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Date of Graduation
“Big things don’t happen in Kalamazoo and especially not for our people”. These are the words of a young Hispanic student at Kalamazoo Central High School. This KCHS student along with others did not believe that the Hispanic community could bring an important speaker such as Dolores Huerta to Kalamazoo. Dolores Huerta, alongside César Chávez Co-Founded the United Farm Workers (UFW). What that young Hispanic student saw as impossible, I saw it as calling and a dream, but most importantly as a moment when I could change the way those students thought about what is possibly from our Hispanic community.
César Chávez believed that a group that worked united many things could be achieved, or as he said it, “¡Si se puede!”, “Yes we can!” and that was exactly what we did. I was able to work with the students from the bilingual club at KCHS, a small group of K-College students and with other members of the community along with my mentor Dr. Michael Millar from the Spanish department at Western Michigan University. The whole process of grant writing, meeting people, communicating with Dolores Huerta, requesting permission from the city to carry out the march and many other things began in late October of 2008. After all the work and struggles that we went trough, the project came together and on March 31, 2009 President Dunn welcomed Dolores Huerta to campus at the Bernhard Center. Following the opening ceremony, the students from Kalamazoo Central High School, the K-College Amigos, my mentor and I marched from Western Michigan University to Bronson Park where the Mayor of Kalamazoo welcomed her to the city too.
March 31, 2009 was a day that made history for the Hispanic Community of Kalamazoo because it became the largest César Chávez Day Celebration gathering more than 500 people. That day the students from KCHS proved to themselves and everyone n the community that with mentorship, patience, love, dedication, hard work and unanimity things are possible, exemplifying what César Chávez himself believed and represented.
The idea of getting involved and working with this project emerged after I was placed at Kalamazoo Central High School as part of my service learning experience for a Spanish with Internship class. The professor for the Spanish with Internship class was Dr. Michael Millar who is a professor at the Spanish Department at WMU. After being at KCHS for a month the plans for César Chávez Day celebrations began and since I was part of the after school program that organized it year after year, I was asked to form part of the organizing team. At first I didn’t want to take part in this event, but as soon as I heard the students doubting their abilities to work and make the event a successful one I jumped on board. The reason why the students did not believe in themselves was because they had attempted a large César Chávez Day celebration before and due to some circumstances the outcomes were not the ones they had projected. I analyzed this huge project and agreed on becoming a co-organizer along with Ryan Labudda (KCHS), K-College students, and the KCHS students. After I accepted to be part of the organizing body I talked to Dr. Millar (my mentor) about the possibility of using that task as my Lee Honors College Project. We submitted the thesis declaration paperwork and once it was approved we moved forward with the project until it was complete.
Ramirez-Torres, Julian, "Cesar Chavez Day Celebration with Delores Huerta, 2009" (2012). Honors Theses. 2353.
Honors Thesis-Open Access