2:10 PM 3:00 PM
A Conversation with a Special Guest (TBA) 3:00 PM 3:50 PM

Closing, Other Opportunities and Group Photo

3:50 PM 4:00 PM
*Subject to Change*





Leela Hensler Headshot Hi, I’m Leela Hensler! I’m a junior at Albany High School in Albany (near Berkeley). In school, I’m a leadership member in Speak, a student group working for social justice in Albany through education, and a captain on the AHS debate and track teams. Outside of school, I’ve interned for organizations such as United 4 Iran and the North American branch of the World Uyghur Congress, among other activities. In my free time, I enjoy running, baking, and trying new boba places. Through my advocacy work, I have seen the importance of upholding the freedom to learn in our schools. I’m thrilled to be working with PEN America to continue protecting educational freedoms in Northern California and across the United States.


Margo Weber HeadshotHi, I’m Margo Weber! I am a 9th grader at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. I enjoy dancing, gymnastics, creative writing, and coding in my spare time! In school, I am part of the Girls in Tech club and am an editor of my school’s literary magazine. I have seen the importance of freedom of speech and the right to learn through local advocacy. As these rights are increasingly threatened, I am committed to championing protections for the freedom to learn! I am honored to be working with PEN America and eager to fight for the freedom of education.



PEN America Staff:


headshot of Nicholas PerezNicholas “Niko” Perez is the program manager of free expression and education at PEN America. In this role, he advances PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public, and supports advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education.





San Francisco Public LibrarySan Francisco Public Library Logo ​is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning, and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center, and four bookmobiles serving all ages, abilities, and means. SFPL was honored as the 2018 Library of the Year. Connect with SFPL on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to learn more about dynamic programs and services.


The Mix at SFPLThe Mix at SFPL logo is an innovative, teen-designed, 21st-century Connected Learning space that provides 4,770 square feet of space and equipment for youth ages 13-18 to explore, create and develop digital media and computer skills as well as discover and engage with the Library’s traditional books and materials. Outfitted with state-of-the-art digital media, video/sound recording, computer, and creative maker equipment, teens can expand their imaginations as well as their technology and literacy skills and engage in individual and team projects that promote critical thinking, inventiveness, and skill building. Connect with The Mix at SFPL on Instagram.