Cesar Chavez inspired millions of people beginning in the 1960s as an iconic Latino civil and labor rights activist. His enduring impact transcended farm workers and inspired millions of people who never worked on a farm. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Chavez's firm commitment to nonviolence made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause that attracted national and international backing.
Chavez had a famous saying, "Si, se puede!" or in English "Yes, it can be done," became the campaign slogan for President Barack Obama in 2008. Although there are countless parks, streets, libraries, schools and other public places named in his honor across the nation, many students know little about Cesar Chavez.
On his March 31 birthday, a number of states -- including California, Colorado and Texas -- will observe Cesar Chavez Day as a tribute to his commitment to social justice, kindness, diversity and human dignity. And while many students are aware of his accomplishments, a national essay contest will engage students nationwide to learn more about the man millions of people consider an American hero.
"Cesar Chavez's life stands as a beacon of hope for those who aspire for a better life," says David Pickler, founder of the American Public Education Foundation.
The mission of the 9/12 Generation Project is to inspire children in America's public schools to pursue their dreams, overcome challenges, and to embrace the fundamental values of compassion and citizenship.
Students are being asked to watch this YouTube video about Cesar Chavez, and answer the question: How has Cesar Chavez inspired you to be of service to others and to never give up?
The Cesar Chavez Foundation will award three $500 grants and three $100 grants to students in grades 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12. Winning essays will be read by Chavez's widow, Helen Chavez, at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif., where Chavez lived and labored his last quarter century and where he was buried.
"This essay contest will help further educate children about Cesar Chavez, especially in places such as the East Coast where he is less well known," notes Andres Chavez who says how important education was to his grandfather. Chavez once said:
Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
Educators can learn more about the contest and access free materials through the American Public Education Foundation 9/12 Generation Project.
The Cesar Chavez Foundation:
The foundation was founded by the civil rights and farm labor leader in the 1960s, and today focuses on four core programmatic areas: It has built or renovated and manages 5,000 units of high quality affordable housing at 42 communities in four states; it operates Radio Campesina, a nine-station educational radio network with 500,000 daily listeners in four states; it provides rigorous after-school academic tutoring and intensive summer school programs for underserved students not performing at grade level across the Southwest; and it inspires and improves communities through the work of the National Chavez Center. For more information visit the website.
About The American Public Education Foundation 9/12 Generation Project: The APEF 9/12 Generation Project teaches supports character education and anti-bullying curriculum by teaching the following core values: character, citizenship, kindness, diversity, overcoming tragedy through hope. Each month, there is a new theme to inspire students about the power of volunteerism.