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Grade Level: 5-6
Region: 2
Student: Denise Ward
Teacher: Karen Klein
Chapter: Ceres Unified TA


César Estrada Memorial Education Awards Essay


In May of 2009, the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees decided to name a new junior high school after César Estrada Chávez. Many people were outraged. They didn’t think César E. Chávez was the best person to name the school after because of the following: 1) César Chávez wasn’t considered a friend to agriculture; 2) he dropped out of school at the age of fifteen – was he the best the Latino race had to offer as a role model?; and 3) some had decided that César Chávez had made controversial decisions in the past.

I disagree with the naysayers above. As a young Mexican-American, César E. Chávez has made a significant impact on my life. He helped not only me, but thousands of other people, who were poor and uneducated from different races. If he had chose not to stand up, my family before me would have continued to work under harsh conditions such as heat, dehydration, back breaking labor, and the spraying of pesticides. César Chávez fought for civil rights for Mexicans just like Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for civil rights for blacks. This was a time in American history with high racial overtones toward people of color. Much like Martin Luther King, Jr., he focused on non-violence. Instead of fighting physically, he chose to fight mentally, with words.

To encourage non-violence, Chávez fasted, picketed, and delivered speeches to groups of people. Even though some of the farm workers were killed by the farm owners, César Chávez continued to refuse physical combat. Many Mexican-Americans supported the use of violence to draw public attention to their plight; however, many others rejected the idea and supported Chávez. Violence, in whatever form, is wrong. Communication is key to understanding as well as being understood.

I have embraced communication in my life and desire to serve as a positive role model for my peers. Towards that end, I ran for Student Council Presidency of my elementary school, and I am proud to say that I represent. I want to communicate new ideas and changes at my school.

In the future, I hope to continue to be a leader and to be as instrumental as Chávez was in getting the farm workers to form a union. Before the development of unions, individual laborers had almost no voice in determining their wages, hours of working, and conditions. There was a plentiful supply of labor and employers could easily replace anyone who threatened to quit. The competition for jobs forced poor people to work under appalling conditions exploiting the people in our country. Formation of the unions helped these workers obtain equal pay and other rights.

In conclusion, knowing the outcry of so many Ceres citizens against the school being named after César Chávez, we now have a black president of the United States, but have we come far enough as a country regarding race relations for the better or are we still going our old ways of separation? I wonder what Chávez would say.

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