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Chavez day event to honor three area residents

March 15, 2011

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KALAMAZOO--Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez this month through an annual scholarship and awards dinner.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26, in Room 157 of the Bernhard Center on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo. The cost is $40, and reservations are required by Friday, March 18.

Presenting the keynote speech will be Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., co-founder and president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. The institute seeks to fulfill the promises and principles of democracy by empowering minorities and similarly disenfranchised groups and by maximizing civic awareness and participation in the electoral process.

This is the fifth year that WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs has teamed with the Southwest Michigan Cesar E. Chavez Day Committee and area businesses to sponsor a banquet on or around Chavez' March 31 birthday.

Chavez was a leader for more than 30 years in the nonviolent struggle to improve civil rights and working conditions for migrant farm laborers and co-founded what is now the United Farm Workers of America, the nation's first successful farm workers union.

The 2011 scholarship and awards dinner will begin with a reception. The meal and program will follow at 7 p.m. and include the keynote address, remarks by area dignitaries, and the presentation of the regional Chavez Day Committee's annual award and scholarship.

This year, the committee will present its Tri-Community Award to a Kalamazoo woman who will be announced at a later date. The award, named in honor of Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, recognizes individuals in southwest Michigan who make an outstanding contribution to bringing together all segments of the regional community.

The Southwest Michigan Cesar E. Chavez Day Committee Scholarship will be awarded to Arturo Barajas, a senior at South Haven High School, and Blaire Phillips, a senior at Lawton High School. This $1,000, need-based scholarship is available to Michigan college or college-bound students living in Allegan, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

As head of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, Andrade has been instrumental in the organization training more than 250,000 present and future leaders, registering more than two million new voters, and publishing 475 studies on Hispanic demographics since it was founded in 1982. The institute also has grown to sponsor the nation's largest Latino leadership conference.

Andrade received a Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 "for the performance of exemplary deeds of service for the nation." He has been inducted into the "Society of Life Models" by OMNI Youth Services for the impact of his work in promoting education and leadership development for high school and college students. In addition, Andrade has been recognized four times as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America and been awarded six honorary degrees.

The former farm, factory and meatpacking-industry worker has participated in democratization movements throughout the Americas. His earlier career also includes positions as a political commentator on ABC-7 television in Chicago and WGN radio, and a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Andrade earned a bachelor's degree from Howard Payne University, a master's degree from Antioch College, a specialist and doctoral degree from Northern Illinois University, and a post-doctoral master's degree from Loyola University Chicago.

To register for southwest Michigan's Chavez Day scholarship and awards dinner, call (269) 760-8138.

For more information, contact Miguel Ramirez in WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs at miguel.ramirez@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3329.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400