(upbeat latin music) - Good evening, and welcome to Horizonte, a show that takes a look at current issues through an Hispanic lens.
I'm your host, Catherine Anaya.
Cesar Chavez is an iconic civil rights leader, born here in Arizona.
The West Valley Foundation, an organization that supports diversity and opportunities created through higher education, will hold an event in March to honor Cesar Chavez.
We'll talk more about the event, but first, we hear from Jose Cortez, a former bodyguard of Cesar Chavez.
- When Cesar came here to Arizona to help organize the farm workers, you know, this was somebody that I wanted to be like, because I had already experienced all that he experienced.
So, needless to say, I started going to his meetings, going to, following him, and I became one of his organizers.
I later became one of his bodyguards.
This was a man who lived a life just like mine.
He was poor.
He was a migrant farm worker.
He had little education.
He didn't make it past the eighth grade.
I was making $30 a month being an organizer with Cesar, but that didn't bother me.
Because just by being around him, I learned so much of his philosophy, his outlook on life, how he felt about education.
You know, he was a great labor organizer, there's no doubt about that.
But he was a kind man, a gentle man.
He had empathy for everybody.
Every time we had an event, he would always manage to weave education into his events, simply because as a child, he never made it past the eighth grade.
So, he knew how important education was to the farm workers.
Cesar's philosophy was nonviolence.
I mean, that was a given.
Before we went in to be his bodyguard, he would say, "Look, this is my philosophy of nonviolence.
You don't hit anybody.
You don't put 'em in a headlock."
He is definitely a hero, because he had the courage to stand up to this huge political and labor machine.
And in fact, when he came to Santa Rita to fast, he was protesting against a very repressive law that was going to be passed here in Phoenix.
He came up with a saying that said, "Once the the social change has started, it cannot be reversed."
You cannot uneducate the people that have learned to read.
He felt just as strong about education as he did about providing excellent wages and good living conditions for the farm workers.
We're putting together an event on April 1st, which is a Saturday.
And this event is to celebrate his birthday, number one.
We're having a book mobile come into Santa Rita, and we're asking the people to come and enjoy themselves.
Eat, listen to music, but at the same time bring a book and donate it to the book mobile, which will later on give these books to the kids.
So, by that, we're sitting an example for our youth that it's important to get an education and it's important to read.
Again, following his advice, once the social pattern takes place, you cannot go backwards.
- Joining me now to talk more about honoring the legacy of Cesar Chavez is Jamie Aldama, a Glendale City Council member, and the Vice Chairman of the West Valley Foundation.
Welcome to Horizonte.
- Thank you so much, Catherine.
- [Catherine] It's good to see you.
- I appreciate to being here today.
It's good seeing you.
- Thank you.
I wanna talk about the West Valley Foundation, because this is a a nonprofit that's been around since 1996.
And it really did start and was founded on that legacy of Cesar Chavez.
And talk to me a little bit about that legacy, what the values are that you look for in everything you do with regard to his legacy.
- Yeah, you know, the Foundation is nearly 30 years in the making, and it really started with just a group of individuals around a table wanting to do something for our communities.
And Cesar Chavez did so much for our state, and for other states, and for people he was a advocate for, for those were laboring out in the fields and laboring anywhere else.
And so, he also spread diversity and practiced diversity and encouraged all of us to do that.
And that's our mission and vision statement is to encourage organizations, employers, and anybody in your day-to-day life to engage and practice diversity.
And that's really our foundation for the West Valley Foundation and the board.
- Well, he also really, really advocated for education.
And that's something that you pride yourself on within the organization.
Tell me about how that has become more prominent within what you do in the last almost 30 years.
- So, Cesar Chavez has always advocated for education.
To be successful, you must retain, gain and retain knowledge.
And you do that by educating folks and our young folks.
And that's exactly what the Foundation has embarked on.
We have embarked on encouraging students and young people to further their education, to become knowledgeable, to give back to their communities and give back to our state.
And we wanna do that through providing scholarships and working with Maricopa Community Colleges, Estrella Mountain Community College, and Glendale Community College in Glendale.
So it's become a great partnership, but we are encouraging young people to get out there and keep learning, and come back and reinvest in your communities.
And we proud ourselves as board members, and our President, Martin Samaniego, does the same.
And it's our foundation, it's gonna continue to be our future.
- Well, so you have this fabulous scholarship dinner that's taking place in March, the end of March, and you're gonna be honoring some of these student scholars.
