Students in step with Chavez
By Jesse Phelps
As the sun peeked out from behind
a misty morning sky, two trails of students marched through Ojai
Wednesday holding signs colorfully drawn to proclaim 10 service
values attributed to United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez.
The groups, which comprised kids from Meiners Oaks, Mira Monte
and Topa Topa schools, marched from Matilija and Topa Topa, down
Ojai Avenue, to a meeting place in the quad at Chapparal.
Once they reached the high school, the children were treated
to a special performance from the Matilija Jr. High School Jazz
Band. Then the kids participated in a variety of activities.
All kindergarten through fourth grade students watched a puppet
show by Chapparal's Imaginaryum puppet theater, featuring a beautiful
Cesar Chavez marionette, skillfully piloted by Patrick Kraft.
Students also took turns helping to make a large mural highlighting
Chavez's 10 service-oriented values: service of others, knowledge,
tolerance, non-violence, celebrating community, a preference
to help the most needy, determination, respect for life, sacrifice
What was estimated at more than $2,000 worth of tiles for the
mural were donated by Mary Kennedy and Richard Keit at Studio
RTK and Ojai Van Lines donated boxes for sign collection. "We've
had a lot of community participation," said district service-learning
coordinator Chris Johnson.
The day, indeed the entire service-learning project was made
possible by community support and two grants, a state grant and
a federal grant from Cal Serve. Topa Topa sixth grade teacher
Jeff Madrigal says that one requirement of the state grant was
"to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Cesar Chavez."
He also said that all participating classes have taken on a service-learning
project this school year.
They are learning about something
at the same time that they are helping something in the community.
Our class is going out into the community asking business leaders
to let us go into their places of businesses and audit their
use of energy," said Madrigal. "And then we're giving
them suggestions on how they can better use their energy. And
that helps the environment."
Madrigal said that the celebration might have been even bigger,
the day's events more varied, but that nobody was sure how much
money there would be. "The funding for the big projects
got cut," he said, "Because of the problems that we
had in the budget. Then it got given back to us, then it got
taken away, then it got given back to us, like a month ago. This
celebration could have been a lot bigger if we had known we'd
have the money."
Still, the day looked to be a success. Tino Sandoval, a student
in Mr. Madrigal's class, said he's learned a number of things,
like "to respect other people for their beliefs and what
they want. And about Cesar Chavez, he helped farm workers get
better pay and better work. We walked because we love Cesar Chavez
and what he did. We try to help people by getting books for people
that don't have books, so we kind of do the same things as Cesar
As part of the service-learning effort, students collected books
for redistribution to the needy. Each class will also create
a book for publication in the school and the Ojai public libraries.
Madrigal was careful not to trivialize the issues originally
battled for by Chavez. He said the student walk represented something
quite different from people marching or picketing for their rights
or freedoms. "We have to really distinguish the walk that
we did versus, say, marches that people do," he said.
It's not about that. We're sort
of trying to grab a piece of what (Chavez's) life was all about.
His life was really all about sacrifice for those who couldn't
sacrifice for themselves. That's sort of what the walk was. You
know, it's a little painful, you have to walk a little way, you're
kind of grumbling about it. That's a little taste of his sacrifice."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news