Dolores Huerta named a California Education Ambassador

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- She's one of the most influential labor activists and a leader of the Chicano civil rights movement. At 90 years old, Dolores Huerta continues to work tirelessly advocating for workers, immigrants, women, and children.

Last Tuesday, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond named Huerta an education ambassador to California education.

"She's constantly speaking to students and she's constantly using the microphone and the megaphone that she's provided to lift up key issues. Right now, she's doing incredible work to promote health care for all, we know will impact so many of our families," Thurmond said. "Being an ambassador means that she has an additional platform to speak to California students."

"I'm quite thrilled at it and quite honored. Education is my passion," said Huerta.

She taught first and third-grade students in the 1950s. But seeing so many struggling farm children in her classroom, Huerta felt she could do more to help them by organizing farmers and farmworkers.

"I knew these families. I knew that they were hard-working people but they were just not being paid enough to be able to really take care of their children, and really give them what they needed," said Huerta.

At 32, Huerta teamed up with Cesar Chavez and founded what became the United Farm Workers' Union to fight for safer working conditions, including the elimination of harmful pesticides.

"Once they know that they have power, once they know how the system works, then they know how they have to advocate, and what they have to do to be able to correct the situation or improve the situations that they live in," Huerta said.

Despite facing gender and ethnic discrimination, she helped organized the 1965 Delano strike of 5,000 grape workers and led negotiations.

That activism continues today through her Dolores Huerta Foundation, which works with agriculture communities on health and education issues.

Most recently, the foundation has provided education and outreach to stop the spread of COVID-19.

She also hopes to continue to inspire the next generation as an education ambassador.

"Keep your eye on the prize, don't let people that criticize you, you know, don't let them just dissuade you or stop you from what you're doing, as long as you know what you're doing is right," said Huerta.

Thurmond said in his three years as superintendent, he has called on Huerta to help the California Dept. of Education think through how schools educate students about ethnic studies. He also references her advocacy work for LGBTQ+ students and joining the call to bring vaccines to the Latinx community.

"I love her work in the farmworker movement. It is just incredible. I love that she has given us a term to think by and live by. She said, 'Si se puede,' yes we can. And she continues to demonstrate that we can," said Thurmond.

Huerta joins the ranks of California Education Ambassadors along with NBA Hall of Famer Kareen Abdul-Jabar and civil rights advocate Karen Korematsu.
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