March 19th, 2014 @ 10:26 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi
The story of Cesar Chavez is a simple one that overwhelms us with the power of his will and the warmth of his heart. The son of California farm workers, he grew up in a small impoverished community. He did not have the means to educate himself, but he loved reading. Chavez, the great leader of whose birthday later this month is a state holiday, understood that education is the single greatest tool for personal fulfillment and a productive life.
Last Saturday I joined almost 2,000 Latino/a middle-school and high-school students and their parents, other family members or friends who came together to celebrate Cesar Chavez’s life and work and to learn more about College and UC Davis. This is the second year we have been the host for this Youth Leadership Conference and we hope to continue with this tradition for years to come.
This conference is organized by UC Davis alumnus Rene Aguilera who in 2001 had a wonderful idea. Wanting to motivate more students to pursue a college education as a way to improve their lives and their communities, he founded the Cesar Chavez Youth Leadership Conference. Now in its 14th year, the annual conference is bigger and better than ever, with about 1,000 middle and high school students from 18 California school districts and their families expected to attend the event this Saturday on our campus.
I love this conference because it brings to our campus so many young minds who are hungry for learning and who want to know what it means to be a college student. For UC Davis, this conference inspires young students and their families to get the most out of the educational opportunities that are out there for them.
During my visits to the conference, I often tell the students my own story about growing up poor in a small Greek village and asking my mother how I would escape the poverty I saw all around me. She always told me the same thing: that education was the only way. As UC Davis chancellor, I want nothing more than to help all hard-working students find a similar pathway to success.
In late March, movie theaters around the country will show the life and work of Cesar Chavez and his accomplishments. I will make it a point to see this movie and I would like to encourage you to do the same.