On Thursday the White House is set honor 10 leaders from across the country, who will be recognized as Champions of Change, for dedicating their lives to improving the lives of others. The awards mirror the work of Cesar Chavez, the celebrated farmworker organizer.
The awards are part of the Obama Administration’s’s effort to celebrate Chavez’s work; he would have turned 85 on March 31. As part of the celebration, President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation that noted in part, “On the 85th anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s birth, we are reminded of what we can accomplish when we recognize our common humanity.”
The 10 champions of change this year are:
- Rev. Eve Nunez – Founder and President of Help 4 Kidz, which is an organization she founded after the passing of her beloved son Frankie. This non-profit organization has received local and national awards for her work with at risk children and young adults.
- Mary Jo Dudley – A faculty member in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University and is the Director of the Cornell Farmworker Program. As director of the Program her work focuses on improving the living and working conditions of farmworkers and their families by educating farmworkers and their employers on health, safety, cultural, and immigration issues and by conducting research that examines the contributions of farmworkers to the economic and social fabric of New York State.
- Rob Williams – Director of the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project. Established by Florida Legal Services in 1996 and funded by the Florida Bar Foundation, the Project’s mission is to provide access to justice for the more than 150,000 farmworkers who live and work in Florida.
- Nita Gonzales – A noted community activist, educator, and nationally recognized leader in the struggle for social justice and equality. Nita is the President/CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, a nationally recognized model for Chicano/Mexicano and indigenous education located in Denver, CO.
- Rogelio Lona – A farm worker, activist, community organizer and a leader. He has worked in the fields of California for more than 47 years and for 32 of those years he has been a member of the United Farm Workers. Just like his mentor, Cesar Chavez, Lona experienced and lived the struggles of the early farm worker movement.
- Bernarda Wong – A founder and the President of the Chinese American Service League (CASL). Under Bernie’s leadership, CASL has grown from a one-person shop in 1979 with an annual budget of $30,000 to $12 million.
- Melinda Wiggins – Executive Director of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF), a nonprofit whose mission is to bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other’s lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change.
- Rose Garcia – Executive Director of Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation, a New Mexico nonprofit corporation and a leading regional affordable housing and community development organization. She has worked for over 30 years to improve the quality of life for the rural poor, minorities, farmworkers and the elderly individuals in small towns and rural areas along the United States – Mexico border.
- Nancy M. Cubano – A native of Puerto Rico. In 2005 she became an Educational Advisor to the National Youth Leaders State Conference (NYLSC) in Pennsylvania. Nancy is a founding member of the KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy faculty. Nancy now serves as the Foreign Language Department Leader and Spanish II, III and AP teacher for KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy.
- Elvira Diaz – Born in México City, she emigrated to the United States in 1986 and became a US citizen in 1992. She has been working for the pharmaceutical industry and involved in the Catholic Church for several years. She has a Spanish TV show “El Pan de Cada Dia” and has been a radio personality in two local radio stations in Reno, Nevada.