Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Regional Educators, Activists and Visionaries Dedicated to Making a Difference in the Community Recognized by KCET and PBS SoCal

2021 Local Heroes and PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion to be recognized at virtual annual Holiday Community Celebration Luncheon.
Support Provided By

Press Contact

JP Shields

Pictured (from l to r): 2021 Local Heroes Honorees Chanchanit (Chancee) Martorell and Brandon ‘Stix’ Salaam-Bailey as well as PBS Kids Early Learning Champion Charisse Sims. Download &

Los Angeles, Calif. – Dec. 15, 2021 – PBS SoCal and KCET Southern California’s flagship PBS stations as well as the home for award-winning, original local content, announced today the individuals named as honorees of their PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions and KCET Local Heroes initiatives. The awards recognize the accomplishments of those who are dedicated to making a difference in the community: recognizing activists, educators, community leaders and visionaries doing critical work that often goes unrecognized in the Southern California region. The honorees named are preschool teacher Charisse Sims as the PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion as well as Chanchanit (Chancee) Martorell and Brandon ‘Stix’ Salaam-Bailey as the 2021 KCET Local Heroes.

Additionally, the honorees and nominees for the 2021 Local Heroes Program will be recognized at a virtual Holiday Community Celebration Luncheon on Dec. 15 which will bring together the organization’s Board of Directors, the Executive Management Team and the current members of the Community Advisory Board. PBS SoCal and KCET’s community engagement efforts with its viewers and supporters would not be possible without the help of their Community Advisory Board (CAB). This active group of volunteer leaders is the stations’ eyes and ears of the community. The organization plays an integral part in the planning and implementation of many outreach programs including the Local Heroes initiative.

This year’s Local Heroes honorees Chanchanit (Chancee) Martorell and Brandon ‘Stix’ Salaam-Bailey were chosen from a group of nine outstanding individuals nominated by KCET and PBS SoCal’s Community Advisory Board (CAB). A short promotional video featuring the 2021 Local Hero Honorees can be viewed online at and and will begin running on-air on both KCET and PBS SoCal in the new year. The roster of 2021 Local Heroes nominees includes Los Angeles Mayor’s Climate Emergency Mobilization Office Environmental Activist Jacquelyn Badejo; Volunteer and Community Activist Jeff Collins; 211 LA Community leader and Care coordinator Sophia ("Sophie") Cuevas; Transtech Engineers, Inc. Project Manager Melissa Demirci; Venice Community Housing Executive Director Becky Dennison; University Pathways Public Service Academy Principal Amen Rahh; and Illumination Foundation Chief Operating Officer Jack Toan. The full list of the 2021 KCET/PBS SoCal Local Heroes nominees, their profiles and photographs, can also be found at and

Born in Thailand and raised in Los Angeles, Chancee Martorell has been engaged in social activism for the past 35 years. Martorell is currently the executive director of the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC), a nonprofit organization she founded in 1994 to improve the lives of Thai immigrants through services that promote cultural adjustment and economic self-sufficiency. She also created and taught the first “Thai American Experience” course offered as part of UCLA’s Asian American Studies curriculum in 1992. During Thailand’s military coup of 1992, she mobilized the Thai community in Southern California to protest the atrocities committed by the military junta against civilian demonstrators in Bangkok, demanding a peaceful return to democracy for Thailand and its people. After civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992, she co-authored the Mid-City Plan for the Coalition of Neighborhood Developers, which sought to address the lack of economic resources in an inner-city area of Los Angeles.

She is known most notably for her work on over a half dozen major human rights cases involving over 2,000 victims of human trafficking who were discovered working in conditions of slavery in the United States. Her tireless advocacy on behalf of the victims and the success of each case has made her a leading expert and sought-after spokesperson on the serious issue of modern-day slavery.

Brandon “Stix” Salaam-Bailey is an American rapper, record producer, songwriter, activist and entrepreneur. Salaam-Bailey was born and raised in Watts which has greatly influenced his career in music and entertainment. Through his Thinkwatts Foundation, he works to help underserved communities. In 2018 this 501(c)(3) organization was created to focus on food insecurity, financial literacy/entrepreneurship, environmental justice and sports facility refurbishments/skills programming. To date, the foundation has helped more than 40,000 residents in seven cities across Los Angeles County. The Thinkwatts Foundation has partnered with major corporations and organizations like Mastercard, the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles FC, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Clippers, Kaiser Permanente, AT&T and more to assist with creative programming for underserved communities. The organization’s current focus is finding a location for its headquarters which will have co-working desks and offices for small business, coding classes as well as financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career development training for underserved residents.

The PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions program was established in 2018 recognizing passionate educators who work with the nation’s youngest students, from infants to second graders. Through the Early Learning Champions program, PBS KIDS and local PBS stations like PBS SoCal surround educators with professional learning and networking opportunities. The initiative has recognized 38 passionate educators of young children since its inception, including the 2021 honorees, celebrating various early learning educators, including Pre-K, Head Start and early elementary teachers; center care providers and directors; museum and community educators; and home care providers and owners. The program represents the diverse teaching community impacting young learners today. Early Learning Champions will also connect with educator networks across the nation, and further their commitments to their community’s families, education officials and administrators through the utilization of PBS KIDS and local PBS stations tools and resources. A promotional video honoring Charisse Sims as our local PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion can be found here.

Charisse A. Sims is an educator, coach, trainer and mother. She currently operates Hidden Gems Preparatory Academy, serving children in preschool through 8th grade in the greater Los Angeles area. Sims also supports early childhood school administrators and educators as a trainer and consultant. Beyond the walls of the classroom, she applies her hard-won perspectives and experiences to help others navigate their parenting journey through her Parenting Piece by Peace Coaching and Support program and Parents in the Playhouse podcast/video series. As an early childhood education expert with an engaging and accessible style, she is a highly sought-after speaker and trainer who has been featured on OWN Network’s Black Love series and the Moms In Color Conference. Charisse is also on the leading side of creating culturally relevant, diverse and inclusive curriculum. Charisse works with parents and educators of children of color to help create anti-racist, inclusive and equal environments for children to thrive in.

Join the conversation on social media using #LocalHeroes and #EarlyLearningChampion

About PBS SoCal and KCET

PBS SoCal and KCET are both part of the donor-supported community institution, the Public Media Group of Southern California. PBS SoCal is the flagship PBS station for diverse people across California and delivers content and experiences that inspire, inform and educate. PBS SoCal offers the full slate of beloved PBS programs including MASTERPIECE, NOVA, PBS NewsHour, FRONTLINE, and a broad library of documentary films with works from Ken Burns; as well as educational content including PBS KIDS programs like DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD and CURIOUS GEORGE. KCET showcases the best of PBS and is a leading source for arts, culture, and news in Southern California. Through innovative storytelling, KCET explores and expresses our dynamic local communities helping residents understand and connect with the region's diverse communities and ideas. For additional information about both KCET and PBS SoCal productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit and KCET Originals and PBS programming are available to stream on the FREE PBS App on iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, and Chromecast. KCET is also available to watch live on YouTube TV.

Support Provided By
Read More

Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Historical Origins Explored In Broadcast World Premiere of Two-Part Documentary 'LA: A Queer History’ Celebrating Pride Month

Programming slate on KCET, PBS SoCal and Link TV in June spotlights theater icons Joe Papp, Terrence McNally, Harvey Fierstein and Alan Cumming; plus, programming addressing LGBTQ+ youth mental health in Ken Burns' "Hiding in Plain Sight" and "Link Voices: Born To Be."
EARTH FOCUS "For the Love of the Land" explores how climate change has taken a toll on the mental health of farmers and homesteaders. Image courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Clean Air and Environmental Impact on Health Explored in New Season of Acclaimed Environmental Series EARTH FOCUS from KCET, Link TV and Thomson Reuters Foundation

Fourth annual Earth Focus Environmental Film Festival returns virtually with five days of films and discussions inspiring positive change for the planet.
TNE Image copy.jpg

New KCET, PBS SoCal and Link TV Programs Inspire Viewers to Invest in the Future of the Environment Featuring Broadcast Premieres of Historical Documentaries Covering Climate Crisis and Activism in California and Beyond

Premieres throughout April include The Great Thirst: William Mulholland and BBC Studios Changing Planet; plus new episodes of Emmy®award-winning series The New Environmentalists narrated by Sigourney Weaver and Robert Redford.