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University hosts 20th annual Cesar Chavez Celebration
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California State University, Stanislaus has been honoring labor activist Cesar Chavez with an annual celebration of his life since 1994. - photo by Photo contributed by California State University, Stanislaus

The gratitude felt towards activist Cesar Chavez, who dedicated his life to improve the treatment, pay and working conditions of farm workers, was clearly demonstrated by California State University, Stanislaus when just one year after his death in 1993, the university organized what would be its first annual Cesar Chavez Celebration.

“The year after Cesar passed in 1994, there were three staff members and three Movimiento Estufiantil Chicano de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A) students  at the time who thought it was important to implement a memorial celebration where students learned about his life and values,” said CSU Stanislaus Early Assessment Program coordinator Carolina Alfaro.

“They also felt it was necessary for our campus and off-campus community to honor such a great leader who was from our Central San Joaquin Valley,” continued Alfaro.

Two decades later, appreciation for Chavez has stood the test of the time as the university is currently in the midst of planning its 20th annual Cesar Chavez Celebration.

“At CSU Stanislaus, where more than half of our incoming freshmen are Hispanic, we understand inherently the value of diversity on our campus and in our community,” said Alfaro. “Cesar Chavez helped pave the way for this level of diversity. It is important for our campus community to reflect on the life and values that Cesar left behind.”

A highlight of this year’s event is featured speaker and son of Chavez, Paul Chavez, who will provide the keynote address and discuss his work as the president and chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

“Thanks to the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and the efforts of Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, and Geography, Mr. Paul Chavez was invited to watch the film ‘Cesar’s Last Fast’ with students and stay for the keynote address,” said Alfaro.

After his address, Paul Chavez will present awards to students who earned honorable recognition in the 2015 Cesar Chavez Essay and Poster Contest—one of which is Pitman High School student Yicel Padilla, who won first place in the high school division of the essay portion.

“Cesar Chavez actually inspired me to learn and research him more, so I wrote about the movements he created and the impact he had on the working farmer in California,” said Padilla. “When I found out I won first place, I was very surprised and honored.

“I’m also really looking forward to meeting Paul Chavez because he is a very important figure in the Cesar Chavez Foundation and it’s a great opportunity,” continued Padilla.

The event will also host a number of other offerings, including ballet folklorico performance by Los Falcones, poster displays from the 2015 CSU Stanislaus Cesar Chavez Essay and Poster Contest, and a University Library Gift presented to Dean Ron Rodriguez.

This year’s Cesar Chavez Celebration is scheduled to begin with doors opening at 6 p.m. and program starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Main Dining Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking will be available in Lot 11.