Tell me a little bit about why you decided to move this event, because it's been known for so many years as the Cesar Chavez Breakfast, now it's going to be a dinner.
- That is correct.
So, for many, many years we've had the breakfast.
It's been great.
We've had great attendance, great sponsors.
And I thank our sponsors for coming on board with us.
We've got, we decided, the board decided collectively to go to a dinner for a few reasons.
For the main reason is, we talk about our students and having access to education, well, not all of 'em were able to get to the event.
So we said, we want you there and we want all of our sponsors to be there, so we wanna take away that challenge and that burden, and we wanna go to a dinner where everybody can be more available.
And now we're finding that our students are more available to join the event, and it's easier and better for our sponsors.
But we also wanna make our event a little more ambiance, and making it at dinner in the evening will do that.
And so, we're really happy.
This is our first year having a dinner.
We have good numbers coming in and we encourage more.
But that's one of the, some of the reasons why we went to a dinner.
- What a great idea.
So, more students will be able to attend.
- You have 10 students that you're going to be honoring with these scholarships.
Tell me about the selection process and in a little bit more about some of those students.
- Yeah, so right now, we don't have the actual students names.
What we do is we've partnered with Maricopa Community College, Estrella Mountain Community College, and Glendale Community College.
And so we use a footprint or guideline that they have already for scholarships.
A couple of the things you have to have, so a 2.5 GPA, you have to attend a Maricopa Community College, and you not, it's not a prerequisite, but we wanna see that you've been volunteering in your community.
And those are some of the criteria that our students must meet.
And then we hand out the scholarships through a process Maricopa has already started, created, and we're using that foundation, working with the students.
And then they'll select the students when we give 'em the scholarships.
- So this supports them in their educational goals, going to college and whatnot.
And you have told me that that's really the why behind what the West Valley Foundation does.
Is that primarily what drew you to become more involved?
Because I know you have a very high position within the organization.
- You know, I'm so proud of the West Valley Foundation.
Martin Samaniego is the founder of it, and he's put together just a great board of members.
And we decided that we wanted to embark on furthering the education of our young people.
So, we decided as a board to do that.
I came on board specifically for the education piece.
I served eight years, nearly eight years, with the Glendale Elementary School District on the governing board.
I worked for Maricopa Community Colleges.
And as my role as a council member, I try to engage in education as much as I can.
So, being involved with the West Valley Foundation was just natural for me.
And I'm so proud of our board of directors that have chosen to embark on that.
And it's our second year doing the scholarships, and it's been really great.
I'm really proud of them.
- That's wonderful.
And you're also going to be recognizing the visionaries of CPLC, which has just done tremendous things for our community in so many years.
- Incredible, CPLC.
When you hear CPLC, you remember David Alhambra and Tommy Espinoza, and all the others who led a piece of CPLC where it is today.
Under Tommy's leadership, it was a $200,000 budget.
Now it's a multi-million dollar budget, with billions, or millions of dollars of assets.
They're helping more people in our state than ever before.
They're compassionate, they have a lot of passion for the community.
And CPLC came to the rescue to our residents and our businesses during Covid.
They leveraged funds from the federal government, and they used them to help people.
And they also do another thing.
They assist in educating young people, and they also encourage diversity in their organization.
And they are really good at that.
And that's again, part of our Foundation, our mission and vision, and we wanna celebrate CPLC in the state of Arizona and what they're doing in the West Valley and all around the metro.
- And it all continues the legacy of Cesar Chavez.
So, thank you for coming on and sharing more information.
I wanna let people know they can still get tickets.
They can certainly contribute to the scholarship and they can contribute by sponsoring.
- You can still do that.
You can do it all the way up to the day of.
We'll take walk-ins.
And then you can always contribute after the event, because again, this goes to the Foundation to encourage diversity in all of our state, but it also helps young people get educated.
And again, we like to have others on board.
One sponsor we don't have, and I like to put a plug in for the Foundation, is we'd love President Crow to come on as the sponsor.
ASU does so much in education, and President Crow always practices and engages in diversity in all that he does in ASU.
And we'd love to have a ASU as a partner and anybody else that wants to join us.
- Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing the background to this wonderful event.
It is taking place next month, and you can find out more information by going to the website, azwestvalleyfoundation.org.
Jamie, always good to see you.
- Thank you so much, and I appreciate the opportunity to share a few words.
- Thank you as well.
That's our show for tonight.
For Horizonte and Arizona PBS, I'm Catherine Anaya.
Have a great night.
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