In celebration of Chávez
Youths honor legacy of civil rights leader by planting trees
2:00 a.m. March 31, 2009
Ten-year-old Melanie Gonzalez was among the dozens of children who helped plant 125 trees in Logan Heights over the weekend.
Along the way they practiced the values they learned in school about their hero, César Chávez, whose birthday is celebrated today.
“Respect for the trees, teamwork, helping others,” said Melanie, a member of the César Chávez Service Club at the elementary school of the same name in San Diego.
“And sacrifice,” the fifth-grader added. “I had to wake up early. I had to be here on a Saturday.”
Nearly 10 years after California became the first state to honor César Chávez with a holiday, a new generation of students is learning about the late farm labor leader and his emphasis on service.
They're doing it with help from the state's expanded curriculum about Chávez's life, work and values, and the dozens of Chávez service clubs that have formed after the state declared the holiday in 2000.
Family and friends of the late Latino civil rights leader oversee many of the clubs, which emphasize leadership through service.
“When the holiday came, we told ourselves, this is what we have to do. We have to teach the legacy,” said Linda LeGerrette, who along with her husband, Carlos, worked with Chávez in the 1960s and 1970s and now helps run 11 Chávez clubs in San Diego.
They meet regularly during the school year and are particularly active near the holiday when schools are encouraged to lead students in community service projects and discussions about Chávez.
At Burbank Elementary School in San Diego, which hosted the tree-planting project Saturday, Chávez's values are part of the school's character education, Principal Diana Grijalva said.
At Sunset View Elementary School in Point Loma, club members recently raised money for a recreational center.
The César E. Chávez Foundation, which oversees 60 Chávez clubs across the state, also trains teachers on ways to teach about his legacy.
Lucia Acevedo, a youth outreach worker at Taft Middle School in San Diego, recently put her training into action. Several of her students in classes spoke about Chávez's life and work. Today they'll speak at a campus event about nonviolence and acceptance of all people, which Chávez valued.
The 10 core values of Chávez, as they're known, are staples of the Chávez curriculum. They are: teach someone; sacrifice for others; help someone; determination; nonviolence; accepting of all people; respect for life and the environment; be proud; knowledge is power; and be creative.
Club organizers stressed the importance of sacrifice when they were recruiting students to plant trees in Logan Heights.
Melanie Gonzalez heard them loud and clear.
She normally goes to the park with her father Saturday morning but asked if they could go the next day. She had something important to do.