Students commemorate Chavez with community service

Associated Students staff poses with David Villarino-Gonzalez, the keynote speaker at the Cats in the Community event. Photo credit: Amanda Hovik

About 150 students spent Cesar Chavez Day cleaning up rather than adding to the weekend’s mess of party revelry.

These volunteers were a part of Associated Students’ Cats in the Community service event, which honored the farm worker and civil rights activist.

Jennifer Reyes, a first-year health administration major and intern for Community Action Volunteers in Education, participated in the event.

“There’s nothing better than to help serve your community,” Reyes said. “Being half-Mexican and having family members still to this day working fields, I feel like he impacted my family as a whole.”

People need to educate others about Cesar Chavez and there should be more events like Cats in the Community, she said.

The event supported the culture respectfully, without wearing costumes.

“When I see people wearing ponchos and sombreros, it makes me sad because I feel like we’re at a university,” Reyes said. “You know, people should know better. I think solving that problem is to educate everyone, because maybe people don’t know.”

Katelyn Asaro, a junior recreation administration major, volunteered at the Compost Display Area on campus.

“It means the world to me to share this experience with my peers and other students who go to Chico State,” Asaro said. “The volunteers’ incentive is being able to give back.”

The service event provided an alternative to be more productive on the day off school, she said.

Some of the volunteer sites included: Boys and Girls Club, Bidwell Park and Trinity Church.

Johannes-Wilhelmus Dobbe, a sophomore business administration major and commissioner of community affairs, helped lead the event with AS staff members.

“I think it’s really cool to see 150-200 students volunteer all at the same time in different parts of the community in honor of doing what Cesar Chavez was about, which was to better the community,” Dobbe said.

Students who choose to party on the holiday should do it in an appropriate way that is respectful to other cultures, he said.

“I’m not against partying at all, but it just makes those students who volunteer today look even better,” Dobbe said.

David Villarino-Gonzalez, Cesar Chavez’s son-in-law, gave a speech on campus reflecting on his relative.

“The term is ‘volunteerism,’ and we don’t see enough of it, especially on college campuses,” Villarino-Gonzalez said.

The number of people in the crowd was powerful, he said.

“People don’t change because of facts,” he said. “People change because of their beliefs, and beliefs are formed by your experience or the experiences of other people. This is a very important lesson Cesar gave us.”

Amanda Hovik can be reached at [email protected] or @AmandaHovik on Twitter.