Reston, VA—Derrick Lawson, principal of Indio High School in Indio, CA, has been named the 2021 Advocacy Champion of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Lawson was inspired to act after he noticed that virtual attendance had dropped to as low as 70% (down from 94%) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like hundreds of other schools hit hard by the pandemic, Indio High School’s vulnerable populations were disproportionately suffering. Half the students lived with family members who had gotten sick, a third lacked stable housing, and a quarter had begun working full time or were caring for younger siblings while at home. Lawson and his assistant principal worried about these kids and took it upon themselves to attempt to reach the missing students in person and reestablish a connection.

“Every year, NASSP is proud to honor the individuals who are making a difference in the lives of their staff and students through outstanding grassroots advocacy, says NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “Derrick Lawson has worked tirelessly to support not just the students at Indio High School but students all across the state of California. We celebrate the work Lawson has done to help students survive and thrive during a very challenging time.”

The NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year Award recognizes an individual for outstanding and significant contributions to advancing the organization’s policy agenda and advocating on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student. These individuals elevate the voice and influence of school leaders in federal, state, and local policy and public discourse. Additional information about the NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year award can be found at


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of middle level and high school principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor SocietyNational Junior Honor SocietyNational Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.