A small group of about 15 students gathered Wednesday afternoon in the El Centro office for their weekly leadership class, Mano a Mano. Students listened to a presentation about Cesar Chavez and how his legacy continues to live on today. About seven junior high students joined the class.
Rich Salas, assistant director of El Centro and instructor of the Mano a Mano class, and Guadalupe Salazar, director of El Centro, recounted personal stories about their experiences as migrant farm workers. Kimi Jackson, staff attorney at student legal services, presented a combination of statistics about the history of migrant farm workers and the hardships they continue to endure today.
Salazar and Salas spoke about the hardships farm workers have to overcome and stressed how important it is that Chavez's legacy lives on today.
"Cesar Chavez was a simple man with only a seventh grade education and look what he did with his life," Salas said. "If he was able to accomplish all that he did and impact so many lives, imagine how educated people like you and me can positively impact and shape the world."
Even though only Latin American students attended yesterday's class, Salas feels the message is important for everyone to hear.
"He was a great champion for farm workers," Salazar said. "I would like students to keep in mind on March 31, which was Cesar Chavez's birthday, that he brought dignity to farm workers. Cesar Chavez was committed to defending dignity to those where dignity had been denied,"
Arika Ayala, a freshman biology major, attends the leadership class every week. The most important information, in her opinion, was advice that classmates gave the visiting junior high students.
"Never be ashamed of your culture," Ayala said. "Migrant workers stick with it because they're trying to support their family. Parents want to give their kids something they couldn't have. Just work as hard as you can."
Salas, Salazar and Jackson have presented this information to 500-600 students in six different classes on campus. They shared Chavez's history and work with students in an effort to educate today's generation.
"It is an interesting story and legacy that he left behind. Somebody has to continue to fight for justice and civil rights. We can't just let it die. We continue to celebrate his birthday in remembrance of him and his work," Salazar said.